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One of the themes of the election has been around the question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  If I’m correct, I believe that this was started by Ronald Reagan when he attempted (successfully) to oust then-President Jimmy Carter from office.  In the current election, Mitt Romney has used this for the same reason, trying to oust the incumbent president from office.

Regardless of what your answer is, it occurs to me that we’re asking the wrong question.  The question you really need to be asking yourself does not pertain to the past four years, but instead on what you think will happen over the next four years.

We aren’t electing a president to lead our country for the past four years, we’re electing a president to lead for the next four years, and those are the years people should be asking about.

I think you have to look at it just as you do a mutual fund or any other type of investment where there is always a warning along the lines of:  Past Performance Is Not Indicative of Future Results.

If I were to look at answering the question as to whether I’m better off, here are some of the things I’d look at, but also how it plays into whether it would tie into a presidential vote:

  • Making roughly the same income – Worse. I think we’ve gotten one raise over the past four years.  Would a stronger economy have helped push this along?  Perhaps.
  • Welcomed two beautiful children into our world – Better. Four years ago, we just found out we were going to be parents.  Now, we have two beautiful children.  Though this changes our lives, what does it have to do with the president? Nothing.
  • Net worth – Ah, this has to tell something, right?  Well, not so fast.  Our overall net worth is higher than what it was in 2008.  Most of this is from the stock market recovering most of its losses from the big crashes that took place that fall.  But, I doubt whether the outcome would have been different had McCain been elected.  Everything else is just as it would have been otherwise as they tie into saving, spending, etc. which would have taken place no matter what.

Personally, looking at what the areas where I might judge better or worse off tells me nothing as to who I should vote for in the upcoming election.  Instead, I will spend the next few weeks looking at what I believe from each candidates rhetoric and use that as my basis for whom I cast my vote.  Unfortunately, early returns aren’t looking good for either of the two big candidates as this is probably the first presidential election since I’ve turned 18 in which both candidates seem more unqualified for the job than they do qualified.

Do you think the question of whether you’re better off than four years ago applies on Election Day?