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NEW YORK (CNN) -- "The people who survived the Great Depression were the ones who had money to buy when everybody else was selling." -- My grandfather
I learned a lot from my grandfather, but that might have been the greatest lesson he ever taught me. He wasn't just talking about managing money, he was talking about managing life -- and his words have stuck with me since I was a child.
A few years back, I was taking a theology course and the professor recommended only the books whose authors he agreed with. I read those books, but I also asked that professor which books he thought had it completely wrong -- and I read those too. Then I made up my own mind. After all, following the herd is fine until they all run off the side of a cliff together.
Professor Roubini recently laid out what he called the "12 steps to financial disaster." Unfortunately, they were really complicated, and I have severe ADD, so I've boiled them down into five phases that even a rodeo clown like me can understand.
I think of these like our military's "DEFCON" -- or defense readiness condition -- scale, except that this countdown could end in the meltdown of your bank account:
• DEFCONOMY FIVE
How you'll know we're here: The housing downturn turns into a free fall, making it the worst collapse in our country's history. That not only triggers massive numbers of foreclosures and lost household wealth, but it also sets off another large wave of bank write-downs.