Editor’s note: The Dow finished more than 400 points higher on Monday, and some stability seems to be creeping back into the market. Is the worst over? No one knows. But how do individuals adapt? Thad Woodward, chief executive officer of the North Carolina Bankers Association offers some thoughts.

The world’s financial problems are seemingly all-encompassing. Each of us is engrossed, entangled and mystified by what is going on. What caused this? Are we as individual consumers to blame in whole or in part? Where is the exit from all of this? When we do escape, how do we return to any sense of normalcy?

The answer is that nobody knows. This is a first for the planet as far as its global impact. We have no point of reference, no indisputable blame can be placed and no specific roadmap to recovery has yet been designed. But there is good news! We are all going to survive it.

We can make all of this as complicated as we wish: swaps, hedge funds, GSEs, derivatives, liquidity … but really and truly, it is not anything beyond basic arithmetic … addition and subtraction. The truth is, each of us understands it but we just haven’t wanted to believe it. Maybe there are some among us who honestly don’t know anything other than luxury oceanfront beach houses, no restrictions on their multiple credit cards, and have never had to say, “I just can’t afford that.” But for the vast majority of us, we understand the basics.

Living beyond your means can be hazardous to your financial health. Here are some small but important steps toward recovery that you may wish to consider:

• Get a grip on your personal finances and ask yourself if your appetite for material things is excessive.

• Support our government and urge our leaders to apply proper, precise, and well- reasoned regulations.

• Invest wisely.

• Pursue personal financial literacy.

• Go out to dinner within reason.

• Shop locally.

• Open a savings account at the bank of your choice and save regularly and habitually.

• Live within your means and teach your children likewise.

• Keep your money in a federally-insured institution with the FDIC label on the door. If you took your money out, take it back to the bank where it will be safe.

• If you need financial advice, sit down with your professional, local banker. Expect honest answers you can trust.

• Avoid self proclaimed “mortgage specialists.”

• Work harder than ever on your job. Be productive. Make yourself indispensable.

• Quit smoking – save money.

• Be patient. Be positive. North Carolina, its business community, its financial institutions and everything about it make it the best place to live in America!

• Keep your credit clean. It is imperative that you do so … continually. With good personal credit, credit is available to meet your needs, when you need it, through your local bank.

• Slice and dice media hype. Make your decisions based on facts, not on feelings.

• Waste not … want not.

• Look for bargains on everything and tell your friends about them.

• The value of your home, if it has fallen, will return. Have pride in its appearance. Mow your yard. Rake the leaves.

The financial mess all around us didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be cured with the stroke of a pen. A positive attitude is a part of the ultimate solution. But so are the imperatives laid out to us by our parents and grandparents … those of previous generations. Much of what they attempted to teach us is listed above. Moderation in all that we do has proven over the centuries to advance personal stability. As we climb the steep impediments we face, keeping that truism in our hearts, our minds, and our actions will help return us to the good things we want to reclaim.

The North Carolina Bankers Association brings together all categories of banking institutions to best represent the interests of this rapidly changing industry. With 150 members, it has served all North Carolina bankers since 1897.