... New Year's has always been a time for changes and resolutions. Some are being forced on the nation as it leaves a best-forgotten 2008 behind.

Well-respected brokerage houses and lending institutions crumpled. Congress, fearing a Wall Street roller coaster that would go off the rails, authorized a $700 billion bailout, the largest ever. ...

... Most of us are experiencing the downturn in more personal ways. ...

Change is hard. But it can also be useful by forcing us to look closely at who we are and the way we live.

Most of us are overdue for the introspection. Over the years, thanks to easy-to-get, hard-to-pay mortgages, the proliferation of credit cards and an unquestioning commitment to the material dream, Americans' household debt went through the roof. Our rate of savings was somewhere in the basement.

... Do we really need all this stuff or the payments and stress that come with them? Wouldn't pushing away from the table be better for us, the planet and our children?

... We face the prospect of a new year with a new president who's no stranger to pain or hope. He also appears dedicated to change. Why not take the plunge?