It's summertime and hot as the dickens. But end of the year is right around the corner and it's time for most condominiums to start planning their 2012 budgets.

If there's one thing Condominium Owners and Boards can learn from politics, it's that financial planning needs to be an ongoing activity. You just can't wait until disaster strikes. Condominiums are a structure not unlike the Federal government. They survive and fall based on the intelligent involvement of their members as well as their budgets and financial planning. Once you're in a downward spiral, quick fixes just don't work. 

Most of us have seen a devastating loss of value in our units. Try to sell your condo now, and you'll soon discover that you probably aren't going to be able to re-capture your initial investment. Condos are selling at, easily, half of their historic value. And, while the Federal government has put in place programs to help out, the banks are not always willing to cooperate. It's pretty much every man/woman for himself. 

If you're holding your own and continuing to make your mortgage payments and assessments, you're probably here for the long haul. This means that every condominium owner needs to pay attention to how the building is being managed. Are the budgets set up in such a way that the property will remain well cared for and solvent? Is there sufficient reserves in the account for emergencies that invariably crop up when you can least afford them? Or are you at risk of a special assessment?

Do you care? You should. Don't be one of those owners who sit back and let the Board handle everything. Get involved.

If your Association holds regular Unit Owner meeting, attend them and ask the tough questions – now.. Better yet, look for opportunities to contribute. Offer to work with the Board on Budget Planning. Find out where your money is going and check to be sure that you're covered for worst case scenarios.

Just like our congress, Condominium Owners come in all stripes and sizes. Everyone has an opinion and inevitably someone will not be happy with the way things are run. Disagreements are inevitable. But, remember, unless you're pro-active and well-informed, you really don't have much room to complain. It's too easy to sit back and belly-ache but if you don't understand why and how decisions are made, you have no basis for complaints.

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