Unfortunately, while there have been a few lonely bright spots with regard to macroeconomic news, the overwhelming majority of the latest data continues to paint a pretty grim picture. Notably, the Federal Reserve is now forecasting that economic growth will be slower through 2012 than previous estimates, and that unemployment will be higher than earlier forecasts had predicted. The news was underscored by statements from Federal reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who said that “the pace of progress is likely to be frustratingly slow” and that there “are significant downside risks to the economic outlook”. Bernanke cited worries about European debt and volatility and generalized uncertainty in what are increasingly interconnected global financial markets. While this big-picture stuff can feel somewhat removed from the day-to-day concerns of the average investor, the result is that slower growth will likely mean weaker market returns. Investors, particularly those individuals approaching retirement age, should proceed with caution. Because, taken together with the recent string of news stories about the seeming inability of the debt and deficit “Super Committee” to come up with any real or lasting solutions, the climate of uncertainty and pessimism regarding our national (and your personal) finances is not particularly confidence inspiring. The best way to counteract that kind of uncertainty is with certainty. Control what you can control. Make and stick to a plan that reduces your exposure but still provides for your retirement needs. You can’t control global finances, but if you establish a strategic plan for yourself that deals with known factors and doesn’t rely on unknowns and uncertainties, you can certainly control your financial future–no matter what scary headlines hit the paper tomorrow.