Saturday, March 15, 2008

Motion Sickness

Why do I have to take 2 dramamine every morning? I am not planning on a trip across the ocean. I am definitely not getting on a roller coaster. I know that everyday life is full of ups and downs, but the experience I embark on to start each day is one that my system is just not equipped to handle. I am about to read the dow jones results from yesterday.

I am not a person who takes the vicissitudes of the stock market easily. I have twice pulled all of my investments out, only to plunge back in when it looked like the waters were calming. I know that my mom has remained steadfast in the market from the time the Dow was under 1000 but why do I feel like such an idiot every time there is a dip and I have not sold?

They tell us every day we are in a recession, the words of the president notwithstanding. I see oil prices jump, the dollar fall, mortgage foreclosures ever expanding while lending tightens, and yet I sit with my hands behind my back. Ride it out I tell myself. It is only a matter of time before the ship rights itself and then you will applaud yourself for your strength and patience. While gold soars over $1000 an ounce, my retirement date seems to recede further into the distance with every passing day.

When Bear Stearns performs a free fall the likes of which can only be attributed to the best sky diver, and investment bankers look nervously lest they be the next one tapped on their shoulder,I know where my money should not be. But where should it be? Whenever I speak with my son, he reminds me not be fiscally responsible at the expense of being socially irresponsible. The lure to invest in many commodities suggests a willingness to overlook human exploitation for the sake of personal gain.If I was to get in bed with the devil to increase the size of my net worth, at what cost to my own value?

I am the tortoise, not the hare. I am not a risk taker. Let me put my money in conservative positions. Let me instruct my financial analyst to split my investments between fixed income bonds, and a prudent portfolio of stocks which have traditional history of solid performance. One would think that this would be the formula for success. If that is so, then why am I so drained after reading the paper?

The market climbed over 400 points one day this week and even that did not make me happy. I am not a person of great highs and lows. I knew that this rise was but a blip on the radar screen. Given the fragile state of our psyches, and the pessimism that pervades the economy, it was only a matter of time until that upswing was merely a footnote. It took less than a few days for us to have a hard time even remembering that there was a good moment for the Dow.

We have all lived through these times before. Have a sense of perspective I am told. Don't just look at the moment. Yet, why does it always feel when we are in the middle of these experiences like it is different than before? How do we know this is not the tsunami? Before the great depression was similar advice being espoused by those in the know? Why is the situation now not what it was then?

I am not an economist. I am not a soothsayer. I don't have vision. All I see is what is in front of my eyes. The picture is not pretty. It is a jigsaw puzzle of a thousand pieces, none of which seem to fit. I listen to a president in whom I , and most of the nation, have no confidence, flounder to try to say anything to keep us calm, in the face of this storm.

Yet I will, in all probability, continue to restock my medicine chest with the strongest motion sickness pills I can find. I will go along for the ride, hoping and believing in the ability of this country to extricate itself from the dark moments. While I have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I am willing to gamble that those in the know can see at least the faintest light flickering in the distance. One day soon, I tell myself, the stock market will be at an all time high and I will congratulate myself on my fortitude. Until that day comes, I will just have to limit my reading to the comic strips and sport pages.

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