1. It’s Monday, August 24, 2015.
2. I’ve been ringside for several scary Wall Street days, so I’m a little jaded about today’s trauma. But only a little jaded. This is the first big sell-off since I retired, and I am counting on my 401(k) investments, now in IRAs, to sustain me and my family through what I hope is the next few decades.
So I understand how retirees who rely on fixed income and their savings might be a little scared this morning. We’re not sure we’re going to make it on what we have, and what he have is now is about 3% less than what we had at 9:29 a.m.
What you can do? Not much. The losses are lost. And unless it’s your business, trying to time the markets is a vexing game.
So, as someone I used to work with used to say in times of stress, have a cream soda and relax. If you don’t need the money today, tomorrow or in the next year, you’re fine. And if you need it that soon, given the sell-off in recent weeks, you’re still going to have about 85% of what you thought you had — and that’s probably more than you started with.
Markets go both ways, but the reason people invest in stocks is that, over time, they tend to be a better investment than bank accounts or any other place to park money.
My favorite cream soda is Dr. Brown’s, which is big in Kosher delicatessens around New York. A Dr. Brown’s cream soda, a nice lean pastrami sandwich on rye with mustard and a pickle, and making sure you’re not facing the CNBC screen at the deli, is a good way to spend this crazy Monday.
3. One other reason you shouldn’t worry is that the U.S. economy is pretty sturdy right now, as my former colleague Chris Isidore points out.
In fact, one of the factors in this sell-off is that Wall Street is worried that the Federal Reserve is about to raise interest rates for the first time since before the financial crisis. And the reason the Fed wants to raise interest rates is that the economy is doing so well that it doesn’t want it to get overextended, which would lead to problems.
This market meltdown could well delay the rate hike. But the fact that the Fed can consider a rate hike is a sign that things are OK, and should be taken as such by those of us who don’t make our living in financial services.
4. Of course, the sell-off could trigger problems in the economy as those looking to hire or start a business get cold feet, and people get nervous about making such key purchases as homes and cars.
But the stock sell-off is accompanied by a sell-off in oil. Gas prices, which were nowhere as awful this summer as in the past few years, are about to drop as vacations end and people go back to work and school.
That extra money in your wallet will help ameliorate any damage from falling stocks.
Unlike the stock market, “Last Week Tonight” is taking the next couple of weeks off. It should be the other way around.