1. It’s Tuesday, February 6, 2018.
2. It’s the birthday of Ronald Reagan, Babe Ruth and Aaron Burr. In 2018, it’s hard to believe which one is a main character in Broadway’s biggest hit musical.
3. My friends and former colleagues at CNNMoney are in the process of doing what they always do so well – cover the gyrations of a stock market gone askew.
I had my share of days like this. The adrenelin pumps and you watch all the screens for the latest trends. The market writers can’t take a breather because they’re on the phone and writing, trying to meet the need for why this is happening.
It’s amazing to me that people forget markets can go down. They watch gains – in the past year or two, gains that are pretty outsized – and get lulled into the idea that that’s the only direction stocks can head.
But as yesterday and this morning’s open proved, stocks can go down. Big. While yesterday’s drop in the Dow Jones industrial average doesn’t make the top 20 on a percentage basis, which is really how you’re supposed to judge these things, 1,175 points is still an impressive number.
And this morning, the first trades put the Dow more than 500 points in the red. And then, within 15 minutes, it turned higher for the day. How it ends is anyone’s guess.
Talk about your roller coasters!
It’s a little nerve wracking for people like me who are betting on a retirement fund to sustain them in their old age. Our existence has become so tied to the markets that these bumps and dumps could determine whether we can go to restaurants or eat canned stew when we’re 80.
But it’s stupid to think too much about it.
Trading to make money is a game. On days like this, the markets are just numbers and movement. Trying to understand what’s going on and commit your precious resources based on that understanding is foolish for people who aren’t professionals.
4. What you have to think about – both as markets rise and fall – is what you believe as an investor. What do you think is the best way to commit your resources to aiding in economic growth?
I use an investment adviser and tomorrow I have my annual consultation about what I want to do. Here’s what I’ll tell him:
I do not believe in Trump. I think he’s a freakin’ disaster. And while he and his yokel chorus point to the gains in the market as a sign of his economic genius, I’m really wary.
It’s hard for me to believe that giving a tax cut skewed to the wealthy as a time when the economy is chugging along is anything but inflationary. If anything, this was a time to tweak tax rates a little higher to adjust some of the income inequality in society and help pay down debt at a time when we can.
I don’t see how the economy gets helped by deporting undocumented immigrants. People who are paying the taxes that the people Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell suck up to don’t want to pay. People whose absence will disrupt commerce in the less-than-posh communities that need the support they’re not getting from the federal government.
Making health care more difficult to get and more expensive for those who need it doesn’t boost the economy. The assault on Obamacare might not have completely succeeded, but it’s gone far enough to do real damage to families in this country.
I don’t see how picking trade fights around the world helps the United States. Eventually, no one’s going to trust us as a partner. And the world will turn to our economic rivals – China and western Europe – as their allies for growth.
And, finally, I can’t see how war talk is good for economic growth. How suggesting confrontations with North Korea and Iran, and continuing to throw human lives and money at Afghanistan, does anything to help our economic place in the world.
So I’m not bullish on the United States. At least for 2018. As long as these idiot Republicans hold sway, this economy isn’t going to grow the way it should.
I’m going to pull back a little more. I eased the stock percentage to 50% last year, so I still some of the gains. But I’m going down more because I just don’t believe the U.S. is the growth engine it can and should be. Not as long as morons reign.
5. You can reasonably disagree with my conclusions. Unlike Trump, I don’t think people who disagree with me suffer some character flaw.
But here’s the part you shouldn’t disagree with: the fact that I’m thinking about the longer term and the bigger picture.
Nothing about the turmoil of the past few days influences my decisions. Nothing should.
Are people selling because they fear higher interest rates or higher wages? I don’t care. In fact, I’m pretty sure higher wages are a good thing.
Investing is not gambling. It is not fantasy baseball.
It is taking your money and saying this is how I want to participate in growing the economy of the nation and world where I live.
Yes, there’s risk. Realistically, I made money in 2017, but I would have made more if I’d forecast how Wall Street would swoon for Trump.
So what? I believe what I believe and there’s no mandatory cashing out point. I don’t win the game based on my standing as of Dec. 31, 2017. Or Dec. 31, 2018. Or Dec. 31, 2038, if I live to be 84.
When you see the markets gyrate, it might scare you. As a former colleague once said, relax and have a cream soda.
(I’m not sure why it’s cream soda, but it sounds good.)
Think about what you’re investing for and why. And let a good basketball game be your thrills for the day.