So, what are we to make of this stock market?
First, we should recognize it has at least been good for the Thesaurus business. It has swooned, dumpster-dived, plummeted, crashed, swan-dived, slipped, dipped, sunk, drooped, dropped, come a cropper, toppled, tumbled. And as Dizzy Dean would have it, it slud.
Next, we should be able to see it has made investing a lot simpler. By slip-sliding so far, it has reduced our choices to so few. To two, in fact.
We choose to believe it will survive. Or it will not. We choose to believe the country’s economic system will revive. Or it will cop it. Back to that question in a minute.
You may find this hard to believe, but most stock investors around the world would prefer to be invested in our market. If they had to be invested anywhere. This is because ours is the best of a rum lot. Of the major markets, ours has lost the least. If you think our investors are left with a bad taste in their mouths, Chinese and Russian stock buyers feel they have been sucking Drano drops.
By the way, so many folks complain they have “lost” half of their retirement nest eggs. That is true if they plan to spend it all the next few years. Or if they plan to spend every nickel of income from it the next few years.
Many have no such plans. Yet they feel they have lost a chunk of their retirement bundle. Do they feel they have lost thousands because their house value fell? Yes, if they want to sell now. No, if they have no plans to sell. The important prices for the house are what they paid to move in and what they receive to move out.
If their retirement investments are worth less now than last year they have not “lost” money. Their assets have declined in value. Next year they may go up in value. If they do, they will not have “made” money either. They won’t make or lose anything until they sell. And, generally when they sell they only sell a portion of what they own. Unless they panic and sell all.
Now, do you suppose this calmed any investor? I don’t think so either.
Back to the big question. We see our economic system sprawled nose down at the foot of the stairs. Broken neck? Or sleeping it off?
What do I say to people who tell me the end is nigh? Can I console them with a chorus of “We’ll all go together when we go.”? Can I assure them that if terrible economic depression descends upon us they won’t need to worry about the mortgage company taking their house. Who would they sell it to?
What do I say to those who cannot make up their minds about our plight? Do I remind them the last twenty-five years have seen the greatest material advances for humanity than any period in history? That never before have more starving been lifted to a status which includes enough food every day. That never before have so many moved from mud shacks to proper housing. That never before have so many absolutely destitute people been saved from deaths in their thirties from disease.
That is genuine progress for humanity. It did not come from militaristic socialism, which has tried to achieve a fraction of this for 75 years. It came from free enterprise. The Russians can scoff all they want. A disgusting percentage of their hospitals don’t have hot water yet.
The thought is that if you are planning to jump ship, remember what a good ship it has been. And drop us a line if you find a better one. If the mails still exist, that is.
Will the country and its system and its companies endure and prosper? If they will, stocks are cheap. If they will not... well, maybe you can imagine that. I try, but I guess I don’t have a good imagination when it comes to that question. Sure they will endure. If they don’t, fire me.
From Tom ... as in Morgan.
For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.