Thursday, October 23, 2008

Playing Around Comes Around

In the wake of huge drops in value of many shares on the stock exchanges this month, I feel sorry for three groups.

People who are in their sixties, entrusted their savings to the markets, and were planning to retire soon may have to postpone their entry into the golden years, and quite a few may have to work until they drop. This group doesn’t have ten or more years to wait for the markets to recover.

Younger guys and gals who were saving to help their kids with college education costs or to get a down-payment on a home also took a big hit if they listened to the sweet music of brokers and “financial advisors” who said putting their cash into the market rather than into more conservative savings plans was the only thing to do. The race no longer went to the steady; to be “with it” you had to be among the swift, nimble, and clever. You could charge or borrow for just about anything, and the big returns you would earn in the market would pay off your balances at some vague time in the future. The arguments were persuasive, but they were hogwash.

Some middle-aged workers also deserve sympathy. After their employers canceled or refused to finance any new company-funded retirement plans, they had little choice but to bet on the stock market through 401K’s as a way to accumulate wealth they would need in the future. Some tales are told of employers actually telling workers it was to their advantage to get out of company-funded retirement plans in favor of “personal choice” arrangements.

The people I couldn’t care less about are in the big group that smugly told solid citizens for years that they were outdated and stupid for putting their nest eggs into safe investments, such as long-term certificates of deposit or tax-exempt municipal bonds, because the returns just didn’t match the rich rewards available in the market. These jerks deserve what they got. They should have paid more attention to the words in some common descriptive phrases:

We play the ponies.

We play the tables.

We play the slots.

We play the stock market.

When you choose to gamble, you ought to be prepared to take the consequences without a lot of whining. Calling a gambler an investor doesn’t change the odds a whole lot.

Disclosure: The Gabbygeezer has no position in the stock market.

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