Happiness and the Stock Market

There’s been very little happiness in the financial world.  In order to keep from slipping into the black hole of depression about our financial situation, I’ve withdrawn a bit.  Do I really need to know what is happening in the market on an hour to hour basis?  No.  Day to day?  Hmm.  One day it’s down 700 points (sadness) and the next day it is up 600 (yay!). Up, down; up, down. So much drama!
I’m only reading news about the market once a week.  I can’t control anything, so I’ve stopped pretending that I can.  I’m observing the activity from a distance.  And I focus on what Good News I can create:

  • I’m happy that last year our broker convinced us to diversify our retirement savings, reducing our mix of domestic stocks.  We’ve still lost value, but a lot less than we might have otherwise.
  • I’m happy that we converted half my 401(k) into a life insurance annuity.  We were nervous at the time about locking in the money for ten years, but were convinced to make the shift because the tradeoff was a guaranteed minimum balance.  With the market tanking we are now grateful for the lower floor on our dollars — we may not be making any money on that part, but we aren’t losing any, either.
  • I’m happy that we are more than ten years away from retirement.  Ten years is a long time for things to recover.  And if they don’t recover, ten years is a long time to come up with a Plan B.
  • I’m actually happy that the turmoil is causing everyone to look at “how the system works.”  We are pretty creative as a society, but we tend not to change things that aren’t broken.  The beauty of this crisis is that all the best creative minds are rising to the occasion and asking, “how can we change the system so that this never happens again?!”  Even if they don’t create the perfect solution, what shakes out of this crisis is likely to be better than what was.
  • On that note, it’s actually kind of cool to be present at the birth/rebirth of something this big.  (and yes, I am an incurable optimist who believes that crisis can be a good thing)

So, what’s your take on the financial crisis?  Are you focusing only on the worst possible news?  Are you monitoring the market more than you ever did before?  STOP!  You ignored things before, and they went up and down, and you were fine.  Unless you are planning to retire this year, you’re probably going to be in better shape by then, so who cares what the value of your retirement plan is today?
Put down the statement.  Back away from your computer.  Take a deep breath.  Pay attention to the basics you should have been practicing all along:  live your life with joy, don’t buy what you can’t afford, save something out of every paycheck, eat healthy food, exercise your body, breathe deeply when you find yourself stressed.
Oh — did you notice that I mentioned breathing two times in the same paragraph?  Intentional.  Breathing always helps.  The financial crisis will not kill anyone — but the stress of it might.  Don’t make yourself a victim.

1 thought on “Happiness and the Stock Market”

  1. Excellent advice for those invested in the stock market Jim! In fact it’s remarkably similiar to what we are telling our clients. (Well, that and we are reminding them this is a wonderful buying opportunity. Seriously!)
    Working in the wealth management industry it is all but impossible to remain unaware of the daily roller coster ride the stock market takes us on. My work day is often directly impacted by what the market is doing. If it tanks I need to plan to stay late to calm fears. If it jumps up I have other responsibilities. It can seem overwhelming at times.
    Fortunately while I may be “at the mercy of the market” at work, I am still able to close my door and take a few minutes to take several deep breaths and find calm.
    With only a few seconds of deep breathing I’m typically able to reclaim most of the power I’ve “given away” to the market upheaval. It’s pretty amazing!


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