February 11th, 2009
04:19 PM ET

Climbing into the bathtub

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/11/chart.jpg]

Ken Olshansky
Senior Producer, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News

My wife and I are trying to decide if we should sell our stocks.

We’re looking at our portfolio, weighing all the relevant factors, and giving serious thought to putting our money under our bed. We’re also thinking seriously about hiding under the bed ourselves.

Granted, my wife and I aren’t financial geniuses. But we have kids, we have a house, and we need to be responsible about this stuff.

My current panic started yesterday, when I saw this chart on the Planet Money site.

This chart scared me. It was prepared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, showing the jobs lost in the recessions of 1990 and 2001, compared to jobs lost so far in this recession. There is some disputing how Speaker Pelosi chose to present these numbers… but there’s no denying her point. We’re losing a lot of jobs, quickly, and there’s no bottom in sight.

That’s when I started talking to my wife about our own stocks. I’m sure there’s no absolute connection; but the idea that ‘no bottom in sight’ might apply to the stock market as well as to the labor market makes me think we may want to get the hell out of Dodge.

We tried to figure out what’s best for our family’s security. We tried to weigh the risk of getting out of the market against the risk of staying in. In a conversation like this, not knowing anything about money can be a real liability.

So I Googled people who do know something about money, and found this quote from Jack Welch: "We're in a recession and I don't see a V-shaped recovery–more like a bathtub U-shaped recovery which will last deep into the second half of 2009 before we start to come out of it."

That’s how we got into the bathtub.

By clicking around, we started to get a sense of what we might be dealing with. And then I saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the past six months, according to CNN Money.

I sort of get the bathtub image… and yet, there’s so much we don’t know! I can definitely see one side of the tub… and maybe I can see the bottom… but I don’t see the other side, where the tub wall starts to climb back up.

And which way is the bathtub facing? The narrow way? Or the long way? And how deep is it, anyway? Is it, in fact, a bathtub? Or something a little deeper… like a quarry?

All I can tell you is – here are two main lessons my wife and I learned from our research:

1) In the year 2000, 341 people drowned in bathtub-related accidents.

2) Stock market charts would be a lot more useful if you could look ahead six months instead of looking back six months.

If you’re looking for us, we’ll be under the bed.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. eric lachter

    Great article! I struggle with the same questions every day. We have worked hard to save for the future and there seems to be no guarantee that the market will "recover". My guy who manages my money says that "historically the dow earns 8% a year", but I think that only works if you stay in for 100 years which I may not be around for. Thoughtful article Ken! Keep them coming.

    February 12, 2009 at 10:07 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    Hiding under the bed – sounds like the best plan by far that has been suggested. You need to email it to President Obama especially if you have his magic email name to his blackberry. It sounds like the ultimate solution – just be sure to put the tv somewhere you can watch the cartoons from under the bed. Wiley Coyote is a good symbol for the economy right now – you know the one of him after the dynamite goes off in his face.

    I keep extra quilts I've made under the bed (in plastic) so if I choose to follow your exemplary lead I will have at least a soft warm nest to burrow into. Hope you have some creature comforts under your bed too. And I agree knowing about finance might help right now – all I know is that if you have money its fun to spend it; if you don't have money its the pits to owe it.

    February 11, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  3. c,ca

    Great article!!!! I can relate, we are doing the same thing. Sometimes I say we need to sell – then we get into a debate, wondering if we are selling at its' lowest point or a year from now will we wish we had sold at, what turned out to be, the high point.

    I thought the bathtub comparison was good news, until I saw the part about the bathtub stretching "the long way". Funny! Thanks!

    February 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm |