August 5th, 2011
09:15 AM ET

Letters to the President: #928 'Stock market fever'

Reporter's Note: As if the president did not have enough to fret about, now the stock market is a wreck. But then, as I ask in today’s letter, is that as worrisome as it appears?

Dear Mr. President,

I must admit something that probably makes me look like an idiot. While professionally I have to keep an eye on what happens with the stock market, on a personal level I pay almost no attention to it. Zilch. I decided long ago that I could follow each up and down like a ten year old on a roller coaster and make myself just as sick in the process, or I could focus on the big picture and ride out the storms…for good or bad.

Now, in this process, I’m sure I have missed opportunities to make money. I could have, no doubt, moved dollars around, shuffled my mutual fund deck, and fiddled endlessly with my 401K. But as much as I have studied such matters, I don’t believe that I really, truly know that much about why the market does what it does. Sometimes I’m not sure anyone does. So why on earth would I want to get too heavily involved in betting on the outcome?

Years ago I interviewed a man who played the market like some guys play fantasy football. He worked for the Denver water and sewerage department, or something like that, and he told me that every night for a couple of years he would come home and spend hours…HOURS…reading information, crunching numbers, and placing orders. Buy. Sell. Hold. Finally, however, he sat a little further back and really looked at the results. His conclusion? It was a fun hobby, but he would have made just about the same amount of money if he’d simply made a few reasonable, diversified investments, and left them alone.

I know that this approach doesn’t work for everyone, and God bless those people who can somehow spin gold out of their investments all the time, but I will say that the way I approach it certainly keeps me from getting ulcers. When the market soars, I don’t celebrate too much. When it plunges, I don’t grieve too much either.

So while I know what happens on Wall Street matters, I also think people should not get into too much of a lather over any short term trend. When it becomes long term, that’s a different matter and it can be well worth concern. But for now, I have to say, while I’m watching the market, I’m not worrying about it; because frankly if too many of us worry, I suspect that will only help drive it down.

I was working in New York almost all week, but I’m free today if you want to give a call. Maybe we can grab a cold soda and start the weekend early!



soundoff (One Response)
  1. Rosemary

    The stock market is just the trickle down effect of the "lynch mob", disguised as the "tea party". When one persons opinion is taken out of context and allowed to infocus our lawmakers in order to have their way, only to find that they have made a grave mistake instead of following the leadership. Turns out they made a big noise that caused people to close their pockets this causing all that is before us. Could we presume that they just don't want the President to succeed? For surely we were on our
    way and if we would have followed his guidance we could now be sitting at the table deciding forward movements to improve the economy, jobs and the like. FOR ONCE AMERICA ..USE YOUR OWN MKNDS AND SEE THRU THE SMOKESCREEN......OUR PRESIDENT IS DOING A FANTASTIC JOB WITH THE MESS HE WAS PRESENTED WITH. WHEN HE ENTERED INTO OFFICE!!! I WILL VOTE FOR YOU AGAIN PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!!!!

    August 5, 2011 at 6:54 pm |