Sunday, September 11, 2016
Bulls and Bears
On Saturday I had a brief conversation with a friend and coworker about the stock market, in which I casually mentioned that I had "lost $5,000" the day before when the market had a selloff. It felt like a fun thing to say for conversation's sake, but it's the wrong way to look at it of course; I actually had exactly the same number of shares on Saturday as I did on Thursday. I can't really lose anything unless I decide to sell the investments now for a loss, which would be very silly of me, since the retirement I'm investing for is another 15 years away at the soonest. So the watching of the value is just an interesting diversion to me right now, it's going to go up and down and up and down a bunch of times before I'm ready to use it. And historically, the long-term trend has always been 'up.'
Still, I keep looking at the charts, with the peaks and the valleys, watching the values go up and down, like it means something, which I suppose it does. It occurs to me today, as my mood is experiencing a "downturn," that maybe it's a metaphor for the grieving and mourning process. It isn't as simple as each day being just a little better than the one before. Sometimes today isn't nearly as good as yesterday. Sometimes the thing you bought for $80 is only worth $70 today; sometimes the thing that felt doable yesterday feels insurmountable today.
There are the bull markets, which are all full-speed-ahead and happy, right on out into the realm of "irrational exuberance" and that false sense of security, of indestructibility. These are the good days, and you're happy to see how much progress you are making so quickly... but if you're not careful you can forget that things don't always keep going up, and you can commit more of your resources than you should have.
Then there are the bear markets, where things start going back down, or crash, or even lead way down into a depression. Those don't feel nearly as good, and it can make it hard to have faith that the long-term trend is still 'up.' It can make it feel like you just can't even do this anymore. Everything was going so well! What just happened? What is the meaning of this?
At least in the stock market, often the best thing to do when things are down is to invest even more, even though it doesn't feel good to do it, because that can be exactly when the investment can do the most good--prices are down, so you get more shares for your money than you would during the happy exuberant times.
Maybe the metaphor means that on the 'down' days, when things feel insurmountable, then if I can find energy enough to 'do it anyway'--however small a thing 'it' might be, as small as finding strength to send a text to a friend, or even sitting down here to write a journal entry--then those are exactly the times it can make the most difference?