SHHHH! Don’t tell anyone, but we put the March/April issue of Journal of Indexes together in January. It’s just how the publication cycle works. And putting the publication together at the start of 2013 really brings home the topic of “New Perspectives.” I mean, what is the start of a brand-new year if not a chance to take stock of what has come before and to tweak your approach for what lies ahead?
I don’t know about you, but since late 2008—what with the financial collapse and the growing political polarization in this country—-I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should invest in a bunker instead of my 401(k). I mostly gravitate that way anyway—when there’s a snowstorm coming, I’m right in there with the rest of the nutsos, desperately buying up bread and milk, even though I don’t consume much of either item. But that 24 hours when I might be snowbound COULD be the 24-hour period in which I am struck by an unconquerable desire for a double-decker sandwich and a big frosty glass of milk.
(Note: Head out to the grocery store early if you don’t want to be stuck with the raisin bread—it does NOT go well with peanut butter and jelly.)
This kind of neurotic response to unpleasant global events runs in my family. Not long after the market tanked, I had to talk my 60-something mother out of putting her entire retirement savings into physical silver—and explain that her jewelry collection didn’t qualify. However, when things took a downward turn, I elected not to take up political extremism, load up on ammo or move to Canada. Instead, I bought a Costco membership and started a garden.
The former has led to an impressive stockpile of toilet paper, paper towels, plastic wrap and frozen broccoli florets (if you have a good recipe involving them, please email me as soon as possible). My friends started talking about a Hoarders-style intervention this past autumn when they realized I had enough rolls of toilet tissue to last me to the next Olympics. They don’t hesitate to stop by for a few rolls when they run out, however, so who’s the crazy one?
The garden I view as an investment. OK, right now I probably spend about $20 for every luscious heirloom tomato I harvest, but one day—hopefully before I’m ready for retirement—I will have a cost-effective supply of organic vegetables for my post-crisis Cobb salad.
So after all that warehouse shopping and a ton of potting, I awoke on this past New Year’s Day to the realization that, contrary to my radical fears and the vehement beliefs of market pundits, society might just be safe and sound for a while. And here I sit with enough Saran Wrap for the world’s leftovers. There’s a lesson here somewhere.
No, I’m not giving up my Costco membership, even if I’ll probably never have to buy TP again. Nor am I abandoning my gardening efforts—it appeals to my crunchy granola side. But I’m not going to let irrational fears of the U.S. turning into Greece—or Somalia, God forbid—affect how I manage my portfolio. I’m not going to allocate an outsized portion of my investments to gold. I’m not going to put all my money into emerging markets because the U.S. and its fellow developed markets have a bit too much debt. And I’m certainly not burying an Airstream trailer in the backyard as an ad hoc bomb shelter, even if Costco has them on sale.
I am, however, going to continue to invest responsibly and not spend my ducats on frivolous things. Repeat after me: The odds are good that it’s gonna be OK—maybe not great or even pretty cool, but definitely, at a minimum, “OK.”