Where I Want To Invest Now

Foolish as it might sound, I am going to keep putting money into the stock market—and that might even turn out to be a good place for it.

Columns From: 1/15/2009 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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So, here we are in a recession. Or, depending on who you listen to, maybe it’s a depression. It may even be that neither of these terms apply. Given how radically the rivers of currency have jumped their banks in recent months, perhaps a different economic landscape is being carved out. We might be headed into something new.

At the beginning of this year, I took a close look at my retirement savings, along with the rest of my so-called wealth. It wasn’t pretty. Perhaps you can relate. I thought about my options, and for the moment, I have decided not to change much. I will keep putting money into the stock market. To be frank, I might take a breather first, because many seem to be warning that further declines are coming, and I am as much of a sucker for pessimism as most people are. However, I do expect the market to turn around—maybe this year, maybe the next—which means that new money going into it has the chance to buy these assets on sale. That is my guess, at least.

But just because my investment direction isn’t changing doesn’t mean that my thinking hasn’t changed. There is an old story. A man with bountiful lands imagines that if he can store all the excess bounty for himself, then he can sit back and take life easy. He needs bigger barns to do this. By the time he finishes all the work of razing old barns and raising new ones, though, something happens. He dies—never having realized the value of what he had. The message is fairly clear. Yet I realized recently that this story could also have gone a different way.

What if the man had lived, but somehow his surplus had been lost instead? The man might look differently at any excess that came his way in the future.

Personally, I might still work three more decades before I retire. Who knows what will happen in that time? Who knows what our economy will look like by then or what assets will matter most? I am going to continue to save to a prudent extent. But at the same time, my hope is that I will also focus even more attention on putting my resources to good use here and now—rather than staking too much on the hope that any stash will protect me in the future. It probably won’t.

I mentioned that we might be headed into something new. Here is one other point to consider: What if we are headed into something better? That is, what if the new economic landscape includes a different valuing of economic activity—so that, for example, leveraging and transferring money isn’t valued quite so highly, but the value of producing real goods for people rises by comparison? If an economy like that is possible, then I would be glad to invest in it. I want to get in on the ground floor.

Comments? E-mail Peter Zelinski.

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