The weekend provides little relief

It’s been a crazy two weeks, hasn’t it? The health concerns, markets, price of oil, And the weekend isn’t providing much in the way of relief. Now the Fed is dropping interest rates to zero for the first time since 2008 (though that cut lasted until 2015).

The cheaper borrowing may provide an incentive for businesses to borrow or start new programs or build or expand. However, workers feeling the financial crunch that business closures will cause won’t find much hope in a lower Fed rate.

Fear is fear. That which we don’t understand keeps us fettered. While the world waits for answers and relief, each of us throwing our own matchsticks into the night, we expect that the morning will come soon. We hope for it, and we wait for it.

Why facts and figures are just facts and figures

There’s a lot to be said for statistical analysis. Aside from the obvious, “There are three kinds of lies,” statistics help interpret the real world into manageable bits that our brains can digest. Because, if all we took in was raw data all the time, it would be difficult to make sense of anything.

Once information [from sensory organs] is processed to a degree, an attention filter decides how important the signal is and which cognitive processes it should be made available to. For example, although your brain processes every blade of grass when you look down at your shoes, a healthy attention filter prevents you from noticing them individually. In contrast, you might pick out your name, even when spoken in a noisy room. There are many stages of processing, and the results of processing are modulated by attention repeatedly.

Teach-nology

Statistics works much the same way that our brains filter out “noise”. By collecting data points from related information, we can visualize or understand more complicated systems of data that may otherwise be beyond our grasp.

When we look at a positive trend in the stock market followed by a precipitous decline of share values it can look like the world is coming to an end. But if we retrace the historical data points of the market we recognize its cyclical nature and understand that, at some point, the decline will cease and the market will rise again.

Mark Twain was attributed with the quote as saying, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”

So I guess what I’m saying is while we may not have the specific facts of a situation to rely on, we can believe that there is a historical context with which we can view it. Knowing that the Spanish Influenza killed approximately 50 million people between 1918-1919 isn’t as important as recognizing that these kinds of pandemics happen, such as in 1957, 1968, and 2009. Investigating what worked and what didn’t can help us today.

And these cycles occur across all industries, geopolitical affairs, and economies. It’s just a matter of finding an applicable context to compare then to now.

 

 

Stock Market Crumbles

It’s was a week of heightened concern for investors. While I generally view downturns as an opportunity for reentering the market, I know it can be disconcerting when you watch 10% of your investment balance just disappear.

From the Wall Street Journal: “Investors are bracing for more volatility ahead. The Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, jumped to 45.67 early Friday, the highest level since at least October 2011. The VIX, which is based on options on the S&P 500, tends to rise when stocks are falling and decline as markets rise.”

Questions as to how bad the Coronavirus spread will be, or what the resulting financial ramifications may do to the economy are running through the newspapers and television networks. When health becomes a concern, it’s easy to forget rationality.

There are things to consider when it comes to selloffs. Most importantly, it’s primarily led by investment bankers who are concerned about the long-term profitability of their holdings given the health concern. It is in no way an admonition about the stability of any individual company. Some industries will face losses in this cycle, but we’ve seen time and again that cyclical losses are to be expected.

While it’s never clear how long something like this might last, it’s good to remember that it can’t last indefinitely.

Participation, not consumption

It’s easy to view the world through a consumer’s lens. We’re bombarded by nonstop marketing all day long, and we forget that it’s a two-way Street.

Choices are a form of participation. We become part of the dialogue, as long as we take control of our actions rather than following programming blindly.

Considering all choices, and why we make them, will lead us to living a more engaged life.

Last shopping weekend

Here we are, the last shopping weekend before Christmas. Are you done shopping?

Yesterday was what retailers call Super Saturday, the biggest single shopping day of the year.

“The last Saturday before Christmas has become the biggest shopping day of the year and we expect an impressive turnout.” – NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay

Nearly 150 million Americans are expected to shop this weekend. Now, I like stuff as much as the next person. I even did some shopping myself. But what’s the takeaway from all the spending and gifting?

Hopefully it’s that what’s important is family and loved ones, and not who’s the best shopper.

Purchases

I’ve been on something of a spending moratorium. (I’m feeling broke, though I don’t like using that word. It implies something is wrong with me, rather than my financial footing. So when I’m telling myself that I need more work; that I’m broke –  I’ll usually stop and say, “I feel like I don’t have enough money.”)

Anyway, it seems that all the money I’m making goes towards bills, which has been the case for the past couple of months. However, there are some purchases I’ve made that have been well worth the investment.

First, my Sony noise-canceling headphones. I bought them just over a year ago now. They have been used while traveling, in meditation, for walks and occasionally exercise, and when I’m working at home. They are a marvelous invention, and for years I said I didn’t need them. Now I’m so glad I have a pair.

A Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Vest. I think I got this early in the year, maybe around February. It was just starting to get warmer, and in Florida, we don’t think about cooler weather all that much. But again, I’m so glad I have it. I wore it for much of my time Alaska this summer, and it just hit the sixties here last night. Besides, I’ll be up in Pennsylvania later this month as well.

And finally, another purchase I’m loving this year, my Parker ’51 Fountain pen. Now, I bought this at an antique store for $5, so it wasn’t really a splurge. But I cleaned it up, and it works perfectly. My morning journal entries are written with a Lamy AL-Star fountain pen, but everything else I use my Parker for. I carry it with me everywhere. Currently, I’m filling it with a Pilot Iroshizuku teal ink.

And over the past twelve months, these have been my most used items. I was gifted a pocketknife that I carry with me everywhere. So that gets used a lot as well. But these items bring me a lot of joy. Every time I look at them or use them, I’m so glad that I have them.

That is what purchases should be. Something that will bring you continued joy over the course of their lives. Otherwise, it could just become clutter. (Don’t worry, I have that too…)

Targeted marketing

There’s always a moment of disquiet when an ad pops up, or a brief commercial shows before a YouTube video, which is targeted to something that I’ve just researched. The Volkswagen Electric Bus; passive income streams; buying and selling put and call  options; NaNoWriMo (yeah, it’s nearing that time again).

Sometimes I bite the hook, like when I saw a concoction of ashwagandha and turmeric – two supplements I take daily. Sometimes I ignore it. But the fact remains that what we put out comes back in a way meant to entice us to spend money.

This can be good, for instance if our life will genuinely be enriched by purchasing what is being advertised – I think specifically of researching medication options and perhaps a new treatment is shown that you can ask your doctor about.

This can be bad – do you really need another set of pans? Or, in my case, a Honda CR-V? No, I don’t.

I don’t know that there is a way to combat this. Only that we must remain diligent and think rationally when it comes to online enticements.