Rats. I had to do it. I transferred money out of my IRA. Penalties, emotional and financial, loom. I’m not the only one. Some have it much worse as they too look for income, some of them without savings. A friend demonstrated how quickly it can all turn well.
DNDN, the stock for Dendreon, remains lower than it was prior to the FDA approving Provenge, Dendreon’s benign cancer vaccine. The company is making hundreds of millions of dollars and extending lives, and the stock languishes 85% below its peak. Like I wrote before, that’s proof of an irrational market. It and similar stories with American Superconductor (AMSC), GigOptix (GGOX), and Real Goods Solar (RSOL) have decimated my portfolio. My early semi-retirement is much more semi and much less retirement.
I’m busier now than I was a few years ago. Coordinating book and art sales, classes, and working on consultations is enough to fill a day; but, they haven’t generated enough income, so I also spend part of each day applying for jobs. Fortunately some nice positions have opened up. Stay tuned.
I know a few people who are similarly on edge. Savings are being tapped. Assets are being sold. Job applications are sent outside the region. Maintaining optimism and enthusiasm can be difficult. Luckily, I have a lot of practice. I also listen for and celebrate those positive moments that prove the value of patience.
A friend was in a three year slump. Jobs came in, but rarely and not significantly. Savings were dwindling. To be concise and tactful I’ll skip the rest of his laments. He held a smile, but it was tired. It is brightening now. Within the last few weeks he was hired as a consultant for more than he’d asked for or expected. Within a few weeks his finances were recovering nicely enough to largely recover years of negative cash flow. Any tired lines around his smile are beginning to soften and fade. A friend tapped him for a job and life improved.
News is delivered in discreet packets. Receiving a phone call, an email, a letter, is a singular event. Seconds before its opened, the world has one sound. Seconds after its been read, the world may be singing. I keep that in mind with every ring of the phone, every ding of the mail program, and every envelope in the mail box. Meeting anyone on the street can have the same effect. “Hi. How are you doing? I’ve got a job that I think you can do. Do you want to help?” The time between breakfast and dinner can remove a lot of worry and change a lot of plans.
In the meantime, amidst waiting for my portfolio to recover, pursuing the business, and applying for jobs, I’ve also started selling things. My kayak is for sale. I bought a sea kayak that evidently was tough enough to handle the west coast, but I only needed a camera platform. Camera platforms need to be broad and stable, not skinny and fast. The price I’m asking is nearly identical to the number on my propane bill. That’s not a coincidence. I’ve also got a first edition of 2001 that may be worth a mortgage payment. I’m even considering selling my house. These aren’t pleasant things to do, but prudence and pragmatism suggest taking those steps at a timing that I control.
The kayak hasn’t sold, yet, so I transferred some money from my IRA. Ouch. Limited edition books have small markets, but very enthusiastic buyers. I haven’t heard back about the house yet. If nothing changes, I probably have a year of living expenses, which is a bigger buffer than most, but every slice makes it harder for the portfolio to maintain itself, recover, and then maintain my lifestyle.
Each sale, whether it is art or personal possession, makes the day easier and provides more time for good news to arrive.
And being tapped for my art, or my consultations, or for the right job can also make my lifestyle sustainable again. It can happen in a moment.
I don’t write this to lament my life. I write this as a reminder to others that are in similar situations. One) You are not alone. Two) Every moment holds the possibility that the next moment holds a better reality.
My portfolio resides at Schwab. Yesterday, as I worked through process of pulling money from my IRA, I called the help line and explained my situation. After we finished he asked me to apply to Schwab. I hadn’t considered it, but it was a good idea. I’ll get to it after I post this. I don’t know if they’ll hire me, but he provided a reason for optimism at a critical time. He also pointed out that I could put the money back into the IRA if I did so within about sixty days (with a few conditions of course.) Within sixty days life can become much better. It can happen within sixty hours, or sixty minutes, or sixty seconds. In the time it takes to tap a key, my somewhat ailing financial condition can suddenly become well.
Great of you to share this personal saga of the market diverging from rationality and its affect on you. All too often people are afraid to share such news thinking they are the only one, or others with now shun them, or their family will be embarrasses about them, or some other such thing. But sometimes things just are what they are and you have to stay upbeat, talk to everyone if you want to find new opportunities, and just move along. Hiding under the bed or making pretend all is well rarely seems to work.