I bought a cupcake. It’s been months or years since I’ve had a cupcake. Finally, a gluten-free one from the coffeeshop/bookstore across the street. It was time for a celebration. Anytime is a time for celebration, but it is easy to fall out of the habit – especially in turbulent times. The US government may decide to get back to work. The debt ceiling will probably be raised. Several of my clients have gained impressive traction lately, and have kept me gainfully employed. The mortgage – foreclosure pendulum has swung back to my favor. (Pardon me if I look for some glue to make that stick.) But I am celebrating an unexpected bit of good news. One of my stocks had a marvelous day today. Once upon a time I celebrated such events. Some make finances impersonal and dispassionate. I think a good way to remain engaged in personal finances is to make them personal. Today’s news deserved a mini-reprise of those old celebrations.
The main reason I’ve been struggling financially has been the simultaneous downturn in every stock in what had been a diversified portfolio. As I stated in my semi-annual portfolio review; “My portfolio possibilities can far exceed any financial influences of mortgage modifications.” But the reality has been that the portfolio that had sustained my lifestyle for years was hit by a Triple Whammy and wasn’t enough to pay the bills. Possibilities are wonderful, but reality requires paying bills. That’s why I’ve been so busy working and why I put my house on the market. A house that is a home is a wonderful thing, but fiscal responsibility possibly requires getting rid of such a large asset and liability.
The gap between yesterday’s reality and tomorrow’s possibility shrunk a bit today.
Of all the stocks in my portfolio, Geron (GERN), is so far from profitability and such a speculative stock, that I decided to sell half to get me over a recent cash flow gap. The good news: the cash came in very handy. The other good news: the stock climbed 100%, so even though I’ve lost half my shares, my holding is back to where it was. The other good news: the stock climbed so much in one day, today, that it is triple what I sold it for, and increased my net worth by about half a month’s living expenses. Okay, so there was a rationalization back in there. The stock movement was good news, but I do have seller’s remorse from having sold those shares. If I’d sold something else, today’s gain would have been an entire month’s living expenses, including the mortgage.
“Money carries no emotion.” “Investing is driven by math and logic.” And yet, almost everyone has witnessed hurt from money problems, even if it’s just a missed bill. And I suspect few expect the markets to act rationally anymore. If all feeling could be taken out of finance and investing then computers could run that aspect of our lives. Considering that money is abstract and life is real, maybe that’s an idea worth trying. In the meantime, if emotion is involved, don’t deny it. Use it.
In the first incarnation of this blog, which seems like decades ago, but is only a few years ago, I posted about a gift I’d give myself. If my portfolio was energetic enough to produce a $10,000 gain I’d give myself a $100 gift. I didn’t spend much back then either (a habit of frugality that has been precious in the interim) so for about what some folks spend on dinner I’d treat myself to something more exotic for my pantry, probably buy a brand new book, and have some left over to give to a charity.
A $10,000 day is possible. Hey, MVIS could pop any day, right? Right? But waiting for those days again is an exercise in yet more delayed gratification. I’m in my fifties. I’ve been delaying a lot. Imagine all of those who have been delaying longer. We have a lot of pent-up expectations.
So, rather than delay, and rather than be wasteful, I celebrated by buying a cupcake. Sounds kind of silly after all of that finance talk, but that’s a bit of the point.
The current dysfunctional aspects of today’s finances and politics can be demoralizing. Is anyone measuring whether cynicism is rising? Every day seems to bring more reason for what I call the Walk Away Movement, where people are becoming disengaged with institutions, and even currencies. It gets more appealing to me whenever I consider my choices. Which is more effective: trying to change the system, or helping my community become more sustainable? It is so easy to face our troubles head on and become overwhelmed in either case.
Finance, politics, and many issues of the day are passions, and vital even if they are arbitrary. But at their essence, we deal with finance so we can maintain and sustain our personal lives, the US government was formed by We The People. Focussing only on the problems is great for the problems, but the problems are big enough to absorb anyone’s complete reservoir of passion.
Save some passion for celebrations, even the small ones: balancing a confused checkbook, filing taxes on time, or finally deciding on a mutual fund. Save some passion for your slice of the bigger events: work parties, harvests, elections.
Thanks to Geron’s news about a – first-in-class telomerase inhibitor currently in development for the treatment of hematologic malignancies – I celebrated optimism in many kinds of possibilities, and bought a cupcake.