That sound you don’t hear is the inaudible whoosh of money evaporating from millions of 401Ks across the country.
Sorry, old chap.
“Oh, don’t worry, it will all bounce back,” say some happy little sunshine heads.
Maybe. But in that span of time, all that money that could have been working for you has vanished. Two steps up, five steps back, and 10 more years to take a baby step forward.
Not that I’m bitter and jaded.
I’m no expert stockbroker, but this is all you really need to know about the stock market: It’s just gambling. It’s a day at the track, every day. Some of us study the racing form to improve our odds and others have their own unique handicapping methods, like betting on the horse with the longest tail or the one that poops in the paddock before the race. However, on the average, Long Tail Poopy Pants is just as lucky as poring over the racing form.
It’s gambling, not math.
With the stock market, however, you aren’t doing your own handicapping. You’re handing all your money over to a professional gambler who, unlike us nervous Nellies who don’t have much money to risk, doesn’t flinch at dropping a thousand dollars on a race, because you have to risk big to win big. Which means you also lose big, too. But when you’re playing on somebody else’s dime — no biggie.
“Yep, dropped all your cash on Long Tail Poopy Pants — he pulled up lame.”
Bummer for you, big bummer for the horse, but for your personal professional gambler? Eh. He didn’t lose a penny.
“Wow, sucks to be you, pal” is all the empathy you’ll get as he trots off to pick deeper pockets than your inside-out ones.
So, why do we gamble with our retirements at all? Simple: because interest rates are so low, if you put your money into savings, it’ll collect more dust than interest by the time you’re ready to retire. And so, we hand our retirement money to the professional gamblers, which works most of the time.
Our last big “until” in 2008 rocked the financial world, and my 401K didn’t recover until this year — just in time to be wiped out again by the Big Bad Brexit, which I predict will be exponentially worse. The global financial puzzle was tossed into the air and the pieces are scattered all over the floor. It’ll take a long time to reconstruct. (Read: no retirement for you, baby.)
Besides likely having lost half my 401K in 24 hours, what really tweaks me is that the American media virtually ignored the Brexit issue. I watch the national news every day, morning and evening, and there was never a peep about Brexit until last week, when UK voters were heading to the polls. Our media is entirely too transfixed on every turd of inanity that Donald Trump squeezes from his weird little sphincter mouth to pay attention to anything else, unless it’s the magnitude of 49 people being gunned down in a nightclub or if Kim Kardashian tweets something. The national media’s lack of pre-coverage of the Brexit issue borders on dereliction of duty.
While the financial earthquake certainly caught the working class off guard, the big players on Wall Street clearly saw this coming, and moved their money preemptively. On Friday morning, following the UK vote, as markets were crashing globally, the gold market was skyrocketing. The grotesquely wealthy know that when the stock market goes kaboom, gold is the fallout shelter. As our 401Ks were bleeding out, the idle rich had already tucked their money safe and sound into the gold market.
Me, I can’t invest in gold. The only gold I own is on my back molars. A working person’s fallout shelter is bonds — boring old bonds that just sit there and accrue interest at only a slightly faster pace than a bank CD gathers dust.
On Thursday morning, as the imminent vote in the U.K. was surfacing on the national news, I paused the TV, turned to my husband and said, “We need to move our 401Ks into bonds now.” He agreed, jumped online, and moved some money around. I also jumped online, but not having logged into my 401K plan for years because my personal professional gambler does a pretty decent job, I discovered that the investment company’s “new and improved” website made it really difficult to figure out how to change allocations. When I finally landed on the right page, I couldn’t even find a “bonds” option and by that time, I needed to leave for work. I decided to pick back up and work on it later. However, the evening news indicated that the Brexit thing was going down by a slim margin, and the U.K. would stay in the EU.
I survived by sheer luck this time, but it was a rattling reminder that I must learn how to navigate that website and move my money around before we elect President Trump and the entire financial world implodes.
And then came Friday morning.
The exit polls were wrong. The UK had cut itself free, and all financial hell had broken loose.
Because it takes 24 hours for a 401K to reflect the financial damage that has been wrought, I don’t yet know the extent the carnage. My gold dental crowns may be worth more than my 401K. I called the investment company to discuss my options, of which there weren’t any, because moving money into bonds after the crash is like closing the barn door after the (race)horse has escaped and also shot dead. So, suck it up, Buttercup, wait it out, and hopefully the investment company will turn things around.
R.I.P., Long Tail Poopy Pants.
Time to tear up your tickets, toss ’em on the ground, and as you turn your pockets inside out, hopefully you’ll scrounge enough change to buy a beer. You’ll need it.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.winters express.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com