Having been fixated on financial news ever since my 401(k) mysteriously disappeared, I can't help but think back to some truly awful memories from the summer of 1977... a summer I should have stayed home and baled hay.
Being the youngest of three, I don't have a lot of memories of big summer vacations with the family. By the time I became a teenager, family vacations were a thing of the past. I think the general consensus was -- we all had plenty of time together and we shouldn't press our luck. Not exactly how Ward Cleaver would have done it, but hey, it worked for us.
At the time I was a pimply-faced 15-year-old punk (much like the one I now have). My parents were going on a trip to Florida to visit my sister and meet her new fianc?. I knew better, but somehow my box of Stridex pads and I still crawled into the backseat of dad's sporty '72 Impala to begin the 24-hour drive to Florida, alone with my parents.
As horrific as the car ride itself was, those aren't the memories that haunt me most. The way it all started was certainly well intended. Wanting to impress his soon to be father-in-law and brother-in-law, the fianc? arranged for us men to go on a deep-sea fishing trip for the day. Having never seen an ocean, (like a fool) I thought that sounded like a great idea.
Much like Gilligan himself must have experienced, about an hour from land the weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. Rain, lightning, thunder and 40 people with poles and hooks swinging in the wind diminished the fun I had been expecting.
I first realized that maybe I wasn't feeling so good when my dad offered me a ham sandwich and a Ding Dong. To make a long story short, for the next three hours while most of the passengers were inside the dry main cabin, I was out making memories. For instance, I have a memory of clinging on the railing as the boat rocked up and down the ten-foot waves. As the torrential rain poured down on my back, I hung on tightly heaving over the rail over and over again. "Bill, want any Pringles?" my dad yelled out the crack in the door.
Before I could tell him what to do with the Pringles, a wave crashed over the railing and almost knocked me down. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself back to the rail in time for heave No. 10. The rocking boat, the rain, the throwing up... it all continued for hours. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined someone could be so violently sick and not be dead.
To this day, just the thought of that day will trigger nauseous feelings. So what does this have to do with the financial world? To me, it's the same feeling I have when I think about our markets today. Up and down, over and over again. No end in sight. Nobody knows what to do or when to do it. As an investor, I feel exactly like I did on that boat... like I'm desperately clutching the railing in a storm, retching over the side with every brokerage statement I review. Surely this storm can't last forever, can it?
For now, I'll just keep hope alive and stay at my place on the rail. My hope for all Americans is that someday soon this economic storm will subside and I will be able to buy an iPad.
If after reading this you realize you're in the same boat as I, here's my advice: Keep hanging on just like the survivors of the S.S. Minnow did. After all, Gilligan, Skipper and the rest eventually got rescued. However, they did all owe substantial back taxes (especially the Howells).