My grandmother, Dorothy Bell, loved stocks, had crushes on various CNBC newscasters when she was well into her late 80s, and had memorized all of the New York Stock Exchange and American Stock Exchange stock symbols, and most of the Nasdaq stock symbols.
Her favorite bit of investment advice was, “Blue chips, blue chips, blue chips.”
Another of her favorite bits of investment advice was for people to take good care of themselves. “Even if you’ve lost everything, at least you have your health,” she’d say. “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”
That lesson came back today as I was reading an article by Liz Alderman and Susanne Craig on the front page of the late edition of the New York Times.
The headline is about how European banks bought what seemed to be extremely safe bonds issued by big countries in the euro zone.
The banks thought the bonds came with ironclad guarantees, but the news that Greek is likely to default and Italy is reeling suggests that those guarantees were an illusion, the reporters write.
The reporters quote Herve Hannoun, deputy director general of the Bank for International Settlements, Basel, Switzerland, as saying, “Sovereign debt has lost its apparent risk-free status.”
One reason that my grandmother emphasized the importance of good health is basic commonsense.
But another is that her parents were born in Shumsk, in what is now Ukraine, in an area so beset by revolutions and wars that it’s not easy to know what country the town is in now, or what town it was in when her relatives lived there. Were they in Ukraine, Russia, Poland or Lithuania? At various times, they were in all of those countries.