Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sturm und Drang

On the way home today I filled my car's tank with gas at $3.16 a gallon. Slowly and stealthily gas prices have dropped by almost 25% from their peak over the past couple of months and yet nobody seems to have noticed. I certainly noticed today.

After I got home Linda and I had to eat a hasty light dinner because we were due for our second in the series of six weekly Rumba lessons up at the Ballroom on High Street. As usual Jas and Kathy put on a great lesson for the twenty or so in the class; and this time we guaranteed that we'll retain what we learned by practicing for about a half hour after we got home. We've pledged ourselves that tomorrow night we'll run through our Waltz, Foxtrot and Rumba routines instead of walking.

Those were the good sides of the day. The bad side was that the stock market tanked again today, with the DOW going down another 180 points. All told the market is off almost 40% from last year's high. The first of the 401K statements for the third quarter arrived in today's mail; but I hate the thought of opening it. The most annoying thing is that Linda and I are already pretty fully invested in stocks and real estate; so I can't see any way of freeing up enough cash to take proper advantage of what may soon be a truly phenomenal buying opportunity.

Here's a free investment tip which is certainly worth no less than it's costing you. The idea is to buy low so that later you can sell high. Going further, the idea is to be one of the few who are smart enough to buy when everybody else is totally sunk in doom and gloom. If you have a access to a 401K plan at work now is the time to maximize your monthly deductions. If you don't have access to such a plan now is the time, if there ever was a time, to cut back on your spending and free up some money to buy as many shares as you can each month in a broad no-load, low fee mutual fund. With the market as low as it now is, and perhaps going lower, it's as close to a sure thing as you will ever be able to place a bet on.

The U.S. has easily the most free and vibrant large scale economy in the world; and it will retain enough freedom and vibrancy to continue to dominate the world even if Barry and Joe and their buddies get control of all three branches of government and thus have the opportunity to run wild and establish a bunch of new government boondoggle programs. Also, there are a host of new technologies being worked on which promise even more amazing developments than we've seen in the recent past. The stock market indexes are now going down, and they may go down or stay flat for an extended period, years even; but in the long run, the five or ten or fifteen year run, the market is going to make back all of its declines and go on to peak much, much higher.

Yes there are problems, just as there have always been problems. But in the long run the problems we currently face are essentially trivial next to the opportunities. We live in by far the very best country, and we live at by far the very best time to be alive in the history of the world. And tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, will be an even better day to be alive for the vast majority of us.

Anyone who doubts that this is the very best time to be alive should comment on this post and I'll recommend a couple of very readable history books.

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