Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
How many good investments have you made in the past year? Be honest. Look at the latest statement for your retirement account, if you are brave enough. Stop listening to your realtor and look at what the neighbor’s house isn’t selling for to get a clue what yours is really worth these days. The coin jar on top of the refrigerator is filling with dust, there is nothing but lint between the couch cushions, and your baseball card collection is less valuable than Barry Bond’s interview in GQ. The good news is that you no longer have to worry about banks failing since your savings account is already gone.
It’s tempting. I have thought about becoming a day trader again, too. With what little is left, I could buy General Motors stock and make it all back. Or, maybe I’ll take a position in Citigroup. Heck, what am I thinking? I should take my stake and use it for a down payment on a Miami Beach condo. Have you seen how cheap they are? Interest rates will never be lower and getting credit should be a snap with my stellar credit record. Making huge profits these days is easier than ever!
If you believe that, I have a slope-side timeshare to sell you for the attorney’s fees. It was appraised at $5 million a year and a half ago! Now you get the picture. It’s tough out there. I have a friend in the investment business who assures me that sideways is the new up. I have extrapolated from this that moderately down is the new break-even and “getting crushed” is the new “easy come, easy go.”
As is well documented, hard times bring out the best in some of us. Of course I am speaking specifically of scam artists and shysters. Show me someone who guarantees great returns without any risk and I will loan you the money for some running lessons. I’m not talking endurance training. I am talking about sprinting. You need to get away from these people as quickly as you can. Mostly these are people who are experiencing a liquidity trap. As soon as they trap what is left of your liquidity, you will shortly thereafter see their faces on the fronts of newspapers for building pyramids larger than did the ancient Egyptians and the Martians that helped them. By then it will be too late to recover a dime from them and you will spend the rest of your lifetime reading stories about their spouses and heirs living extravagant lifestyles on the Mediterranean.
Considering this primer, I would like you to take a moment and think about all the money that was in your retirement account and in the appraisal report you had done on your home a year ago. It’s all gone and what did it get you? Not a damn thing, except ulcers, chronic insomnia, and that bald spot that you will soon notice for the first time if you position your head just so in the bathroom mirror. (Go ahead and look. I’ll wait.)
You see? You might think this is all bad news, but think again. Really think this time. Not counting your perception of things, what has really changed in your life? You still have your family, your friends, and that same old ache in your shoulder that shoots down your arm when you make a hard left pole plant in the bumps. But, the point is that you are still getting out on powder days.
OK, maybe you have to work a little harder these days, but are you really worse off for it? It feels good to earn your pay for a change rather than feeling guilty for taking it, right? Besides, the pressure to keep up with the Joneses is gone, maybe for the first time in our lifetimes. Yes, haven’t you heard? The mortgage company foreclosed on them just before the credit card company put a lien on their house and General Motors repo’d the Escalade. If you care to keep in touch, they’re renting an apartment in Grand Junction. Yep, the jet is gone, too.
The security and comfort we thought money could buy was an illusion. What we are rediscovering is the blissful notion of our youth that as long as there is a meal on the table, a roof over the head, and just a pair or two of designer label jeans in the closet, we have it made. Did we forget that on top of it all we live in the most beautiful spot on the planet? If you believe that life isn’t fair, you’re right. We need an abacus to count our blessings (computers are too expensive).
And now I am going to tell you where you can invest your money, risk-free, and reap tremendous guaranteed returns. (I am testing to see how many were paying attention to what I said earlier and are now sprinting out the front doors of coffee shops all over town, hopefully not without paying first. Good for you! Now get back here.) Are you ready? Invest some money in education. That is the only place to put it where you will never lose it. It will always create value; for you and everyone else clinging to this big blue-and-white marble shot into space by the thumb of God.
I would point out how much you spend on youth sports compared with what you give to the Aspen Education Foundation (AEF) to help in developing your kids’ brains, but that might make you feel guilty and quit spending money on sports. Don’t do that. Games are good for kids, too. I just want you to realize what a disadvantage education is at compared to the hockey team.
If you believe that education is at the root of solving most of the world’s problems, here is your chance to prove it: Show up at the Hotel Jerome for Aspen Education Foundation’s annual May Madness celebration, Friday night, May 8, with a hundred bucks in your pocket. You will enjoy a nice evening of dining and dancing with hundreds of other like-minded people. You will finally get to talk with others who walk the walk.
It’s just a hundred bucks! That’s down 60 percent from last year; even more than the stock markets.
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Columnist Roger Marolt is learning to hold his breath longer during these hot, dry summers, he writes.