Markets and Mindfulness

By Jim Selman | Bio

my financial advisor and friend, and I were talking about the
‘meltdown’ the other day. I was asking how my retirement investments
were doing and she shared that I probably don’t want to know. She is a
believer that markets go up and down and, over the long-haul,
reasonably conservative investing will pay off. Historically this may
be true, but somehow knowing that doesn’t help when you are afraid of
‘losing’ your life’s savings or having to live off your friends and
children when you are old. Sandra’s advice was to relax and don’t read
the newspapers. I think she is right.

When I think about it, I
have been a long-term investor for the past twenty years or so. For
most of that time, I didn’t think about my investments or ‘follow’ the
market. My relationship with the financial world was about like my
relationship with the weather—I was vaguely aware when it was raining,
but mostly it didn’t affect my life one way or the other. So what
happened? Now I read the financial section in the newspaper first and
watch with fascination and horror as news of bank failures, national
defaults, and growing jobless rates bombard me from all directions.

nothing has really changed. The same amount of cash is in circulation.
Most of what’s been lost is on paper. It is true that it is scary and
often painful when people lose their jobs, but it has also always given
impetus to more innovation and new enterprises and opportunities. Even
during the Great Depression, people united and supported each other and
together got through the hard times. People I know that lived through
those years even speak fondly of the quality of their lives and reflect
that, in some ways, those were the good ol’ days.

I am not
nostalgic, nor am I interesting in rationalizing or glorifying the
profound and often-tragic implications of what is happening to our
market systems and our economic assumptions and ‘reality’. But I do
believe that when we fill our public media with dire predictions and
‘the sky is falling’ messages, we are fueling self-fulfilling behaviors
that make our worst fears become reality. I don’t think Sandra was
saying to stick my head in the sand and ignore the stark realities of
what is happening. But she was suggesting that I stay centered in my
work, my family, my relationships and what I am doing in my life. If I
become too distracted or afraid or over-react to what is happening in
Wall Street, I risk not only losing money, but most of what I value in
life and what I have been saving money to preserve.

We can’t
control circumstances and there are no guarantees or entitlements for
the future. What we can do is appreciate what we do have, stay involved
and engaged wherever we can make a difference and relax. Even if this
were the end of the world (which it is not), we need to stay present so
we will know how it turns out.  

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.