Saturday, March 7, 2009

Can You Feel the Hope? Part 5

Veteran financial journalist Joe Queenan has a great article in the Los Angeles Times. The topic: how financial advisers are lulling people into feelings of complacency about the stock market. Link here.

The worse the market gets, the more optimistic they become. Far too many of them are trying to make a name for themselves by calling the bottom. Call them the falling knife brigade.

Queenan gives the impression that financial advisers have redefined their jobs and made themselves into ersatz psychotherapists. Instead of dealing with the realities of the markets, they are trying to foster what is today called mindfulness: a calm, serene, placid temperament, focused entirely on the present, that shows spiritual enlightenment.

The real problem is distinguishing mindfulness from obliviousness, but we will discuss that at another time.

The advisory bywords are: don't panic, don't let your emotions lead you to do something irrational.

In many situations this can be great advice. In others it can be positively misleading.

A person who refuses to panic may become irrationally complacent, numb to what is going on around him.

But "Don't panic!" can also mean: stay calm as you move toward the exit.

When your ship is sinking, you can choose to sit back in a deck chair and mindfully revel in every last sip of your pear brandy. Or you can visualize future doom and get on the line to the lifeboats, calmly and deliberately.

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