My wife and I received a crepe maker for a gift. Honestly, an electric crepe maker. I had no idea such a useless appliance existed. I hate it and I will never use it. Never. Ever. Here’s the problem: It is worth a lot of money. I want to return it to the store and get something we could really use, but my wife wants to keep it as it was from her aunt. By the way, I do like crepes. I just don’t see the need for an electric crepe maker—or, another way to put it, a dust collector. Every home has dust collectors. I have a pasta maker from the early 1980s, when it was all the rage. It got great use for three months. I open other cabinets in my kitchen and pantry and see implements for juicing oranges and lemons, hard-boiled egg slicers, multiple martini shakers, ashtrays for cigars, egg beaters, waffle irons. Someday, before they get recycled or taken to the dump, I’ll paint a watercolor still-life of all the extraneous junk in my life. Exchange the crepe maker for some great, useful pots and pans. Whenever you use them, which will be a lot, you’ll think of your aunt. And write her a great thank you note. She’ll never look in your cupboards anyway.
I have a retirement plan at work. And I inherited stocks from family—old-time so-called blue chips that I haven’t touched. I kind of need the dividends they provide. But I’m terrified about the news and elections, and a lot of people, including friends, tell me that they’re selling everything before it all goes down. Any sanity to share? At home, I have a coffee table book compiling the front pages of The New York Times from the 1920s to the mid-’80s. If you take a letter opener, insert it anywhere into the book and flip it open, you will find two things: Every administration that’s in power is the worst ever, and the world is always totally going to hell. I often preach, “Don’t be a headline reader,” because, very often, what really happens is the opposite of what is trumpeted in the media. Markets do move on emotion, on fear and greed. But market panics usually come from events that no one saw coming, that no one predicted—the “black swan” effect.
With your retirement account, take advantage of dollar cost averaging. This means that since you invest every year, your investment choices could be up or down, depending on market swings. For instance, if you bought a mutual fund at $10, and the next year it’s selling at $8, buy some more, which will bring down your average cost. That’s the concept of dollar cost averaging. And if the times seem to be fearful, that’s a much better time to invest for the long term than when people are optimistic and even greedy.
Many of these blue chips have probably stood the test of time, come back from every bump in the economic road and ended up higher. Our people are much better than our politicians. Stay with the great companies, and trust in American ingenuity and resilience.
You can hate politics. But if you’re patient, you can love your stocks.
I’m a little older than the Improper demographic, and we live in the suburbs. Our kids are just about out of college (and we’re praying they don’t bounce back to live with us). We’re thinking of moving into the city and downsizing. What do you think of the timing for this move? It’s always a good thing to reinvent yourself, particularly in marriage or in any long-term relationship. Downsizing your prime residence can be tricky, however. Currently, in my opinion, Boston real estate—especially on the higher end—is in somewhat of a bubble, and, as we all know, it’s a very expensive city. Unless you’re going to be a certain kind of suburban pioneer and move to East Boston, knowing it will be the next Southie, in terms of creeping gentrification.
Many people are moving into town from western suburbs, thinking they’ll be able to sock something away after selling the big house and moving to a smaller space. Many times, however, the move will suck up all the money you thought you’d save, as you almost always underestimate the costs of moving into and restoring your new dwelling.
All this being said, you probably will never see mortgage rates cheaper in your lifetime, and it’s a great time to borrow money if you need to. And you will soak in the city experience and the new adventures you will have.
So if you’re counting on life being cheaper than in the suburbs, forget it. But if you fall in love with the urban energy and you fall in love with each other in a fresh way, that’s priceless.