John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, if it’s of any comfort, the world has been going to hell for thousands of years. Let me give you a little story from the stock market that may reassure you. Why the stock market? Because, in my view, markets primarily move because of emotion, fear and greed. And now you’re reacting to this fear yourself. Here’s a little story that may help you.
I blow off steam in the office every day by walking around and shooting the breeze with various characters. One of them is a man in his mid-40s, philosophical and wise. Markets have been a bit fearful lately, with investors assessing the news that frightens you as well. I asked him: “Are you worried?”
“It’s always hard when markets go down,” he said. “But here’s what I think. I came into the business in 1994, and the Dow Jones Average was 3,000. Then, in 2000 we had the bursting of the Internet bubble. Then 9/11, horrifying. Then, the worst market meltdown since the Great Depression, starting in ’08. All this, and we’re over 17,000 on the Dow Jones.”
He concluded, “You tell me where you’d rather live and invest. Be a long-term optimist on America.”
Good for you, frugal and smart, no entitlement gene. In my view, restart your 401(k) investments. This is your key savings vehicle, because it can grow tax-deferred and you may get matching funds from your company. This is an important no-brainer, and it should receive the bulk of your savings dollars.
If there are funds left over, I’d split these dollars, half against student loans, and half into your slush fund for emergencies. But your 401(k) plan should come first. Forced savings now will reward you later. And “later” will pop up for all of us, with most people unprepared for it.
You have a lot going on. And it’s no help to you to say that this drama has played out millions of times over the centuries. It still hurts when it’s you. Several things: One of the attractions of your friend, the younger woman, was the way she restored your youth, made you believe you were still 18, when everything is possible and spread out before you. Most men are lost in their 18-year-old dreams, which is one of many reasons why women rule. They are the adults, and it will help you in the future to appreciate this.
You don’t, in my view, appreciate how much love is a certain kind of game. Deadly serious, of course, but a game. You cannot wear your heart on your sleeve. You cannot show how much you care, at least not in the beginnings of the dance that is romance. If you push too much, and show neediness often, you’re doomed.
The bad news is your lady friend probably cannot be brought back. She needed strength and maturity, not complete honesty. The good news is that there are at least a million kinds of love, and at least 1,000 women you could fall in love with, and perhaps marry. Just bear in mind that in the beginning stages of all this, that it’s a game, and there are no rules.