Whenever I have a cold, I go to the doctor. When I broke my arm, I went to the hospital. But when it comes to my anxiety, what is the next step? I’ve found that the answers for those with mental health issues are not always clear. Friends and family members I’ve confided in often reply with suggestions like, “Go outside and exercise,” or, “Stop thinking so much.” What are some alternatives that you use to maintain your mental health? Well, it isn’t just a cold that sends you to a doctor. It’s for things like anxiety as well. Sometimes it can be an easy fix through various kinds of medication. But if you want to avoid medication, things can likely be changed in your personal behavior. So many friends have offered solutions to anxiety over the years with an assortment of remedies: yoga, medication, bike riding, community rowing, squash, gym classes, a few good friends who will give you some laughs and fellowship. Whatever you choose, it’s you who has to do the work. But it will be worth it.
I’m well aware that when it comes to investing in the stock market, there is typically risk involved. As the saying goes: “There is no reward without risk.” However, I can’t help but worry that my reward will turn out to be a great loss. How much of a risk do you recommend to clients when making investment decisions? Are you a fan of investing in up-and-coming companies, or is it best to stick with the conservative options? You’re right, there is a potential risk in virtually every financial decision you will make. But the answer to this question has a lot to do with your age. My first job was with a private financial firm and, after several years, I was offered the right to buy shares in the company. I had no real savings at all in my early 20s. But a local bank loaned me the money at a rate I could afford. Then came the 1970s, a disastrous decade for the stock market. Hundreds of well-known firms went broke, including mine. My investment, in my own firm, with borrowed money, went to zero. Amazingly, I didn’t dwell too long on this—likely because I was young, naive and a bit stupid. But because I was young, I had faith that I could pay it back and still go on to find success.
If you’re a millennial, go for growth in your investments as income should be a secondary issue. Try to grow a dollar into two or three or more with a view toward long-term results, not a quick turnaround. Split this growth money into seasoned blue-chip companies with solid recurring revenues and strong financial conditions. The second half of growth assets can go into newer companies that concentrate on seeing the future and hopefully give you a long profitable ride.
At the start of every year, I have a list of 10 or so things that I want to accomplish, or at least improve in my life. And at year’s end, I go over them and see how little I actually achieve. Why do I put myself through such agony? Should I tear up the list this year? Do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Ahhh, the good intentions we all have at year’s end! Those include your diet, your exercise program, your cruelty to your sister, your promise to be a better partner. I look at it this way: If we all made and kept our resolutions, there would be no Shakespeare. Or Freud. Or any of the philosophers. Because perfect behavior is boring, and human frailties are not. Philosophers, authors and poets write about human nature in all its forms and none of them would think of following their own resolutions. If I were you, I’d make only one resolution: Make sure you give a little bit more to the charity of your choice. ◆
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 email@example.com.