Plunging into the new year
I’ve never been the lucky type.
I had exactly zero winning numbers in last week’s Powerball jackpot drawing. Instead of 8, 27, 34, 4, 19, 10 my ticket read L, O, S, E, R, !.
And I’m okay with that.
After a lifetime of calling tails only to have the coin come up heads, I harbor few allusions I’ll ever strike it rich on a 292 million to 1 shot. I haven’t been to Vegas in years. My March Madness brackets always bust. During last year’s Mets/Royals World Series I had $20 on Cleveland.
However, after last week’s stock market plunge I’m seriously re-thinking my financial strategy.
On Friday the markets dropped another 2.2-percent, at one point down more than 500 points, capping the worst start to a year in the history of Wall Street.
That’s history as in EVER!
The Standard & Poors 500 are a lot poorer today, having fallen an average of 8.9 percent in the first two weeks of 2016. That’s $1.5 trillion with a “t”; $2.3 trillion since the market’s peak in May of 2015.
A trillion dollars is a thousand billions or a million millions. One followed by twelve zeros.
Granted, the L.A. City Council is made up of 15 zeros but even Jose Huizar has never cost us $1.5 trillion in two weeks.
“Stay the course!” say the talking heads on CNBC. “Don’t panic!” say the same people who said the housing market was safe in 2008. “You’ll only lock in losses,” says the guy who has the dubious distinction of being my “financial advisor.”
We’re told it’s “trouble in China” and the oil markets.
Don’t ask me how our chief economic rival’s problems are suddenly our problem or why cheap oil is anything but a good thing, but apparently it it’s not. A few years ago a degree from Wharton and a subscription to the Wall Street Journal were considered essential tools for the smart investor. Today it’s a metal box and a shovel.
Last week also brought the news Walmart will close 269 stores, 154 in the United States, including 7 in the greater Los Angeles area. There go another 10,000 jobs.
This on the heels of Macy’s shutting 40 stores and K-Mart closing 27.
We’re told warm weather back East led to disappointing sales of winter clothes while on-line shopping continues to kill brick-and-mortar stores. There was also traffic on Neptune and a couple of unicorns flew too close to the sun.
Ironically, last week also featured President Obama’s final State of the Union Address and the following whopper:
“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”
The President says the American economy is the envy of the world and he’s right about that. We’re still Top Dog but even Top Dogs get fleas. He chose the wrong week to spike the football.
Thousands of retail workers are getting pink-slipped for the New Year while retirees have seen their nest eggs splatter all over Wall Street for the second time in eight years.
While this too shall pass there are plenty of reasons so many Americans are both nervous and angry.
It’s hard to think we’re trapped in a system that’s stacked against us.
While the President correctly said, “The reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious is that the economy has been changing in profound ways”, he offered little comfort to those who are finding the rug once again pulled out from under them.
Again, just last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland made headlines telling their customers to “sell everything.”
Gee, I wonder why folks are spooked?
Progressives are kicking tires on Bernie Sanders, a socialist, who at least understands the unfairness of it all while front-runner Hillary Clinton is seen as part of the Goldman-Sachs oligarchy that nearly destroyed the country in 2008.
Meanwhile, conservatives are embracing Donald Trump, of all people, the quintessential opportunist, looking for someone, anyone, to right the ship.
When I was a kid “like money in the bank” was the ultimate expression of a sure thing. Somewhere along the line — I wasn’t invited to the meeting — it was decided America should be a nation of investors rather than savers. Today you’re an idiot if you keep money in the bank.
“You’re not even keeping pace with inflation” say the money people.
When’s the next Powerball?
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at Doug@KABC.com.