Friday, May 22, 2009

Root Puller

As I write this post, the Dow is up about 60 points from yesterday's close. Yesterday, it dropped well over a hundred points off Wednesday's close. Why do I know this? Did I go back and look it up? No. I know this because of my bad habit.

Several years ago I heard a very astute metaphor for impatience. Basically, that impatience is like pulling up a plant to see how the roots are doing. Ever since last summer's market collapse, I have become an unabashed root-puller. Every time I log out of my e-mail, I'm scrolling down to make a quick check on the market, to scan for signs of life or impending death for my meager investments.

I realize that the market is a long-term animal, that ultimately it goes up and must suffer periodic downturns as part of its life-cycle. But after sitting in my producer's chair in the KJZZ control room last fall and watching the Dow free fall 600 points in fifteen minutes on our monitor feed of the New York Stock Exchange, my paranoia has gotten the better of me. I'll never forget the feeling I had during that moment-I have no idea what our anchors were even doing on the air-I just remember staring boggle-eyed at the corner monitor and wondering what on earth could possibly stop the little four-digit (previously five-digit) number as it cycled lower and lower on a countdown to an economic holocaust.

Somehow, eventually it did level out, and by the end of our two-hour broadcast, it had actually recovered quite a bit, but the volatility of the whole thing left me suddenly distrustful of what I thought was a dependable institution. And ever since that time, I've noted the market levels at least two or three times a day, wondering if I might catch a sudden salvation or a total annihilation.

It wouldn't be a bad habit if I had specific stocks or was a day trader, but all my investments are in group funds that people far away in financial Never-Never Land handle for me. I'm a member of the group that's supposed to just chill and wait out the big picture. Even so, these days I get the feeling I'm not the only one pulling up roots.