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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unintended Returns

Greed drives many to invest in stocks.  I have myself and seen others eagerly buy shares with deeply felt anticipation of immediate and flagrant gains.  Yet, despite the certainty felt that the investments were virtually risk free, we have seen our investments lose significantly in value.  What we couldn’t wait a minute to purchase, we now hold with modest hopes that the price will someday recover.  While being well aware that I can be accused of rationalization, I hold that some of these losses can be good for us and teach valuable lessons.  First, and most simply, they teach patience.  Second, they teach the obvious that firmly held beliefs and deeply felt emotions resulting in almost tangible fantasies about the future can be disastrously wrong.  Imbedded certainty is no guarantor of success.  As obvious as this may be on the face of it, in fact it is a lesson best and most surely learned the hard way of experience.  Another lesson taught by bad investments is similar to what people express after other disasters; it can help us focus on what is most important.  We can be surprised in life by what is expendable and what is not.  Like when making a loan to a friend and the loan is not repaid, we must determine if friendship is more important than money—if an eventual and unintended act of generosity can be more rewarding than an exact balancing of accounts.  We may “kicking and screaming” confront a truth—material wealth is not our ultimate repository of value.  “It’s only money” can state the real condition.  Fourth, bad investments teach us that though we are deeply flawed beings that are sometimes scarred by experience, we yet are survivors.  We have met the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” yet have somehow survived and prevailed.  While we thought we were putting “all our eggs in one basket,” actually life proves to be a portfolio of many needs and gifts of which material wealth is only one of them.

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