February 27, 2009 by Ellen Stimson in Uncategorized

Security. At New Year’s I chose a word to live with this year. It was a word that I was going to think about, read and write about and decide its meaning in my life. By January the stock Market had already been acting silly for a while. But nothing like it has been doing lately. Now we are down around 7000. I remember when 10 were a bummer.

I also remember when we chose our investment strategy based on something called a risk assessment. We spent many hours considering our own risk tolerance and decided that we were risk friendly. We were still in our high earning years, we had a long 20 plus years to go until retirement, and I bought and sold companies, started new ones, borrowed enormous sums of money, sometimes made it and sometimes lost it, and generally lived in world where managing risk was just part of the daily grind.

But now that all seems like a long time ago. Having a high-risk friendly portfolio meant one might expect swings of up to 30%. Could you stand to lose 30% of your net worth in one day? If so then you were risk friendly too, and probably had lots of small caps and emerging market investments in your portfolio. But today the very notion of risk has changed. Can you stand to see you ret worth plummet to zero would be a better question today. It is a very insecure feeling. I hear of people whose portfolios are only down by fifty percent. They look like geniuses to me. We are down deep into the 70s.

So if risk has a totally different meaning today, what then of security? How do you get it? And if you are or were a risk friendly person is security even the goal? What does it look like?

I have lately been thinking that if we are going broke anyway, maybe we should sell everything and mo0ve to Italy for a year. Maybe we would decide to stay or maybe we would move back and start over. This is highly impractical for a family with one recent college grad and a college sophomore deep into her program. When I realized that these were my musings in the middle of the night, I wondered if my risk profile had really changed much after all. I am building another business these days. It is coming along nicely and since language and the power of words are crucial to its success it is not likely something I could translate into an Italian business. Or at least I would need to know how to say way more than Prego if I did.

But if security is knowing that you can be happy a lot of different ways, then I am secure. Because I have been happy richer and I have been happy poor. (Richer was better,) And rich of poor you still only get just this one life. So shouldn’t we be doing the soul work that makes us sing? Marrying John and having these kids is the truest work of my soul. And these old Vermont Mountains made me sing. So did the chickens. They do still. I suspect Italy would be like an opera. And I might even need to live one day in the bustle of Manhattan. I think that would be a marvelous place to be old, with your grocer, your theater, and your coffee shop all on one city block.

Maybe security has nothing to do with money. That is a radical concept for someone who has always tried to make bunches of it for the really good schools and fabulous trips, and gorgeous old houses filled with good balsamics and walls of books. But maybe security comes with the choosing. We are people who intentionally choose these lives we lead. We choose our careers, our friends and the places we live with intention as opposed to habit. Maybe the old empty spots leftover from an unhappy childhood where there was never enough…love, happiness, attention, or money…..where wishes and desires were berated and belittled as the selfishness of evil…maybe those old wounds have been filled up with the happy power of choice. Maybe security and choice have always been one and the same.
It’s a new concept. Luckily I have ten more months to get it right…..

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