Monday, October 13, 2008

Where Did All The Money (Really) Go?

I had coffee recently with an out-of-town ministry friend whom I greatly respect for his 30+ years of urban ministry in NYC and beyond. At the end of our conversation, he gave me only this parting observation...

"Neil... I look at you as a servant
to help people navigate change."

The jury's not in just yet, but Lord knows I try.

So I've altered my journal slogan here, to keep his advice ever in front of me. And perhaps I'll write a little more often here if it's helpful to anyone who truly is trying to understand the change we see in our world today. I'm not the expert; but I have intentionally studied 'change'... both academically and biblically... and might be able to speed you along by simply sharing what I've learned so far. And you can take it for what it's worth. Fair enough?

Frankly, I didn't really expect to start writing today, but my financial genes have been actively buzzing lately with all the Wall Street talk and the ensuing political rhetoric. Then as if almost divinely directed, this morning I read a local theo-blogger (James Kubecki) write on the financial topic... "Where Did All The Money Go?"

James found a Yale economist's notion 'fascinating' that it's only a fallacy that we lose a pile of money when the stock market tanks.

My blog-post today is not at all to castigate fellow Christ-followers as they venture into the blogosphere world of conjecture. I'm an avid believer that we SHOULD have such discussions at the speed of Light... and accordingly, learn from each other. And since my career background includes a reasonable amount of financial training and practice... especially within a ministry context... perhaps this IS the time to venture a bit further toward 'serving people as they navigate change'.

There's little time or space here to comprehensively address this question of market value; so let me just offer a few items for your reflection...

  • Just like courtroom testimonies, we see there are plenty of 'experts' on all sides of an issue. And in the final analysis, it's the responsibility of the jurors to discern truth from fiction. Similarly, there are all sorts of 'experts' about global finance, but it's your decision to make about which expert to listen to. Think back to how many of these tv experts predicted $5 gasoline. If anyone really has the ability to know that a stock or commodity is going up tomorrow, they would be wealthy beyond imagination. And a few are. But only a very few. Most aren't. Why not?

    My advice... take expert advice (and mine) for what it's worth... a perhaps-insightful opinion... and gather more facts & insights. Then weigh them with some good, biblical, common sense.
  • The proverbial 'market'... is not just the U.S. market -- let alone just the Dow Jones set of indicators. It's the global marketplace of things considered to have 'value'... including your home... and other financial instruments held around the world. And standardly, U.S. television and other media outlets concentrate your attention only on the U.S. forms of expressing that value. As a result, while you're alarmed at the DJI falling last week, few people even discussed the 25% per-annum devaluation of the dollar from September 2007 to May 2008... as compared to the euro. Why not? Because our news and financial media only express value in denominations we understand... ie, the almighty dollar. Meanwhile, Europeans ate our lunch.
  • While media now focuses on individual Americans overspending their budgets, who is talking about our government overspending (really)? What do you think happens to the dollar in your wallet when the U.S. government prints billions more than it takes in? Yet which political candidate is telling that 'dirty little secret'? None of them. Not really. Dare I suggest it's because they TOO want to be able to use that printing press in the back room when THEY might become president?
  • If you're willing to swallow the Yale economist's comment hook, line & sinker... that your portfolio loss is just some ethereal 'fallacy'... I have a little piece of land in Florida I'd like to interest you in.

    Friends, if you can turn your portfolio into cash at any moment, then the change in the valuation of your portfolio is indeed going up... or down... with each tick of its market indicator.
Where did all the money (really) go?

For every transaction on Wall Street, there's a buyer at the table believing the price is going up, and there's a seller believing the price is going down. Indeed someone is going to be right, and someone's going to be wrong.

Sorry to say... if you paid someone for an investment that is now worth something less than it was, then it's easy enough to know who's got your money.


If your ministry needs some common-sense help with navigating 'change'... give me a call. (317-490-1255)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a two notes on your observation on news reporting and the dollar. One of the big differences was that the dollar depreciation was over the was over 8 months, while the stock market lost 25% over a week.

On the other hand, the oil story, which was widely reported was really largely the dollar story and very few media outlets seemed to make that connection.