I confess that I have spent my day alternating between semi-productive writing and e-mailing tasks and less productive glances at the stock market reports. At the bell, the Dow has finished another 600 points down.
Like millions of Americans, what happens with the stock market bears directly and indirectly on my financial health. And like many fellow Americans, I am a bit player in this casino economy.
Some of my retirement savings are invested in the stock market, mostly through funds that include stock holdings. The only way I can opt out of those stocks is to change funds, or simply withdraw the money and park it in a money market or stuff it under my mattress.
Like fantasy baseball, with just as much control
As I kept glancing at the Dow Jones Average, I felt like I was watching my fantasy baseball team getting slaughtered, only with stakes that matter.
Once you put your retirement savings in a given fund, there’s not much you can do about the day-to-day fluctuations of the market. It’s like playing fantasy baseball: Once you’ve set your lineup for the day’s games, all you can do is watch the action unfold.
Unlike sports, however, where at least there’s a winner for every loser, in the casino economy you can have a few winners and a multitude of losers.
The real players
Meanwhile, a much smaller and wealthier bunch of people are playing the game actively. Some are making money from the volatility of the market, even on days when the Dow is tanking. If they lose a lot, they won’t have to worry about paying their bills, because they’ve got plenty of room for error. Their “rainy day” funds exceed the lifetime earnings of many Americans.
By comparison: Social Security
Most Americans are in the stock market to save and invest for retirement. By contrast, our unfairly maligned Social Security system is a helluva lot more secure and dependable than this crapshoot, yet certain political and business interests are bound and determined to dismantle the closest thing we have to a viable national pension system.
Tomorrow is another day
And that’s what alarms me.