Investing as a sport?

By: David Leonhardt

I said last week that money doesn't generally buy happiness, but
the lack of it can buy absolute misery. This, by the way, is not
just my personal observation. It is the conclusion of some of
the most respected happiness researchers (Yes, there is such a
thing -- read my book.)

The trouble is that we have to pay attention to money more when
we lack it than when we have it. This doesn't seem fair, but the
Lord works in mysterious ways. Most people are invested in the
stock market, either directly or through mutual funds, pension
plans or some other vehicle. So it is hard not to be part of the
Panic Crowd. But I ,in all my financial wisdom, have two golden
rules to offer. These may not make you rich, but they will keep
you happy.

Number One: Place your investments in the safest vehicles
possible (Do as I say, not as I do!) and forget about them. When
the next recession ends, take inventory and see that you still
have investments. Most of us don't get a rush out of watching
our investments plunge or yo-yo up and down. Most people are
happier when they forget they even have investments.

Number Two: If you are one of those people with a terminal case
of Itchy Trading Finger, then you probably would not be happy
ignoring your investments.

Place aside what you need for the
long term, such as retirement if your heart lasts that long.
Don't play with this money. Don't touch it. Trade only with
"extra" money. The rest of you are asking, "What's that?", but
Itchy Trading Fingers know what I'm talking about. They view
stock trading as a sport.

In fact, stock trading is a sport. Much more than, say,
hunting. Think about it. In a sport, two equal opponents square
off against one another. "Let the best one one win." Each faces
the same challenges. Each is armed with the same weapons. Each
has an equal chance of feeling the thrill of victory and the
agony of defeat (unless, of course, you happen to be the Tampa
Bay Devil Rays).

Imagine the play-by-play if hunting truly was a sport: "Man is
closing in. He's coming up from behind and rounding to the south
side. He's raising his rifle. Deer doesn't even appear to
notice. Oh, I can't watch. This is going to be a massacre.
Wait! Deer has just bucked up and twisted. He spins around a
tree, and -- look! Deer has a rifle too. He aims. He shoots!
He Kills!!! Man is down. What an upset, ladies and gentlemen."

In real life, Deer doesn't win very often. In fact, I estimate
that Man is about 4.3 gazillion times more likely to be defeated
by his own team mate than by the opposition. We call this
"friendly fire".

Contrast this to Itchy Trading Finger, who stands an equal chance
of striking gold or of moving into a cardboard box on the street
corner. The stock market truly is sport, for those who choose to
treat it that way. Which is why it is so important to put aside
-- in safe, secure investments -- the money you feel you need for
your future. That way, when Itchy Trading Fingers retire, they
can move out of the cardboard box.

For the rest of us, we are happier getting our sport watching
monster trucks crush WWF actors. Oops! There I go again, mixing
my sports and my metaphors, not to mention ignoring several
federal safety standards. May your investments be safer than my
WWF friendsComputer Technology Articles, and may you sleep well at night.

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