Thursday, April 2, 2009

-- = +, or, Addition by less subtraction

Everything is relative. You ask your neighbor (or yourself) a few months back what it would feel like if his house, retirement and investments took a 15-20% hit at the same time that having a steady paycheck was becoming a source of stress and nervousness, and it would have put a knot in your gut. And for a lot of folks, here they are a few months later wondering if/when that knot is going to go away, and thinking that the idea of only having lost 15-20% of their assets wouldn't be all that bad, if only the hemoraging had stopped there.

Or like back when gas was $3 bucks a gallon. $3 bucks a gallon sucks now, but when you'd paid $4 bucks a gallon last fill up, it was kind of exciting, right? James Paulsen said it best, "hell, I wanted to go dump out the $4 dollar gas I had in the tank, just so I could refill it with the $3 dollar stuff".

Then you've got folks who are in a race against time with this thing, slowly burning through reserves each month, hoping this turns before they finally hit the end of the rope one month when outflow finally breaks the back of inflow and savings, then it's game over. Sad prospect to think that having to start over from scratch may actually be a relief relative to watching years of work get ravaged by this cycle and trying to hang on, but knowing the security you thought you had was dying a slow, cruel death.

Hopefully you've been able to hang in there and have managed through it, and even better, take advantage of some pretty fantastic opportunities. Here's the deal from my perspective..., for what it's worth. Things still ain't good, but the trajectory at which their getting worse is flattening out just a bit, and that folks, is a pretty thrilling prospect, as you've probably seen in your investment accounts over the last month. Is your house gonna be worth less than it is today next month - probably, but it's starting to feel like it's a little less probable that a couple more of your neighbors will lose their jobs, which means a few less foreclosures, which means it'll only drop 2% instead of another 5%. Does a 2% drop suck - yep - no doubt, especially relative to what it was doing back in 06'. But it feels like a big relief today right? Sure does to me.

So things don't even have to get good to run the fear out of the room and loosen up those knots in you and your neighbors stomachs. Less bad is the order of the day, and it seems to be here. If housing prices have been a 2% suckhole to the GDP number, that number leveling off to only sucking 1% will get the cash on the sideline excited. It ain't a gain, but it's a positive. It's a screwy math they didn't teach you called addition by less subtraction, and if you've hung in there, it will be worth your attention for the next little bit.


zeph said...

dood - reading your econ posts is becoming somewhat depressing...only not as depressing as last month.

dug said...

give me some hot investing tips. i mean, besides "buy low sell high."

Jason said...

Zeph - exactly.

Dug - how about don't sell low... or maybe throw out a big net? I don't know any man... still trying to outperform my health savings account.