One of my favorite Slopers is Leisa. Besides being a nice person all around, she also doubles as my conscience; if I ever get a little out of hand, I get a kind but firmly-worded email, and that sets me straight.
She sent me something to post on the blog which she originally wrote a couple of years ago. I offer it to you and I thank Leisa for sharing this. – – Tim
This post is very pertinent to investing, but it is also deeply personal.
For whatever reason, I was moved to post this story. I may regret it. But I'll
resolve not to delete it because I think it is important. I would also like you
to share it with someone that you think might benefit. And let me be clear,
this post is not meant to be dramatic. I'm not trying to draw attention to
myself. I'm trying to draw your attention to you. It is meant to be honest and
coldly objective. If you ever find yourself in this position, I hope that you
remember reading this post. It's tragically true, and one of the most deeply
moving experiences of my life.
Nearly 17 years ago my brother committed suicide. He was 32. In February of
1990, my father, sister and I went out to Colorado Springs (my mother had died
of lung cancer the previous November) to await the why's and wherefore's of my
brother's death. It's a horrible space to find one's self in. He had a wife and
two young daughters: 2 years old and 5 months. It was heartbreaking to see my 2
year old niece cry Daddy, Daddy, Daddy to every headlight that beamed down the
road. She didn't understand that her Daddy would not be coming home.
He had put all of his things in order–to include his income tax preparation. I
will not go into all of the underlying reasons why I thought my brother
(estranged) chose suicide, but the catalyst was that he lost everything in the
stock market. Everything. There was $300 in his bank account. They were arrears
in their rent. His wife had no idea. He had sold his home in CA with a
significant gain. Moved to CO and was renting a beautiful, expensive home. The
sizable gain on home? Evaporated. Nada. Zippo. He had the one thing that was of
financial value: a sizable insurance policy (he sold insurance).
He did the penultimate financial fuck up–he lost EVERYTHING in the stock
market. The real pathos of the story is not that he lost his money, but that he
thought that the insurance policy was more valuable to his family than his
life. Amaranth and Mother Rock are titillating stories. But, there are real
people behind those stories. Why am I posting this? BECAUSE
I DON'T WANT ANY OF YOU TO EVER CONFUSE THE VALUE OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT WITH THE
VALUE OF YOUR LIFE.
I have little to offer people who stop by to read this modest blog. But I
assure you that today's message is the most powerful and incisive that I could
ever offer–one that you will NOT get from any paid subscription. Sure,
investing is a provocative subject: it's sexy, it's intellectual and it's
instant, provocative conversation. But in the end, it is your financial health.
But I want to tell you, bluntly, that if you fuck up, it is not your life. It is
never your life. You start over. You dial back to being in your 20's
again–poor but idealistic. However, never, ever is it your life. (Of course
the underlying message is NOT to screw up (no more than 2 f-words in a
I don't know what 2007 will bring. I don't know a damn thing but this: You are
not your bank account. You are not your annual return. You are not your annual
salary. You are a spouse, a mother, a father, a friend, a son or a daughter,
but you are never a dollar.
So whatever decisions that you choose to make about your life–whether it's a
stock purchase, business venture, financial investment, love interest or
employment decision–you do so with conviction that should it blow up in your
face, you can face the next day with the stain of embarrassment on your cheeks
or a "how could I be so stupid" slap to the forehead, but you
continue to be a part of the lives of the people who know and love you. And all
of these things I feel well qualified to tell you.