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Whose Fault Is It, Anyway? | October 2016

My self-imposed job this month is to cheer you up, so I’ll start with this question: Have you noticed there is a presidential campaign going on around us?

So how am I doing so far with my self-imposed job? Feel better yet? Nah, me neither.

How about jumping to hurricane Matthew for a change in subjects? The state was declared a disaster area two days before the storm reached our shores, and what we found in Polk Country was what Winnie the Pooh termed, “A Blustery Day”.

So what does this have to do with investing? Not much perhaps, except from a perspective perspective.

I read one of Peggy Noonan’s recent columns in the Wall Street Journal wherein she lamented that many of us (particularly those in the news media) are living on “the Edge of Stupid”.  She described the malady caused by the hurried pace of our modern news cycle. We also, it seems to me, have a need in our current culture to find both a victim and a guilty party for each current event that makes the news.

This tendency has made our political races more polarizing, and more distressing to follow. It has made us prepare for natural disasters (which is a good thing to do), as if proper governmental policy and action can prevent nature from disrupting our lives (which is a stupid thing to believe).

I see this same thinking in investing. On a day the Dow Jones Industrial Average has a loss of over 100 points, the pundits arrive that night to explain the market’s ‘disruption’ was due to Reason X. Or Y. Or maybe even X, Y and Z.

It drives me out of my mind. The need to create a seemingly plausible explanation for a (usually) inexplicable short term market fluctuation makes me pull my hair out (this, coupled with three, it’s-time-to-be-adults-already children have me nearly bald now. The attached picture is thankfully about three years out of date.)

Do you really want to know why the market goes up or down? Here are the basics: in times of economic growth, stock markets tend to rise. In times of economic slowing, stock markets tend to fall. Greed and exuberance sometimes drives the markets too high. Fear sometimes drives it too low. During all these times and tendencies, the market will fluctuate from day to day, hour to hour.

So what’s the point? The point is to reject the demand from our oppressive media and social outlets to respond to foolishness. If it’s presidential politics, listen to the news, and turn off the noise. If it’s hurricane season, you know to prepare and give thanks if the storm passes you by (a little donation to our friends on the east coast or in the Caribbean who suffered loss is a good choice too). And in investing, prepare for the storms, listen to the news, stay on the course you’ve charted and turn off the noise.

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