September 11, 2009

buy low

Everyone knows the advice to buy low, sell high. People get it backwards so frequently that it never hurts to remind ourselves of this tenet, and to examine how we are using our money, our time, and our talents. I know many people who waited until the housing market was at its peak to jump in--they were swept up in the fervor of the market, and now they're underwater or, in some cases, foreclosed.

Last Spring I was fortunate to attend a meeting where a very smart economist was speaking. He shared his own thoughts on investing and urged us all to look at the down market as an investment opportunity. Buy low. Among his remarks, he made a very strong point of how emotionally difficult it is to buy during the low points--the human tendency is to hunker down, horde what wealth there is, lower our risk. Ironically, at the societal level, that is a self-destructive tendency. The only thing that will stop the slide and start the up cycle again is investment, yet the average Joe only invests when things are going well.

This morning, I was fortunate to attend a meeting where the CEO of my local United Way spoke. She said that calls to 2-1-1, the universal referral service, are up 40% year-over-year. These calls come from people who can't make ends meet--perhaps they are unable to pay their utility bill this month because they've had a forced, unpaid furlough; or one spouse has lost their job; or here in northern California, their water bill tripled even though their usage dropped. Or their drop-in health clinic closed and they need to find another place to take their children. Whatever it is, they need some help for the first time in their lives. The San Francisco Food Bank is increasing their food output 10% this year, from 33 million pounds to 36.5 million pounds.

There is no doubt that we are in a low period as a society. So many people need help. Maybe just a little help. Here and there. Maybe just this month. Maybe just this year.

Your dollar to a charity today is a good investment. Buy low. The dollar you donate today goes farther and has a larger impact than a dollar donated during high times. Your dollar may get someone through the week that otherwise might teeter and topple off the edge into a downward spiral. If your dollar keeps them on track, or helps lift just one person up, it will be multiplied many times over in the coming years. If we let those people slip and slide down into the abyss, though, we won't see the uptick for a long, long time.

It's like one economist said: "We are in a recovery that only a statistician could love." This points to the sad fact that "recovery" is only applied to the financial markets. This analysis is never applied to real people. Too many are underemployed, keeping their jobs but losing hours or benefits. Too many have just stopped looking for jobs, which means they aren't considered "unemployed." Even worse, "stimulus" is never applied to basic human services. It is only given to those who "create jobs" or "extend credit." Which means that the family that can't pay its gas & electric bill this month may be in danger of losing their home next month.

Your dollar donated to charity today can get that family through this month. Imagine if your dollar weren't there--that family could drop into a negative spiral. But your dollar can get them through, and when they're thriving again they can help others, and they'll be working and buying and saving and growing.

Buy low, folks. Invest today. This is when help is most needed and your investment will show the greatest return. Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for caring. Thank you for your donations to whatever charities are important to you. Whatever you give matters.

5 comments:

jjdebenedictis said...

*huggles you for being a wonderful human being*

This was a wonderful post.

pjd said...

Thanks, Jen. I am terribly fortunate to be able to do this as my job, and terribly happy that my company actually pays people to help communities by raising money, donating, and running volunteerism events.

The number one reason people don't give to charity is that they have never been asked.

blogless troll said...

Good job, Pete. An important message anytime, but now even more so.

pjd said...

Thanks, BT. I figured it was about time for me to blog something I would have a hard time getting in trouble for. Tomorrow, I'm blogging about apple pie. I won't touch baseball or motherhood, though.

Jane D. said...

Great stuff pjd!