How to Be a Savvy Spoon Investor
September 12, 2016 | Posted in: Chronic Life
Long, long ago in a land far, far away I was a licensed personal finance representative for a large bank. Meaning, I sold bank products like loans and checking accounts, but also helped people plan for retirement. So let’s pretend you wandered into the bank on a muggy Tuesday in hopes of opening a checking account before your favorite T. V. show came on in a half an hour. You might even be dreaming of squeezing in a run through the Starbucks drive-thru and grabbing a latte on the way home. You sit down at my desk with your baby strapped to your chest and tell me you need to open a checking and savings account and “you’d like to see if we have any checks with coffee on them, hopefully for free.” I tell you “I’ll be glad to take you through our book of sample checks, I just need to ask you a few questions first.”
And then I profile you. What kind of checking account do you need? What kind of balance do you generally maintain? How much planning for the future have you already done? Do you own any mutual funds, stocks, or bonds? How diversified is your portfolio? Is it performing well?
Based on the baby strapped to your chest, I know I don’t have much time to complete this task. If I’m the reason you miss your Starbucks or baby misses his nap, you won’t be back to see me.
But if you maintain a low balance and have little savings (less than three months total living expenses) you need a no fee checking account and aren’t yet ready for the other services I offer. If you have ample savings and a stockpile of cash sitting in your checking account that isn’t working for you, it’s part of my job to find a time we can sit back down and work on a plan to make that money work for you. (The bank would say it’s part of my job to determine if you’re a good candidate for a home equity line of credit, but I ignore that part because I don’t believe in these loans. Another story for another day.)
Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, I’ll explain my dual role here at the bank. Maybe I’ll encourage you to set up an appointment in six months when your savings account is well padded and able to support you in the unfortunate event of a layoff. Perhaps, I’ll suggest that at that time we could begin looking more closely at a mutual fund or annuity. I say this with great hope and anticipation because one of the greatest joys of my job is helping people reach their goals.
You take my card, thank me and head off to get your Starbucks.
I’m often reminded of these interactions in my current life, here, in what my four-year would call, “our village.”
But now it’s not checking accounts, or retirement accounts I see. It’s not the diversification of portfolios or their overall performance I wonder about. It’s spoons.
How are we investing our spoons? Do I want to spend these three spoons cleaning or coloring with my daughter? Was yesterday’s investment wise? Assuming the market holds overnight, how do I want to invest my spoons tomorrow? What will provide the best return in the long run?
Rest sometimes seems like the mutual fund of investing. It’s not sexy but it produces long, stable returns.
And just as the trading floor is sometimes a volatile cruel place, where all is lost, sometimes, in spite of the best-laid intentions, I wake up spoonless and am forced to start anew the next day.
And while tomorrow I could set up an appointment with any financial advisor who could tell me the best options for my financial portfolio, you and I must be our own Licensed Energy Resource Advisors. We must decide what is a worthy investment of our precious spoons and what is not. On the days the spoons might as well be made of gold, we must place a call to our inner advisor and be judicious and about the cuts needed. Only we know when it’s worth it to hold the course, sell at a loss, and face a spoon deficit tomorrow because only we have gone through the grueling training of living in our bodies.
So pull out your business card, give yourself some wise counsel and then go grab some Starbucks.