A Quiet Fortune: Confident consumers and intrepid investors
We’re an interesting group, we Americans. I just heard that consumer confidence has hit a high since 2003.
That means we haven’t been so positive about our future for at least the last 14 years, and probably more. It means that we are likely to be thinking about buying some big-ticket items, like cars and appliances, relatively soon. We’re more likely to refinance our houses and take out extra money when we get that new loan, just to spend.
We are also likely to ignore the whole idea of saving and investing. After all, spending is so much more fun, isn’t it?
I don’t want to sound sarcastic about spending being fun. It honestly is exciting to get something new, and we often simply need to replace a car or a refrigerator. But there’s often a downside to overly positive statistics. Here’s one: According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, almost 50 percent of households of people 55 and older have no retirement savings at all.
Wouldn’t it be great if that had been a typo and the real statistic was: “Only 5 percent of households of people 55 and over …,” not the whopping 50 percent that is reality? Just think about the burden heaped upon taxpayers when those millions of near-retirees begin to apply for every possible kind of government help, just because they honestly did not know that investing some of their earnings along the way could make their post-working lives both secure and comfortable?
I want to urge you to be confident, not just as a consumer, but also about your personal ability to take care of your own future. You might think about becoming an investor. Not a big-time, throw-it-all-in kind of investor, but a normal person who saves a bit, then sticks it into an investment account. For the future.
Call Vanguard. Or Fidelity, or Charles Schwab, or Northern Funds … any company that can help you start a retirement account. Talk to a representative and find out how to begin. At one time, to have a personal investment account you might have needed at least $1,000. But today you can start with small amounts through ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds) and either keep them or switch later on when your balance grows.
If you had money invested in the stock market at the beginning of this year your balance might have increased by 6.41 percent or more as of today. Not bad, considering that the year is less than half over.
And you’ve probably heard of the “Trump Bump.” The stock market (the Dow Jones Industrial Average) rose from 17,888 to 21,008 between the election last November and May 31. (The Dow Jones Industrial Average, by the way, is a price-weighted average of 30 noteworthy stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ, a stock exchange for somewhat more tech-like companies.) If you are invested in the stock market you’ve probably seen some of that growth in your own portfolio.
If you’re not an investor today, don’t worry, you haven’t missed the only bull market (when stock values rise for a certain amount of time) that will ever happen. They come often, as do those down markets that are inevitable. But overall, the U.S. stock market has proven to be one of the best places you can put your money. Historically, it has always trended upward even though it has endured plenty of periods of loss.
Then, if you do feel confident today, go ahead and buy something you’ve been putting off purchasing. But you might also want to make a truly smart move and start saving and investing. That move will make you feel self-sufficient for a very long time.
Here are some of those phone numbers: Vanguard, 877-662-7447; Charles Schwab, 866-855-9102; Fidelity, 800-373-3548; Northern Funds 800-595-9111.
Terrie Drake is the author of the book “A Quiet Fortune,” and a retired teacher and librarian. She and her husband have lived in Glenwood Springs since 1974. She is not a financial adviser; consult a competent professional for your personal financial solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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