How to plan when you fear the worst


I think investing is fun. I mean, you put some money aside, sit on it, and then after a while, you get more of it. Couldn’t be easier, right? All you need to do is spend some time setting things up, and then maybe a periodic rebalancing to make sure that the investments you made are doing well.

Nevertheless, I find that there people out there who don’t want any part of it. Some people don’t put any money away for the future (even when they could).

Reasons vary why people don’t invest, but one of the surprising rationales that I’ve heard goes something like this:

I don’t invest because I don’t trust that my money will be there when I need it.

The reasoning is usually either anti-government (“They will find a way to take my money away from me.“) or full-on doomsday (“I don’t think our society is going to survive that long.“)

Yikes. Never let it be said that money issues don’t get to the core of who we are as people.

Don’t tread on me

In the 1930’s during America’s Great Depression, as banks were going bust, people would run to their banks to withdraw their money, only to find that there wasn’t any money there. People lost their life savings in an instant as the bank locked their doors and walked away.

As a response to this, the US created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), a program that insures deposits for average folk like us. Were one of our large banks to go bust (a prospect I admit that doesn’t distress me all that much) your savings and checking accounts would be secure.

But this kind of social contract with the government can theoretically go away at any time. Even  though the FDIC hasn’t lost a penny of saver’s money in its entire existence, it could decide tomorrow to go take our money and move to Buenos Aires. I guess.

As I’ve written about before, we all need to be investing experts. There’s no way that most of us will be able to retire without investing in some kind of institution. The math doesn’t add up.

If you don’t want to invest because you think that the stock market is going to tank and go to zero, then we’re all going to have bigger problems than figuring out how to retire. We’re talking full on economic meltdown.

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Life imitating The Road

Which leads me to those who think we are all doomed. I admit that I have in the past looked at climate change, our reliance on fossil fuels, and our earth’s dwindling water supply, and to be honest I came to the conclusion that things didn’t bode well for us.

I’m not saying that we as a planet don’t have serious issues we need to face, or that our continued survival is assured, but I am saying that if you believe our world is doomed, then it’s not going to matter how much money you have under your mattress (or in your retirement account, for that matter). If things go really south, there is probably nothing we can do to plan for it. Sure, you can learn to homestead and try to become 100% self-sufficient (assuming that were possible), but then you’d also need to worry about securing your limited resources from external…

Do you see how this line of thought isn’t useful, how quickly things get dark? If all this is a possibility, then what are we doing planning for the future?

But to me this seems like a cop-out. If one outcome is something that we can’t plan for, we may as well plan for the outcome we can.

Go on

Every day that we get up is a bet on the future. What gets us out of bed is a kind of trust: we trust that the floor will support us; we trust that people won’t steal from us or harm us; we trust that there is a purpose to getting up and living, to reach the future, even if we may not know what that is.

But the future isn’t something that we can verify, and so we go on in a kind of faith. I happen to believe now that we’re going to be okay, that we will come through when moments happen that test us, though it’ll probably be a close call.

And since we can’t reasonably prepare for any other outcome other than the continual thriving of our world, then it doesn’t do any good for us to dwell on it. There is too much beauty in this world, too much love that we can feel, too many adventures that we can experience, to do anything else other than to go on and on, looking to the future, and betting long.

But enough about me: How do you feel about the future?

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