Today’s cuppa: Newhall Coffee, Patriot Blend
Like a lot of Americans, I’ve been keeping an eye on the financial news during the last couple of weeks (but not my 401K — I’ll look at that when I’m 60, because if I look now, I may not live that long).
Mostly, I get my TV financial info and commentary from Jim Cramer’s "Mad Money" on CNBC — "Boo-yah!" "Are you ready, Skee-Daddy?" — and from Fox Business Network, because I’m a big Neil Cavuto fan from way back. These are not endorsements, just my choices. Yours may vary.
Cable TV is all about the moment. It lives on breaking news, live video and high emotion. That’s just the nature of the 24-hour newshole beast. It’s neither good nor bad in itself, but it’s useful to remember just how you reacted in your last personal crisis and whether, two days down the line, you would have looked back on video of that with satisfaction, embarrassment or horror.
TV people are supposed to be professionals, but sometimes, they’re just people.
So, I tell myself not to get caught up in the anchors’ or correspondents’ high emotions and to watch with interest but detachment.
To quote David Mamet from "The Untouchables": "Take it easy. It’ll all happen in time. This is the job. Don’t wait for it to happen. Don’t even want it to happen. Just watch what does happen."
Cable TV is equal parts news and opinion, but opinion is usually louder and more insistent. Pay attention to who’s saying what. Check their names, their titles, their employers. Take all of that into account.
It may be helpful to remember the words of Abraham Maslow when he said, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." Basically, each person sees problems and solutions through the lens of his or her own perspective and expertise, and their comments should be weighted accordingly.
For younger people who’ve never experienced a wide market swing or serious financial downturn, this current situation can seem far more frightening than it may be to a seasoned old hand. I look for the seasoned old hands to see what they have to say (keeping Maslow’s hammer in mind, of course).
Conversely, an old hand might ring the warning bell earlier because he or she has seen the cost of denial and inaction. Experience cuts both ways, but it’s still invaluable in times like these.
On the upside, I’m really enjoying the call-in segments on "Mad Money" and FBN. It’s comforting to know that there are so many sensible, bright folks out there in the cable-TV audience asking incisive, perceptive and wise questions. They’re listening, and a lot of them get it.
All you can do is all you can do. In this crisis, all you can do is mind your own money and your own situation. The best financial advice comes from your own adviser, who knows your particular goals and needs. Try not to make decisions based on raw fear (yeah, easier said than done, eh?).
Or, in the words (in large, friendly letters) on the cover of "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy," "Don’t Panic." And never leave home without your towel.
A nice, hot cuppa also helps. What you add to it is up to you.
Finally, here’s a test to see if the world has ended. Look outside. Is the world still there? That’s your answer.