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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Personal Finance and Disaster: Opportunity and Responsibility

Having gone through a decidedly lite version of Hurricane Katrina, I can guess that the people of Japan and elsewhere can hardly think of anything resembling "normal life." You really get focused on the unbelievable prospect of "the new normal."

As I mentioned, 4 large trees though the roof and no power for a month was not that big a deal in the grand scheme. The Red Cross showed up with food and ice after a few days and we had running water. I hardly thought about the 'outside world"except when I had to teach after a week and got to see the news reports of what was going on in New Orleans. Now, I can hardly process what is going on in other parts of the world.

And yet. I received an email from someone that said--"Hey, with the stock market plummeting, would it be a good idea to invest right now?"

Probably it would be a great idea, financially. Don't people always say to invest when it seems everything is falling apart? Yet a part of me still thinks that it dishonors the victims to think of such things. Is that ridiculous? Probably the victims look forward to a time once again (should it ever come) when one can ponder the trivial and not-so-trivial concerns of everyday life.

So, am I crazy? Does it dishonor those who suffer to think about one's investments?


Duchesse said...

I think of John Reed's reply when he was asked for the reason behind WWI, and he replied with one word: "Profit".

Some people profit greatly from disaster, whether natural or man-made. I wouldn't have a problem with someone investing now, but would like to think the investor would also contribute to relief appeals, investing and giving.

Japan must rebuild and that will generate a great deal of economic activity.

Anonymous said...

I could see both sides on this... On the one hand investing could boil down to "profiting from another's misfortune." On the other hand, it would undo potential consequences of people dumping stocks at this time (i.e. what the low price means--so many people selling that they are willing to settle for that price to get it sold). Buying stock in a Japanese-based company could help that company borrow and rebuild and hire and so forth, as well as helping to maintain the stability of the economy, jobs, and social fabric of society. That's a little long-term, though. I would agree with Duchesse, giving (whether it is something you do anyway or a special one-off thing) is the short-term thing to do.

Mixed Strat

Anonymous said...

I remember after 9/11 people were strongly encouraged to buy US stock to help the economy. Buying Japanese stock seems like a good thing to do in many respects.

Giving seems more first-order right now though. But Japan has a good infrastructure, so they'll benefit a lot from that investment once they start picking up the pieces.

Boywilli said...

I probably don't know enough about how the stock market works to have a view, but if a downward market means there are victims (if only financial ones), wouldn't one always need to feel guilty about investing at that point?

Funny about Money said...

The stock market is not a church; discard moral compunctions when entering. Or, we might say, abandon ethics all ye who enter here.

Absolutely the time to have bought was when the market dropped right after the quake. It's on the way back up just now...all those folks rushing to buy equities exert upward pressure. ;-) That and FedEx's earnings.

It's much to be hoped that Japan will rebuild. That may take a while, though, especially if the reactors actually do melt down.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Everybody--I was talking about small-scale middle class investments--i.e. buying US mutual funds during what seems to be a market decline. Thanks for your comments. And, of course, giving is the first thing to do.