By Brad Thomason, CPA
When I was a kid, my dad was a devout and utterly consistent watcher of the daily news. National and World news at 5:30 (NBC, with John Chancellor; and later Tom Brokaw) and local at 6:00 and 10:00.
On slow news days, when they would have stories involving some celebrity, he would often remark, “Are we supposed to know who that is?” It would drive my mother crazy, and she would make some aggression-less criticism about him being out of touch. He would usually reply with OK or Whatever. It had the rote feel of the sort of call and response exchanges that are often part of religious services.
The Lord be with you…
Well, I don’t think it’s strictly genetic, but I have become aware in recent years that I frequently see headlines about folks who, by context, obviously must be celebrities. But I have no idea who they are. I see articles in business publications about how people over 30 feel like they are losing touch with culture and, by proxy, reality. How they feel insinuations of obsolescence even as they are only reaching the age that for decades (at least) signified the point where most were just starting to hit their stride. It is accepted and unchallenged dogma that we are living in a fast-paced world where little remains as it was and that the present gives way at break-neck velocity to a future so dynamic that nothing which came before could possibly hint at what’s to come next.
But is that what’s really going on?
In the midst of new technological innovations and rapidly changing popularity of this idea or that person, it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that there are no sands but the shifting sands.
But haven’t younger musicians, actors, athletes been replacing older ones for as long as you’ve been alive?
Isn’t the idea of ‘this year’s fashions’ an ancient one?
Doesn’t gravity, electricity, photosynthesis, lunar orbit and the desirability of honest – to - God backyard tomatoes still work the same as always?
And as for innovation, does the umpteenth new social media platform really count? I mean, how many different ways to stay in touch does the human race really need? And whatever that number is, haven’t we already surpassed it?
The hallmarks of good financial management that existed on the day you were born remain the standards today: work for what you need and want; live within your means; prepare for the day when you won’t be working anymore so that you can still live comfortably without burdening anyone else.
Now it’s certainly true that the chaos of popular culture finds its way into the financial markets from time to time. New investors enter the market and presume that all of the existing players are morons; speculative frenzies – GameStop, Bitcoin, Tesla – catch fire, only to be set down later for the next hot issue; politicians say and do things to pander to voters looking for ‘new ideas’ and not-stale leadership. So, we can’t ignore these things altogether.
Still, we can’t let them trick us into thinking stability and inertia no longer exist. Many of these elements of change are just the latest versions of what the world has seen many rounds of before, no different than the changing crowd of performers that gets invited to the Grammy’s every year.
The risk here is to assume that if you don’t keep up, if you don’t have the latest financial app, if you aren’t fluent in crypto-currencies, if you aren’t monitoring what’s coming down the pipe, then you are per force falling behind, with ever-dwindling hopes of being able to cope with the world. That the prospects of success are dimming before your eyes, and that basic survival itself could be next.
My advice: don’t fall for that. It isn’t true. The game is still about what it was always about: having enough money to pay for what you have deemed to be your version of a comfortable life. The delivery of financial and economic information may have changed, and the current data may be influenced by current fads, but the core machinery is as it always was; making it just another aspect of the world that is much more prominent than we sometimes realize.
When I cook a steak over a charcoal fire it works the same way it did when I was 20. When I fish a stretch of shoreline, I find that hooks and tree branches still have the same affinity for each other that they ever did. Dogs manage to hold on to the image of being obedient, despite a compliance rate far less than 50%. Have things changed? Sure. But not everything; and maybe a lot less than we sometimes think. Especially when it comes to the stuff that has the biggest impacts on our lives.
I’ll stop there. Going to go out and throw the frisbee with the kids for a bit. Have a nice day, and perhaps a warm beverage, too. Come to think of it coffee and tea have lost none of their power, best I can tell. Something to think about.
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