Ups & Downs

Ben Stein in the New York times today:
We are more than our investments. We are more than the year-to-year or day-by-day changes in our net worth. We are what we do for charity. We are how we treat our family and friends. We are how we treat our dogs and cats. We are what we do for our community and our nation. If you had $100 million or $100,000 a year ago and now you have a lot less, you are still the same person. You are not a balance sheet, at least not one denominated in money, as was explained to me recently.

Losing and making money are not moral issues so long as you are being honest. You may have a lot less money as this year ends than you did two years ago. But you are just as good or bad a person as you were then. It is a myth that money determines who you are, and if you have gotten over that myth by now, then 2008 will have been a very good year.
We've been using Mint.com to track all of our accounts, and I really like it. It allows our brick-and-mortar account, online bank accounts, mortgage, and even Paypal to be pulled side by side to see balances and transactions. each transaction can be labeled and categorized, so I get nifty graphs of our budget categories for me to analyze like crazy (or, more often, cringe at). I can see, finally, how much we spend in total for restaurants in a month, or how much we save when we bring our lunches each day, or whether a tankless water heater or new siding would save us enough on our electric bill in the long run to make up for the upfront cost.

The downside goes along with the quote above. Along with all those accounts, our retirement accounts show up in Mint as well. This is a new thing for me to track, since previously I just got quarterly updates on my 401k, and didn't ever see interim numbers. Now, I can see day-by-day graphs along with the ups and downs of the market! As I watch, as most people have, the market fluctuate in these last few months, I have to remind myself- this number, there, doesn't matter. Especially not right now. Heck, I won't see that money for 40 years- a fluctuation today or tomorrow really doesn't matter. What matters is that we're planning & saving steadily- slow & steady wins the race, right? And, as Ben Stein said above, on the scale of things, there are a lot more important things to focus on than my 401k balance.

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