Witchy Feelings About My Index Fund
When I first got some money, a man who was going to do my taxes said that he and his firm would take care of my money for me, and make sure that it grew and grew. He said I would always have access to it, and I could take some out whenever I wanted. It would be like a bank account. And they’d make sure I would have a wonderful retirement, or something like that.
I didn’t like the idea of this, of some man taking care of my money for me. I did not know how to take care of my money myself yet, but I knew I did not want a man to take care of it, either. Someone was going to call me, to continue to sell me on this idea. I knew that this is what people did, you let people who knew a thing or two about it to handle everything. For a price. And that your money performed well, whatever that meant, was in the money guy’s best interest, too. Which I also didn’t like. I didn’t want anyone else’s best interests mixed up with mine.
I wanted the money somewhere I could see it, where it could slowly become real to me and I could slowly learn how to take care of it. I wasn’t ready yet but unlike a pet or a person it could sit in the corner unused for awhile as I got my wits about me. Yes, it was losing value with every breath I took. Yes, I was missing opportunity after opportunity for growth. But I had control. Or if not control, no one else had control either.
Like a pet or a house or a child, I grew more attached to this money the more I thought about it. And the more I thought about it the more it became mine.
It was, and is, not enough to pay for all the things I want in this life, but it is enough to pay for maybe one thing. So I would try to decide what. Retirement. A house. Years without working. Life without debt. CRY FOR ME, my money won’t fund my entire life. No it’s great, my point was there is no right answer and I desperately wanted to know the right answer, to do better than the men could do. Because it was my life and I should know best what is best for my life.
But I didn’t, don’t, know what is best in life yet. I am too young, too new. So in a savings account the money sat, until I could figure out how to make money from money and until I could figure out what was most important to me in this life. Or until I could figure out what the rest of my life would look like now, and which parts I needed, wanted, covered.
More than anything, I liked having the money there, in an ING account, in its totality. “Well, there is the money.” If anything bad came up: “Well, we have the money.” “Well there’s always the money.” This is the greatest thing there is for an anxious person. It was a safe year, the year I didn’t answer the phone calls of the money people and I left it in a savings account and earned a thousand or so dollars in interest.
Then the year ended and there were something like 33% gains in the stock market. As in, if I put that money in an index fund, I could have made 33% profit. What.
I understood rich people a little better then. Being one. I was so afraid to make a mistake that I had made a mistake. I was like a man who is afraid of narrowing his romantic choices and then ends up alone. I had no date to the prom. And by that I mean I missed out on something like $100,000.
Let’s not think about what that could buy. Three years without a job. A house in a small town. A college education for my son, if invested correctly. This is not exactly a sob story about money, considering the context, but it’s one I don’t like to think about much.
So in February, I put 2/3rds of what was left of the money in an index fund. I had spent the year reading an investment book enough times that I, well I finally just did it. You can put money in an index fund though the internet, without talking to anyone. This let me feel like I wasn’t really giving a man my money — even though I was and we always are, aren’t we? — and was instead handing it over to some robot, guided by “the forces of the market.”
Index funds are supposed to be great for all kinds of reasons, mostly low fees. This is great but really the witchy part of me loves them because there is no human hand in them. Or there is, since the market is just a million stupid human brains assessing things over and over, but it’s the sum total of that, reflected. Here is what we are all guessing and panicking about today.
I am guided by an idea of Fate that I don’t exactly agree with intellectually but still, it underlies a lot of my decisions. So I handed 2/3rds of my money over to fate, an opportunist at last. Show me the motherfucking money, money. Replicate thyself.
I tried to do everything right, to balance my little fund between domestic and international, which I hear is less and less relevant, global market that we are, but the idea of it sounded smart. Like maybe Japan will pull through where we don’t. And then less in some bonds, and even less in international bonds. I don’t fucking know, to clarify. But I felt like I had a surface knowledge, knowledge enough to project an air of confidence as I sat at the computer with my boyfriend and impetuously tweaked the suggested ratios.
I hit the cost basis tab when I log into my index fund. I don’t exactly know what the term means but I know that it shows me how much I originally put in and what I have now. That’s all I need to know.
The first month I logged in and checked, I spun around in my chair, exuberant. I made (“made”) something like $4,000. So this is what people with money have been doing along! Making money from money. Doing nothing. It was amazing.
And then it went down. What! I knew it was a possibility but I hated it still. I wanted to take out any profit I had made, to keep it safe, to walk away like somebody at the casino, but knew I wasn’t supposed to do that. You’re supposed to leave it in. To chill out. To not check. To not react. Ride the wave. Watch your money move up and down and become some sort of capitalist Buddhist, unattached.
This is easier to do, I’ll admit, when the money you have you didn’t feel like you earned in the first place. And certainly not the money that money has made.
I lost a lot of money this week, I think. It’s showing green right now but I know that’s only because it was so red before. In an effort to ride the wave of the market or follow the eightfold path of not giving a damn I don’t keep track. I just know that a few months ago I was spinning around in my chair yelling about free money and now I’m like, “Hm, damn.”
Just now over lunch I looked up at Dustin and was like, “By the way our index fund isn’t doing so hot.” He said he figured, since he read that the whole stock market wasn’t doing so hot. “Yup,” I said, as if I knew more than I did.
“Well at least we aren’t alone,” he said. I laughed and nodded and realized that is exactly what I meant by all of this. It’s not our mistake. I’m not projecting my disappointment and blame onto any one stock broker, and so I’m not mad at all. This is important to me. If there is someone to be mad at, at the core of this, somewhere, I don’t know enough to know who it is. Me? Ha ha ha ha ha, no.
I logged into Vanguard about an hour ago and I am going to try not to log in again for some time. I am waving goodbye to my money from the shoreline, wishing it well in its next life.
Photo via wwarby