Too depressed. Too happy.

Too depressed. Too happy.

I’m too depressed this morning to write anything useful.

Yesterday I “visited” my bank safety deposit box and leafed through a pile of share certificates. There was the magazine that went broke. There were the many biotech drugs that  failed their human trials and never got FDA approval. There’s the New England bank that’s actually doing well but refuses to pay a dividend, or contemplate a buyout or a merger. There’s the restaurant company that was going to be the next Panera Bread, but failed to pay the rent. And then there are even more biotech companies, all of which were going to cure cancer.

There also were the certificates for the companies I formed and the apartments I own. As luck would have it, they’re worth many times more than I lost on the cancer-cures, and raw land developments. On balance, I have come out way ahead. But the road since I sold the BIG company (the one I formed) in 1997 to today has been rocky. The losses have been substantial, but not life-style destroying (no divorce, no forced apartment sales, no margin calls). My natural conservatism stopped me doing even more stupid things. But the emotional pain that has questioned my belief in my own brilliance has been substantial.

A friend decided he knew better. He took his money and his family’s money, put it all into a fund he managed. Every year for the past five years, he bet the market would fall. He shorted stocks. Every year he lost, every year he doubled down his shorts. This week he hung himself.

This afternoon I’ll bike in beautiful crisp fall weather to the tennis court and play brilliant tennis against the pro who’ll be playing his best customer tennis. His job is to make me hit winners. The more winners I hit, the bigger his tip.

I haven’t thought of a similar game with my brokers. Sadly, Wall Street doesn’t play customer tennis.

This morning I met with Todd Kingsley, the only broker I’ve kept. It’s been over 20 years. Todd chooses not to be a  (lousy?) stock picker. But he does understand muni bonds. And the ones he sold me — common triple-tax free New York bonds — have done spectacularly. As interest rates have plummeted, the price of my bonds rose and rose. Sometimes we actually sold them. But mostly we took the nice triple tax-free dividends (repeated for emphasis) and bought more bonds, and more bonds. By focusing on successful simple investments like muni bonds, he prevented me from doing even more stupid things, thus saving me from myself.

Had I abandoned my search for the cancer cure and owned even more muni bonds, I’d be happier. My ego would be less fragile. I’d probably be totally insufferable. But I’d be bored.

In 20 years, I’ve taught myself a little about managing money. I now invest in safe, conservative, dividend-paying real estate, especially syndications. No developments. No raw land — been there, done that, lost money there. I invest a little in stocks. They’re no good for the ego either. I recognize that. They slap my ego around big-time. Downturns depress me.

Lately, things have been pretty good. And I’ve learned — own a few crazies (I wrote about them yesterday — Diversifying the Agita). But I keep putting more and money  money in “safe” stuff — like BRKA and VFIAX and good real estate with good tenants. I do spend time checking stocks out. When I find something I like, like BBBY and WFM, I’ll put in a little money, and hope for the best. If they pan out (by tomorrow — my time-frame is shorter than my attention span), then I’m the genius that I thought I was. If they don’t, I sell them quickly and I forget them. Hence less impact on the ego. Dwelling on disasters is a serious disaster.

These days, the key is to keep focused on what’s most important. It’s not the world’s problems, It’s not Washington’s idiocy. It’s not the middle east. It’s not cancer. It’s the family. I’m now craving the day I can take my two new granddaughters to DisneyLand and suffer them to the Runaway Train, and me to the Carousel (three hours on that thing with your kid is a beautiful thing), and the endless sounds of It’s a small, small world. (I pray Disney is still playing our song.)

My iPhone has filled this morning with granddaughter pictures. They arrive every few hours. Photostream is the reason all grandparents should own an iPhone. Forget the technology. Forget the stock in Apple (which keeps going up). Forget everything about the iPhone. It’s just one thing — Shared Photostream.

That’s it. I can’t see the screen. I’m tearing up. I’ve been dealt some wonderful luck. If I write more about it, I’ll probably jinx it.

See you tomorrow.

Harry Newton who looks a little older than the photo, but now has two granddaughters (and less hair).


Too depressed. Too happy.

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