Back in the heady days of 2014, this new app came out, which offered a nice, clean way to steal extra change from everyday transactions, and not just save it for you, but invest it. With low fees, and professional management, the idea would be that you have a frictionless investment tool with the same incrementing-every-day features of some savings accounts. Already a big fan of hiding money from myself, i jumped at it.
A year and a half later, here’s how we’re doing:
After starting well, nosediving, then flirting again with break-even a couple months ago, it’s plunging headlong into the porcelain depths right now. And i don’t necessarily care. It’ll rebound, won’t it, and it’s short, hidden money, even if that $119.91 would buy a lot of $8 beers, since we live in a world where that is normal now.
No, the reason i have a morbid fascination with this is that it’s a little tiny canary, not chirping, but hacking with an ominous cough. It’s reminding me that the same capricious engine of other peoples’ wealth and my empty promises is what we’re all building our retirement upon.
Every three or six months, i imagine lots of us get a satisfyingly substantive envelope from our assorted 401k and IRA providers. Maybe if you have a fancy one, it’s in color and has nice pie charts. And it tells you how your investments have done.
Don’t know about you, but mine ain’t done shit. Sure, we all got nut-punched in 2008. Comically large losses that we compared notes on grimly and laughed, because we were in our early 30’s and who gives a fuck? Years later, it seems more clear that these investments aren’t some stone edifice in a dignified part of New York, they’re a Jenga tower built on landfill–they take rather long time to climb, but no time at all to crash down.
And sure, these things have their ups and downs but the trend is up, right? And with Professional Management, the amplitude of the latter is reduced, right? Or is it that the slightest bid of bad news causes these people to shit their Brooks Brothers over a rounding error in their vast fortunes?
The frequency and severity of this pants-shitting means that the retirement savings of millions of middle-class Americans runs an unnecessary risk of just standing still.
Why in the everloving hell did we hitch our wagon to this cracked-out team of bargain-basement oxen that freak and keel over at the first river to be forded? i think we know why. i can’t help but wonder if i’m not watching for the recovery, but to see just how far downstream i get swept.
What i don’t know is what to do about it. Other than pop open an app on my phone and laugh about my own money, being made pretend.