Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Super Tuesday

Yesterday was Super Tuesday, the single most important day in our country’s presidential primary process. Waking up in the middle of the night I looked at the preliminary results. When I couldn’t go back to sleep I checked the results a second time. When I finally got out of bed this morning, the first thing I did, before the sacred coffee ritual, was, you guessed it, I scanned the results a third time. All this and I don’t even really know what I want to happen in this presidential cycle. In the last 24 hours, I felt a lot of different emotions, none of them good. Generally speaking, emotions are not your friend when making financial or political decisions. There is a reason that marketers and candidates want to whip you into an irrational frenzy. It makes you easier to control.

In studying stress, Dr Mimi Guarneri divides emotions into four quadrants. Politicians work in the High Energy—Negative quadrant. They want to excite emotions such as hate, fear, envy, anger, and frustration. What about taxes, my single largest expense? What about health care now that I am on Medicare? What about the economic future of the blue collar middle class? What about the market, especially important now that I am retired? The list goes on and on. Just thinking about any of these subjects for very long makes me want to jump up and down and scream.

Don’t make any serious decisions about anything if you are bouncing around in this quadrant.

The second quadrant, Low Energy—Negative Emotions are where we find depression, loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, sloth, and self pity. These are the emotions that will keep you from making the decisions and engaging in the activities that will lead you to financial freedom.

The fourth quadrant, High Energy—Positive Emotions sounds like a good thing. However, as Alan Greenspan and Robert Shiller observed, “irrational exuberance” leads to Internet bubbles, housing bubbles, and the like. Bubbles always pop. If you see anything that is going up in value faster than the underlying fundamentals (housing prices vs. median family income for example) don’t be the last fool to parachute off the rocket ride. Joy, victory, courage, and love can all be very good emotions, but if a salesman has you all excited about buying a new $50,000 pickup truck, go home and sleep on the idea. In the morning look at your bank balance and your monthly budget. Is this really a good plan or can I continue to drive that seven year old truck for a few more years? Teenagers in love are not the only people who make bad decisions while experiencing High Energy—Positive Emotions.

Now we come to the third quadrant, Low Energy—Positive Emotions. Joy, peace, gentleness, patience, compassion, and contentment when combined with logic, research, and wise counsel are likely to produce the conditions most favorable to making sound decisions. Nobody who desires to control your money or your freedom wants you to remain in this quadrant. Sometimes that would include family members who love you deeply.

I am trying to ask myself, “What kind of emotion am I feeling? Why am I doing this to myself?”

I haven’t seen my country so deeply divided since Nixon and the Vietnam War. Even back in those dark days, candidates within the same party weren’t eviscerating each other on a regular basis.

It is time to pray:
Thy Kingdom Come,
Thy Will be Done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven.

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