I have begun to realize that failure and setbacks are necessary obstacles in life, and that without them, we couldn’t learn to be successful. Well, sort of. I mean, I realize it in an abstract, theoretical kind of way, but I don’t want to actually experience failure myself. I just want to be imparted with instant knowledge. It’s all fine and good to reminisce about how foolish you were that one time in college or whatever when you didn’t know you actually had to check your car for oil and then you ended up on some lonely country road with a clunking sound in your engine and no cell phone and had to walk ten miles back to town and you were wearing high heels so that your legs would look slimmer in case that cute guy from Biology happened by and then he did drive by, only by then the heel of your shoe was broken so you were slim but at an odd angle, and he didn’t even stop so fuck him anyway, and laugh about how you would never make that mistake now, but the current mistakes, the ones happening right now that will seem foolish in ten years, well those aren’t quite so funny.
And anyway, there are certain subjects for which trial and error should come earlier on in life, at a time when it all seems like a really big deal, but in the overall life picture, not so much. Relationships, for instance. You have to learn about being in one somehow, and mostly it’s by, well, being in one. Better to make pathetic phone calls to hear his voice then hang up, and casually drive by his house twelve times just in case he comes outside, and wait at home on a Friday night just in case he might call if he gets bored and comes home early from whever he might be when you’re say, in high school. At some point, you’ll realize that you are completely and utterly insane, which will save you years later from staying late at work every night for three weeks so you might catch a glimpse of the new guy, although if you fake like you’re actually working, it could get you a raise, so maybe that’s not such a good example after all.
What I’m really talking about here is investing. It’s one thing to screw up your portfolio when it contains twenty bucks, quite another to learn from your mistakes when you’re ten years from retirement and lose your life savings. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have money with which to error and trial when I was younger. Until very recently, my financial decisions were along the lines of, “well, this credit card isn’t maxed and we have one of those check things from it, so I’ll use that to pay this other bill so the creditors don’t call and harrass me.”
I have now entered into the world of real-life investing, which consists of reloading the page for my online account. The thing about investing is that everyone tells you that you HAVE to do it. It’s the only smart thing to do with your money. So, you read the fine print that tells you how you might lose all your money and cry and end up penniless in a cardboard box if you invest, but what are you supposed to do with that fine print? Not invest? You HAVE to invest. Duh. I mean even those guys in the jester hats with the bells are investing.
I’m actually doing OK so far. (Although I will cry and cry if my investments lose money, even though I know it’s supposed to be long-term and the market rebounds and all that crap, I will cry a lot). But where I’m completely stymied is with my short-term investments. I read on the Internet so must be true that you should put short-term investments into bond funds. They’re low risk; you won’t make a ton of money, but you won’t lose it all with no time for that whole rebound thing you can wait out with long-term investments; etc. Right.
So, I take some of my savings and I invest in two bond funds that Money magazine has given very good reviews. Well, fuck you Money magazine, because while my regular savings account just gave me $14 in interest, my low-risk bond funds have stolen $101.70. I could have lost $100 on my own thanks, maybe doing those $15 tequila shots down at the tequila bar. The hell is that?
So, now I’m back to realizing that maybe I don’t know what I’m doing here. It’s like when I was a kid. I bit my nails. I don’t know when or why I finally stopped, but I bit them for a really long time. And so my sisters would get manicure kits as gifts, and I would get that icky stuff you paint onto your nails to make them taste bad. And my mom would give my sisters lessons in filing and painting and all of that while I sat by myself, all bitter. (In all honesty, this probably happened exactly once, but in my memory, they were always getting cute little manicure kits for their stupid unbitten nails.) Eventually, I stopped biting my nails. But there I was, in high school or whatever, and no clue about how to file my nails. I didn’t even have a nail file. And seriously, I just ignored my nails and sort of peeled away at them until after college when I finally went to a manicurist and watched what she did. Of course, right now, I’m sitting here with chipped metallic polish on about four nails, but that’s entirely beside the point.
The point is that I don’t want to make a mistake with my money. I don’t want to fail in order to learn how to succeed. I want to be the one who listens when someone says the stove is hot, not the one who has to check to see for myself. The trouble is that I don’t know who to listen to, which I guess is also part of the learning.
But dammit. I just want instant knowledge! And well, to be rich.