Oct 6, 2008

Relax, It Is Only Money

By Todd Strandberg

For the past month, there has been a steadily growing concern over the health of the American economy. It has reached a point that millions of people are now deeply worried about our nation's financial health.

Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor known for making wise investments, recently said he's never seen people so fearful over money. "In fact, in my adult lifetime, I don't think I've ever seen people as fearful economically as they are right now," he told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview that aired as the Senate voted on a $700 billion bailout package.

Last week, I was watching "Fast Money" on CNBC following the stock market's 777-point collapse when a commentator's words caught my attention. Asked to advise viewers on the best positions for riding out the market storm, he answered without missing a beat: ``Cash and fetal.''

Most people have a deep bond with money. Our culture teaches us to love wealth, and to measure the value of our lives by how much money we possess. I once read a report that said that for some people, a large financial loss can equal the pain of having a death in one's immediate family.

The liquidation of several financial firms has caused pain for thousands of investors. Here are a few examples I found from people who posted on Yahoo's financial forum:

"I was heavily in bank stocks. The dividend and 'how can a bank not make money' got to me. Instead of cutting my losses I quadrupled down: Washington Mutual looked like a sure 10 bagger with the bailout coming, so I loaded up. My 401K is 82.73% down and I needed 17% average returns for the next 11 years to manage to retire."

"I am 33 year old and I have 1 year old kid and wife. Today I lost all my savings and currently have residual value of $3300 left in my brokerage account. One year ago I had $300,000 in my account. I have no credit card debt but all my savings have been wiped out. What will I tell my wife? I am so ashamed. I have cried and could not sleep all night yesterday. Do not see how I can come back from this. I just want to end my life but thinking of my family scares me."

"This year I have lost about $451,000.00. First with AMR (I was short airlines and long oil) and then with Wamu. I am 32 years old and like you I don't have much debt but I am not sure what to do with my life. I was looking for ways to kill myself last night. Just like you I could not sleep last night. I don't have a family but a mother to take care of, so that's what stopped me from killing myself. I also borrowed money from others that I have to return now. I am not sure how."

Dozens of commentaries have blamed greed as being the cause of this financial mess. I think money's inability to satisfy people is an equally important factor. Bankers, who were already making tens of millions each year, decided to press their luck to make millions more by leveraging their balance sheets. Investors gambled like they were on a hot streak at a Vegas casino. Everybody gambled because what they had was not enough.

I have a very simple solution for relieving financial anxiety. There is no need to worry about money because, thanks to the last days, it will soon have little value. The Bible says that by the end of the tribulation, people will be casting their gold into the streets. The events of the past few months would indicate that we are headed toward a day of reckoning.

We don't even need the end times to push us over the edge. I'm totally certain that Social Security will not be around if I reach retirement age. Because the government has made promises amounting to a staggering $60 trillion, there is no way for it to dole out this amount of money to a rapidly aging population.

Over my 25 years of employment, I've contributed over $100,000 to Social Security, and it doesn't bother me a bit that I will likely never see a dime of this money. My hope is in a heavenly retirement plan that is unaffected by the ups and downs of the economy.

I think time is a far more important commodity to keep tabs on these days. The Federal Reserve can't produce more of it, you can't buy time on any equity or futures exchange, and no bank is capable of storing it away. Since we have to account to the Lord Jesus for all our time here on earth, we should be far more concerned about how productive we are in our faith.

One more reason the meltdown on Wall Street doesn't worry me is because I see the turmoil as a positive sign that the time for our departure is drawing near. We should always rest in the knowledge that God is in control and always watches over us.

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1).