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It’s official. I’m getting older.

I blew my right knee out 2 weeks ago at the gym and have to have surgery to repair it, and I‘ve caught myself saying things like ‘back when we were kids….’

But there’s an upside to getting older too. My husband and I enjoy our adult kids, and our second grandson is due any day now. I love my job. Life is good.

Getting older has also given me the perspective to deal with the financial environment we’ve been experiencing since 2007, and the daily gyrations of the market this year.

In October 1987, the stock market dropped 20% in one day. Can you imagine seeing a 2,200 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial average cross your computer screen today? We baby boomers were between 41 and 23 years of age then, so we still had years left to work, or we were just getting started. As one client put it, ‘I didn’t have any money then, so it didn’t really matter to me.’ Now it matters to us, because the first of the boomers turned 65 this year. As we retire or approach retirement, the daily drops and dismal economic reports create much more anxiety than that drop did 24 years ago. You add the technology bubble of 1999 to 2002, the Great Recession of the last four years, and many of us are beginning to feel picked on.

I get it. But the Dow Jones was 1,738 after the Crash of ’87, and it closed at 11,433 today as I write this blog. Our economy has grown, and the world outside the US has grown even faster. We have benefited from it financially during our lifetime. We need to understand that what we are going through now is not unusual, it’s just happening to us at a time when we are feeling especially vulnerable.

Market climbs and drops will continue to happen in the future, maybe with even more regularity and severity with the speed of technology and change that exist today. But before you rush for your Maalox, consider that we will be retired for nearly as long as some of us worked. We have to have exposure to stocks to benefit in the same way we did over the 30 plus years of our working lives. We won’t be spending it all in one year, and we shouldn’t be viewing our investments as a month-by-month test of returns.

As we say time and again, the most important issues to focus on are those that we can control:

  1. Do you have a plan?
  2. Are you diversified?
  3. Are you spending at a rate that is reasonable for your resources?

If you have those three issues under control, you can turn off your TV, put your investment reports away, and get on with enjoying your life. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you get older.

Jeannette A. Jones, CPA, CFP®