My churchless "sermon" this Sunday is based on an article in TIME magazine's March 28 issue, "In a turbulent stock market, the best investment move is the least obvious."
This non-sacred secular scripture ends with a paragraph that has deep meaning for those of us -- which means all of us at some point -- who face difficult choices about how to deal with tough times in life.
You can't avoid all the dangers that lurk in the global economy, but you can minimize their impact. Timing any market remains a fool's game. Another mistake, says Moskowitz, is that when stocks fall, many investors try to regain some sense of control by selling.
That's a bad idea because it keeps them from benefiting from the rebound that will eventually follow, as happened after the Great Recession.
"There are things you really can't do anything about," he says. "It sounds defeatist and pessimistic, but doing something might be the worst thing."
T. Rowe Price notes that less than 2% of its 401(k)-plan participants made any moves during the January rout. The safest move, in other words, may be no move at all.
Excellent investment advice. It fits with my previous blog posts about spiritual investing.
"Spiritual investing takes nothing."
"Profitable spiritual investing"
"My 100% guaranteed spiritual investment scheme"
"Spiritual diversification, a sound salvation strategy"
Let's be clear that in my current godless frame of mind, the word spiritual doesn't mean anything otherworldly or supernatural. It just refers to a deeper outlook on life, a more philosophical perspective, an attempt to find meaning and purpose.
As the TIME article says, often people try to over-control circumstances. When shit happens, when tough times pop into their life, they make several sorts of mistakes.
(1) They don't see what is happening clearly. Almost always, what goes down, comes back up. Better times follow worse times. Feeling bad will be replaced by feeling good.
(2) In an attempt to fix by themselves now what likely will naturally fix itself later, they engage in unwise actions rather than accepting the wisdom of flowing along with what is happening -- which eventually will change course on its own.
(3) And if something can indeed be done to effectively ameliorate the tough times, instead of just doing that, they turn to useless religious practices like prayer.
The last mistake, of course, is a big part of what allows religions to prosper. Well, the first two mistakes also. But I think #3 is central to why people embrace religious supernaturalism when they're faced with a misfortune: disease, disability, danger, distress, or such.
Being thoroughly godless now, yet having previously embraced an Eastern form of religion based on a belief that the guru was God in Human Form, I can understand the appeal of making a prayer or petition to some higher divine power.
But since there is no evidence that such a power exists, I'm now convinced that it is not only useless to pray during tough times, it is harmful -- if the goal is to make those times less tough.
We have two choices when life doesn't give us what we want, one good and one bad.
Good. Accept the reality of what is happening. Do whatever you can to improve the situation.
Bad. Feel "this shouldn't be happening." Pray to God or some other divinity to change things.
Now, I realize that some people do what they can to change things in a worldly sense, while also appealing to a godly being to jump in and change things supernaturally.
This may appear harmless, but I disagree. Praying to God, or hoping God will intervene in a troubling situation, takes energy, attention, and focus away from actually doing something effective.
If a tree is about to fall on top of you, the best thing to do is get out of the way fast, not stop and pray that you'll be saved.
There isn't any situation, not one, where engaging in some religious or prayerful appeal will help make things better beyond engaging in some concrete worldly action. Religious believers may believe it will, but all of the evidence points to them being wrong.
So doing nothing, meaning nothing extra from what the situation demands in a practical sense, is the best way to deal with tough times.