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Fun, Frogs and Finance

 

As the world gets smaller and our ambitions get larger, the desire to acquire significant wealth with our investments is becoming an important measure of our intelligence.   We are all competing for some sense of financial security as we contemplate sipping margaritas on a white sandy beach very far away from our current mailing address. This fundamental need to have a large nest egg has intensified, as we realize our selfish parents our spending most of our inheritance on food and heat to keep them comfortable in their final years.

Options for investment opportunities are always available for the people with disposable income.  Gambling on the stock market, real estate and the mattress filling exercise were traditions that began with our forefathers. I say forefathers because if our foremothers had been in charge of the world of finance years ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Our foremothers could manage all household finances, managing bills and groceries with seven dollars, coupons and a piece of string, while our forefathers went out to work earning enough to contribute to beer money for the weekend

In 1929 the stock market crashed because it forgot to signal as it was quickly changing lanes. Since that time there have been numerous repeat performances on Wall Street, where men in three piece suits made slight forecasting errors, went out for a martini, and when they went back to the office, the building was gone.

Large buildings are still being constructed in major cities to house numerous investment companies that help drive potential economic growth for the rest of us. Regulatory bodies now oversee these instituions to ensure fraudulent transactions are penalized with employees standing in the corner for ten minutes of “quiet time”. Financial institutions have also increased the commission for the staff in financial houses.  A formula now rewards poor performance of any layman’s investor portfolio, to ensure the financial houses keep the economy going.  Commissions are received for losing and commissions are given for winning, just to ensure the commissioner is kept busy.  This is similar to giving kids trophies for participation. The difference is your children are a much more costly investment though its rewards tend to satisfy more than just your bank balance,

While in university searching for my Chaucer lecture hall location, I accidently stepped into the wrong classroom. It was a first year economics class where students were learning something about supply and demand. I didn’t recognize anyone in the class though eventually I reported to most of them, but this idea of supply and demand intrigued me. I mentioned this to my Chaucer professor and he chastised me and then hit me in the head with a large text book that decoded The Canterbury Tales.

I failed to comprehend the meaning of this supply and demand concept for years. Then one Christmas, I went to the mall looking for a Cabbage Patch Doll, and it all became clear. This learning is repeated every time I look for Scotch Tape.  The idea of paying more for something there is less of still flies in the face of the popularity of BMWs.

So what does an English major know about international finance. Well you could fill a warehouse with what I don’t know about finance. And not those little warehouses you pass on the highway near the service roads. I am speaking of the warehouses large enough to store NASA space shuttles, dinosaur bones and my wife’s Christmas decorations.

Knowing I don’t know, forces me to know that I must talk to people in the know who know things. This justifies my monthly meetings with different financial analysts who offer me coffee in exchange for access to every asset I possess.  To demonstrate I am not an idiot to these well educated professionals, I always do research before each meeting to assess the quality of the coffee they will serve. After every meeting I always ask the same question to myself. “What would Chaucer do?”

Like I said, I’m no financial export but lately, as I have met with these many financial analysts it appears, they’re no financial experts either. With so little predictable advice that even slightly connects to making money, I am at a loss. This makes it even harder to convince my parents that food and heat are less important to their retirement plan than they suggest. To demonstrate I am still open to economic advice, I still meet with financial analysts, but only to exchange recipes.

What really exposes my ignorance in the world of international finance is my misunderstanding in the daily fluctuation of foreign currency value. Being a Canadian, it is natural to feel inferior to a nation who have somehow convinced the entire world to compare all of their money to an American dollar.

American bills all look the same to me. Same colour (or color as they would type), same design, and same old man faces of people that look nothing like the queen of England. In truth Woodrow Wilson does resemble Queen Elizabeth II slightly, but he is on the $100,000 bill. The only people I know who carry $100,000 bills are the people in front of me at the drive through.

Canadian currency is colourful, lively, and full of classy artwork. Some of the faces on its bills are still alive and there is a little mirror on each bill to help you check for parsley trapped in your teeth.  Americans will joke that Canadian money looks like Monopoly money, though that smiling ends when they land on your Boardwalk property with a hotel on it.  One Note: Never play Monopoly with any of the Hilton family members, even the second cousins. They believe all the little red hotels are their birth right properties, which puts other competitors at a little disadvantage early in the game.

According to the financial section of a newspaper I found on a park bench, our dollar is only worth about 80 cents to every U.S.dollar How could this be?  Unlike figure skating, clearly the judging of currency value does not include artisitic impression marks as a key measure of its international value.

I just reread the title of this article and realize I have not really mentioned frogs once in these paragraphs.  Well that should take care of that unintentional oversight.

There are moguls in the world of investment who many look up to for inspiration. Warren Buffet, Donald Trump and anyone with the last name Rockefeller tend to be quoted hourly in business magazines.  Perhaps part of my issue with wealth management, is I have always relied on stand up comedians for my economic inspiration.

Steve Martin used to offer great investment advice during his stand up days.  He would brag that he was into the market and is making a lot of money.  ” I bought cardboard when it was six cents a ton and now it’s at nine cents a ton.  I have thirty tons so you do the math.  Anyway things are good and the best part of my investment is I only have to keep twelve tons of the cardboard in my garage.”

Steve Martin was ahead of his time as not only can you invest in cardboard you can reinvest in cardboard.  It is recyclable and you can get rid of it and just repurchase that same cardboard again.  Perhaps writing a weekly blog that has low demand but high supply should have alerted me to my insufficiency in fundamental knowledge of financial affairs.  My economic education continues…

 

 

Cue the Blong:  One Scented Candle is One Cheap Gift… but always within the budget for your ever expanding Christmas shopping list.

 

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