The Corner for Jan. 31, 2014

As most of you regular readers know, this column focuses on issues pertinent to the markets, investing and Wall Street history. However, unlike most financial columns, I tend to spend much ink on how not to lose your money. Therefore, you have undoubtedly come upon an article or two that refers to the fact that historically giant bull markets come to an end. And if they were particularly speculative one the best investments can be to move into cash type instruments, as opposed to buying land, stocks, tulip bulbs, etc. In fact, I have even referred to the Mason Jar on occasion — you know burying your money in the backyard in a Mason Jar.

A good friend of mine who owns one of the oldest member firms of the New York Stock Exchange once told me that, “It’s easy to make money, its hard to keep.” And that is the truth.

Not long ago I attended a wedding and a fellow by the name of Mike sat next to me and we got to talking about investing and how to protect against losing your money. Eventually the proverbial Mason Jar came up and Mike blurted out the words “blow down.” “Blow down,” I said? Mike looked at me and said, “Yes, blow down, never heard of it before?”

Again, “blow down,” I said? “What the heck is blow down?” Mike proceeded to tell me the story of a man named, Harry Truman. No, not the former president, but a person by the same name who had hidden his money in the ground near Mt. St. Helen. He used an ancient mountain and its surroundings, seemingly unchanging, to mark and bury his money. He and all of his things were buried by the eruption.

Well, by now I am getting the picture and began to develop a strong belly laugh as I realized that what Harry Truman fell victim to was as ancient as the mountain itself. When Mt. St. Helen roared back to life, it wiped out and buried all of Harry Truman’s natural markers. There was no way find and recover his riches.

Thus, risk comes in many forms. Not only in foreign markets, the U.S. stock market, real estate, but even “blow down.” Yes, it was “blow down” that got Harry Truman. Proving once again, you can be had many ways in the world of Wall Street, even by mother nature, which is probably one of the most ancient of ways to lose your money — in this case, through “blow down.”

Quote of the Week: “In order to be a great writer a person must have a built-in shockproof crap detector.” (Try substituting the word “investor” for “writer.”) — Ernest Hemingway

Bart Ward is the chief executive officer of Ward & Co. Ltd., an Anoka-based registered investment adviser – specializing in the management of stock and bond portfolios in companies which are listed on the NYSE.

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