One day last August, I was sitting at the top of a twisty water slide in Southern New Jersey wondering how in the world I got there. My kids encouraged me on and I didn’t want the boys to think dad was afraid. I wasn’t afraid of getting hurt—just afraid that the nature of my trip down the slide would make me physically sick. I hate amusement parks. I selfishly have done everything in my power to keep them out of my kids’ sphere of existence. They’ve never been on roller coasters, and before this trip had never been to a real theme park. Friends of ours encouraged us to try this particular park because of the water activities and I tried to not think about the fact there would be rides.
My most vivid early childhood memory was in 1973 when my father took me to a small amusement park in Stratford near the airport (long gone.) He put me on virtually every ride, including the roller coaster. The next thing I remember about that day was being in his car on the way home, feeling quite nauseated. My dad was constantly asking me if he should stop the car. Being a very small child, all I could think of was “Why is he going to stop? I need to go home and throw up!” And I did—though fortunately not in his car. There are financial lessons to be learned about water slides and rollercoasters. Like life--sometimes you are heading up, sometimes you’re down, sometimes you are backward and sometimes you are upside down.
When all is said and done, we all begin and end at the same place so you might as well enjoy the ride. There are numerous financial (and life) lessons that can be learned from this analogy. As I (and possibly you) have experienced—there are times when things will go smoothly on the financial front and times where absolutely everything is a struggle. Think about when you had two distinct appliances break down nearly at the exact same time. Taking financial risks makes the ride steeper (some might just want to stay on the Merry-Go-Round by comparison) and potentially more dangerous. However, if you have a strong stomach for the ups and downs, you might feel more rewarded in the end and be able say “What a ride!”
Another way to look at this is from my perspective: If I want to go on ANY rides, I must take Dramamine or some other anti-nausea medication first. The good news is if I take this medicine, I can at least go on some of the rides, which means I’m preparing myself for making an investment in what should be fun. That might be a metaphor for financial planning. If I am going to invest in the stock market, I need to plan ahead and take a seasick pill as I know things are not always up, up, up.
I went down the slide (twice) and felt miserable the rest of the day. Apparently, things haven’t changed from when I was a kid. However, my kids had great fun and must have gone down twenty times while I convalesced in a beach chair nearby (poor me, right?). They will probably want to go on steeper coasters someday and that is their prerogative. I can’t help them much on that. However, I hope that I can provide adequate lessons on the financial roller coasters they too will be bound to face some day. Hopefully I can prevent too much screaming.