I’ve been exposed to the full spectrum of topography over the past few weeks. After two weeks of enjoying the rugged terrain of Sicily, I was briefly in Columbus, which is about as flat as you can get. Now I’m at meetings in Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains define ruggedness.
Interestingly, Sicily reminded me quite a bit of the American West, and this trip to Colorado just confirms that view. Sicily is mountainous, like the west, has buttes and lots of rocky outcroppings, like the west, and is arid and dusty, like much of the west. The mountains in Colorado are higher than the tallest peaks in Sicily, but the look is very similar. You could film a western in Sicily, and no one would know the difference as long as you kept the ocean out of the frame.
If you’ve ever had any kind of painful injury, a doctor probably asked you to assess the extent of your pain using a smiley face scale like the one shown above. Often, quantifying pain is difficult, and you may have mulled over whether your condition came in at a four or a five on the scale.
Sometimes, though, the pain scale assessment is easy. For example, right now pretty much everyone involved in the investment world is at 10–suffering through the worst possible pain with the reddest, most anguished non-smiley face. In fact, if there were an 11 on the pain scale, like the speakers on This Is Spinal Tap, the current market conditions would qualify.
If you are a retiree or someone who is getting close to retirement who sees the value of the portfolio and savings that you are counting on to fund your retirement years falling every day, you wonder what to do. There doesn’t appear to be any safe harbor in any of the standard, or even not-so-standard, investment options. With no viable options, most of us will just try to ride out this intensely painful period, avoid making decisions that lock in the impact of the current downturn, try not to constantly check the market indices, and hope that the needle on the pain scale starts to move in a more favorable direction.