My life’s work is in freefall. The book advance I never touched. Those shares in Google I got fresh out of college. If I’d slept in today I would have woken up a poor man.

Every television is turned to the bald, screaming voices of financial analysts. They probably didn’t take Econ 101 Pass/Fail. I’m gonna listen to them.

Oh, wait. Hang on. Just hit refresh. Never mind all that. I can explain.

Finance is about how much you want to sleep at night. If you like to gamble, you can balance high risk for high rewards. Most financial analysts know that even if you get lucky and, say, invest in Acme Flashlight Bulbs right before a massive hurricane, you’re just as likely to have an equal stake in Prefab Crêpe Paper Tent Company.

First of all, WTF is the Dow?
Think of the Dow as the 30 largest American firms combined: Verizon, McDonalds, Walmart. Nothing sexy, but the 30 shift around a bit. Recently Apple replaced AT&T. Combined they give a good picture of the country’s financial health during any given time. This is how businesses are doing business.

WTF is going on with it today?


Seriously what is going on with the Dow?
After opening today, Monday, the Dow resumed a slump that it began on Friday. It sank to levels we haven’t seen since April 11, 2014. Technically this means that you lost whatever you gained over the last 15 months. Technically.

What does that mean for your average person?
Almost nothing. Honestly. We showed you how to make an easy and diverse portfolio.

What does this really look like?
Okay, here is a snapshot of my play-money account. In addition to my actual accounts, I have this one set to add my spare-change from every transaction into a little rainy-day fund. I buy a coffee for $2.50 and it puts $0.50 into my own special blend of stocks, government bonds and and real estate. The rest of my money is in an account with a different blend so that I can see which blend works better. Today we saw a 10 percent drop. Note, 20 percent is a recession. In reality: A week ago things look fine in the financial forecasts and my change-jar was worth $267.25. Today it’s worth $241.

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Don’t you wish you pulled your money out last week? You lost $25! EVERYBODY PANIC.
Write this down: Not selling is the same as buying. That’s not some zen phrase. That’s the truth. Right at this moment I am selling out my interests for $241.70 for $0 in fees. If I thought it would never be worth $241 again I would sell. But yes, I was in Block Island this weekend and I could have bought the big lobster roll if I knew I was going to lose $25. But even if I cashed out then, bought the lobster roll, I would still buy back in today.

Listen, I went to good schools. But I know more about the Louisiana Purchase than I do about the stock market, let alone my own financial future. WTF is a portfolio?
Think of your portfolio as a treasure map of where to find your money. Each bit of your portfolio is at risk at different times. Having all of it in one place—whether it’s your own bank account or stock in just one company—is too risky to be worth it. Seriously, 90 percent of making decent money isn’t from the gambles you do make, but the ones you don’t make. A good portfolio is a mixture of stocks, bonds and cash for your different needs.

I’ll be honest: I don’t have a single investment plan. Last summer I thought that I was buying in at the height of the market and didn’t. I’m waiting for it to level out.
The only strategy that works whatsoever is to find a way to invest regularly and in a growing way. If you know you should start a retirement account, but have been waiting to “time the market,” your plan is flawed, but today is the day you were waiting for.

So why are people panicking?
Finance is about how much you want to sleep at night. If you like to gamble, you can balance high risk for high rewards. Most financial analysts know that even if you get lucky and, say, invest in Acme Flashlight Bulbs right before a massive hurricane, you’re just as likely to have an equal stake in Prefab Crêpe Paper Tent Company.

Why aren’t you panicking about that? Don’t you like lobster rolls?
Panic=Fees and taxes. It would cost me too much money to stuff my mattress and then if I suddenly got a boner for the American economy again, pay a whole new set of fees.

But everybody panicked on TV this morning!
Guy, remember that $241 we were talking about a minute ago? It’s $256 now. If I panicked I would have lost even more.

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OK, can you just tell me who can panic?
Anyone with a too-aggressive position. If, say, Friday you put every cent you had into diamonds. You’d be really upset today because deBeers slashed prices nine percent on the meaningless, endless pile of diamonds that they sit upon. But because not selling is the same thing as buying, any woman wearing an engagement ring right this second is making a sound investment as long as that ring has value to her.

Look, we wanna see a bloodbath. We demand a sacrifice.
If today’s news caused you to lose your job or house, you can reasses. “The only time you should sell is when your financial situation changes and it is a strategic move, not reactive to the markets.” That’s Jane Sullivan at Sullivan Financial in Connecticut. I would trust her even if we weren’t cousins.

But… but China!
It’s best to think of today as a correction for the problems that China’s market is having. Which is to say, we know today what we didn’t know Friday and so we have made some changes in hopes that tomorrow is better.

Is it going to keep getting worse?
We honestly don’t know. The market can only go up or down. It’s a 50/50. If you pay an advisor to tell you when it’s going up they’re more likely to be lucky than right.

So why is it all anyone can talk about today?
The Dow Jones owns the Wall Street Journal—the paper that everyone on the verge of panic will pick up today. The Dow companies are the most likely to advertise on whatever channel you’re watching plummeting graphs on. Bad news is good for business. Sorry. Also, companies will use this as an excuse to cut raises for employees, and this will turn into bonuses for those on top.

If you could have known last week what would happen this week would you have done anything different?
Yes. I would have left all my funds exactly as they were, but I would have paid cash for that goddamn lobster roll. I love lobster rolls.

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