It isn't like the money was there for spending, and now I cannot. All of my investments are tied up in tax-deferred retirement accounts. The gains they posted were all the gold of fairyland in any case, especially since I doubt I will live so long as to ever actually be entitled to withdraw this money.
I liquidated my non-retirement stock and fund holdings in mid-2000, when the writing was on the wall. This was not the result of some game plan, or even prudence or foresight on my part. It had more to do with the realisation that the transmission on my old car was failing. In hindsight, that was a good time to sell.
I never wanted to play the stock markets anyways. I call it wagering, not because I sought risky stocks, but because my deepest prejudices say that putting your money in a financial market rather than a bank is a kind of gambling. Almost all of my holdings are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
I put my savings there quite reluctantly, mostly because it became impossible to find savings accounts paying more than diddly-squat in interest in the go-go Nineties. The lag between stocks and interest rates made it seem foolish to keep money in the banks back then. So I moved it.
My game plan ever was to invest in stocks or funds of established, dividend-paying corporations with real assets in mature markets. So far this has generally succeeded, in that the value of my portfolio has fallen less than the markets generally have; being deeply cautious and risk-averse by nature, my portfolio was chosen mostly by these mental habits. So far it has worked.
In a way, I am richer than before. If everybody else is bleeding more than me, I am likelier to survive. This is not quite the explanation.
Optimism is an obnoxious, beet-faced, backslapping lout with a loud voice. Optimism remembers your name long after you have forgotten his, and calls out to you from across the room with a wave. Optimism is an asshole.
Pessimism is a far more congenial companion. Pessimism is pale and retiring, and clothed in dark colours. Pessimism wishes to be left alone to brood on its misfortunes, and is willing to leave you to the same fate.
Then again, you already know you want Pessimism to be in charge of your finances. This is not quite the explanation.
All my life, I have lived in hope of Apocalypse. The descent of some awful calamity that at once absolves you of your conduct in the past, and of responsibility for the future. Quick deaths for the lucky, freedom from the constraints of existing institutions for the survivors. Won't it be glorious?
A good strong financial panic is as good a harbinger of Apocalypse as anything else. It might lead to other things, like a vast change in political mood, which at present seems as welcome as an actual revolution. It might save the nation from itself. $15,000 is a small price to pay for such a boon.
Hard times and bread lines. A world where there is no blame for not working, where all are dressed in second-hand clothes, and where the dust from the untilled fields blows across the prairies --- it sounds rather serious, rather sombre, and therefore inviting: an antidote to frivolity.
And there is what is perhaps the greatest satisfaction in all of this: the inner glow that comes from having been right all along, from having prepared for the worst: the solemn pride of the prudent and the doom-ridden. The satisfaction of being able to say, "I told you so."
When the panic selling begins in earnest, won't it be fun?