Despite the hardships of sequestration, Europe’s financial albatross and a sputtering U.S. economy, let us pause and give thanks for the return of the almighty Dow.
The blue-chip stock market’s ascent to a record high this week marked a victory inside a paradox.
What does it mean? Pretty much whatever you’d like it to mean.
You can easily find market analysts who say the bull isn’t finished yet – hold tight, folks, we’re still running. Or you can listen to advisers warning that the only course left from here is down – it’s time for a market “correction.” Or you can find economists who say it signifies nothing ... just an index as meaningless and random as the number of points scored by the Miami Heat last weekend.
The lunch-bucket market players among the rest of us can look forward to smiling at the end of the month as we open the envelopes containing our 401(k) results – provided the market doesn’t crash and burn between now and March 31.
And while most of us don’t have the clout of a Warren Buffett, those envelopes mean quite a lot to our futures. The three-legged stool that Franklin Roosevelt famously adopted as a metaphor for American retirement is a little wobblier than originally conceived.
Social Security is being rushed by the ranks of baby boomers – the most populous generation in the history of the republic. The pension plans that once were mainstays of almost every company in the country are an endangered species, if not already extinct for most American workers.
And so we’re left with our envelopes, the product of a savings plan that is tax-sheltered and, if we’re fortunate, supplemented by employers. But otherwise it is a nest egg built of our own discipline, sacrifice and a fervent hope that the markets will rise to let us live comfortably – or at least pay our bills – in old age.
Never mind the Wall Street cynics. The Dow’s record-breaking rise is good news for most of the rest of us. And Lord knows, we needed it.