September 18, 2020

By DEVON SMITH

I like newspapers. Whether I’m keeping up with current events on the bus or doing the crossword over breakfast, I derive a sense of calm and mental stimulation from sitting around with those inky folds in my hands. That is, until I hit the business section.

More specifically, the page with all the lists of numbers and acronyms that means little to most of us but is everything to some. One word always stands out to me on this page and fills me with frustration and lament.

When I was a kid, my father talked to me about the importance of saving money. He took me to open my first bank account before I was 10. He made many contributions to my piggy bank and then went through the long and arduous process of rolling up the coins with me to deposit them.

Over the years, my savings built up to a pretty respectable amount for a kid with no measurable income. By 2004 I had saved about $3,500.

At this point, under my father’s guidance, we opened a mutual fund in my name. The fund was going to be a place for my money to grow faster than it would if it was sitting in my savings account.
Now, I’m not questioning my father’s wisdom in the matter, but things didn’t exactly pan out the way we had planned those eight or so years ago.

No, in eight years I’ve actually lost about one per cent of that money. One per cent doesn’t seem like much, but when we’re talking about an investment that was supposed to make me money, it’s a little frustrating to know that it would’ve done better sitting in my bank account.

I don’t believe that this outcome could have been predicted, the economy has seen uncertain times. In fact, my fund went down almost 3.5 per cent in the last six months alone.

I do, however, think that some things were predictable, to an extent, and this is where my contempt for the investment page in the paper comes from.

In addition to my opening of a mutual fund, 2004 saw a little company called Google open itself to the public. Needless to say, it has done a little better than I have, growing a whopping 730 per cent.

This is a pretty impressive figure, but Google wasn’t the only thing starting a steep ascent of the stock market in 2004. There was another, much older force that, after decades of relative stagnation, was about to make a big play.

In the last eight years, the price of gold has gone up 1,266 per cent. This is the word that riles me when I see it in the financial section. What was I doing investing in silly little mutual funds when I could have invested in a sure thing like gold?

 If I had invested my $3,500 in Google in 2004, rather than the mutual fund, I would be sitting on over $25,000. If I’d invested in gold I’d be closer to $45,000.

Now instead of asking myself what kind of car I want or how comfortable a mattress stuffed with cash would be, I’m wondering whether there is any recourse. I’m wondering whether or not it would be wise to make those investments that I should have made years ago. Will Google’s stock continue to rise? Will gold hit a plateau? Or maybe Facebook will be the answer when it goes public. Is it the next Google? Considering that almost all of its revenue comes from advertising, its future is cloudy. Or is it?

I’ll let you know in eight years when I hope to be able to maintain a pleasant demeanour all the way through to the classifieds.