I often get emails from readers who want to know my background in financial planning or financial services and why I always seem to look at items outside the United States. The answer to that last one is relatively simple. I believe strongly in globalization and I think we are living in a real, wired world today where whatever happens at one side of the planet can dramatically affect what happens at the other.
If you want to read something startling on this, pick up New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's superb new book, ''The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.'' The metaphor of a flat world is used by Friedman to describe the next phase of globalization. He discovered this following an interview with Indian software executive in India who told him the ways in which the economic playing field was being leveled.
As to my own personal interest, it comes from growing up in an environment where the dollar was held in very high esteem. I come from a family of medical people and I fondly remember as a child riding along with my father on Saturday mornings when he made his rounds of hospitals. I also have a brother who is a highly respected and well-known child psychiatrist and an older son who is involved in sports medicine in Annapolis.
Interestingly enough, most of my parents' friends were in the medical field; doctors especially seem to have an affinity to the stock market and to what is happening on Wall Street. In fact, when growing up in the 40s, reading the financial pages at our house was more important than the comics--all of this obviously a reflection of parents who survived the depression years. My father was a big investor in Tucker automobile, which was a gorgeous thing to behold until you lifted up the hood and saw that there was no engine. Needless to say, we papered the walls of the house with all that stock. I think we did the garage in something called Flock. He never was very good at picking what would really turn to gold. Thankfully, I had a mother who could.
My mother never worked a day in her life, especially after she met my father, but she became a champion golfer (try a three handicap) and who in her other spare time played the market, and extremely well. She was there when Xerox was a baby, when IBM had just started teething, and when utilities weren't the big guys they are today. She did miss out on Microsoft, though. Can't win em all.
So, with this kind of a background and the fact that my elementary school during the World War II years fostered the concept of every kid having a mandatory bank account at a local bank, we took to learning what was what in the financial world at a very early age. We were forced to open that account and to bring a certain amount (generally our allowance) each week for deposit (I believe that's episode #35 on "Leave it to Beaver"). At the time, I thought it was a joke and seemed silly but my parents thought otherwise. "That money will earn good interest. Just you wait and see."
And to prove the point, my father still gave us (my brother and me) an extra quarter to go to the movies on Saturdays.
Did that bankbook do any good? Certainly did. By the time I entered junior high, I was astonished at the healthy balance (for my age) I had in the Western Savings Fund Society of Philadelphia account. And it kept growing and growing and....
Of course, let's not talk about bank interest today. It's nonexistent.
I trust this answers the question. I realize that this is a bit self-serving but then again, it does have its own point. It's been said that money makes the world go round and it's the root of all evil...and on an on. You can go either negative or positive here but perhaps George Bernard Shaw really got it right: "Lack of money is the root of all evil."
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