My new investment strategy.

In the not-too-distant past – say five years ago – I was an ardent investor. I read lots of books on the subject, bought and sold quite a few stocks, lost money, made money, lost money, all in the misguided hope of getting rich someday. I say misguided because if you had asked me back then why I wanted to be rich, I would have answered with some drivel about not having to worry about money anymore. Well, not having to worry about money – or anything else, really – is not a good reason to be alive. Worse, money is like subtraction soup, in that the more you have, the more you want. And for what? To count? To buy baubles? To eat fancy meals?

Yet there I sat day after day, scrutinizing, my portfolio tracker on Quicken, Yahoo Finance message boards, the Wall Street Journal. I even subscribed to an investment newsletter (still do, two actually!). I read them all and I discussed their content and implications on stocks with anyone who could put up with me. I made bold predictions and I put my money where my mouth was. I was obsessed. But again, if you had asked me why, I could not have answered in a satisfactory way, because deep down, while I might have had a reason, it was not a good one. Actually, let me rephrase that: it’s not that my reason wasn’t good, it’s that it was only half a reason. Here’s why: I told my myself I didn’t want to have to worry about money anymore, but that was it; I couldn’t answer, “Then what?”

And then I fell and hit my head.

As I recovered, I started to look at the world differently and several of my obsessions faded, including investing. I think the reason is that the accident separated me from my everyday life and let me observe it from the sidelines. As such, I was much more objective in my judgment of my values, and I did not like what I saw. I was spending all my doing things that brought me no joy. What to do instead? I had no clue. But one day, maybe three or four months after the accident, I started watching a DVD of Tom Petty that my friend Toby had given me. When it was over, I headed out for a cup of coffee and on the way back home, I was feeling incredibly sorry for myself when suddenly a lyric idea popped into my head. When I got back home I was fueled up with caffeine and Petty and that lyric, and so I picked up my Steinberger and hummed “too many demons and too few saints”. A chord progression materialized (Petty MIGHT have had something to do with it), then more lyrics, then more chords and before I knew it I had a roughed out tune. Here's the final version:

It took awhile, but I finally realized that I had something new to invest in. Songs. And nowadays, while I still check stocks daily (okay, multiple times per hour, while the markets are open), and I still read my investment newsletters and even an occasional book, my new obsession is songs. And when I get ahead by a few bucks (rare these days), I plough the money into making music. If this investment doesn’t pay-off in dollars, it will be my second biggest investing loss, eclipsed only by the money I have sunk into private placement securities (over $75K, poof, gone, just like that, although someday, one or more might pay out, someday…). But here’s the great part: whether I get my money back or not, it will represent my biggest gain ever. Because writing songs gives me one thing investing never has: joy.

Oh, and here's the final version of Demons and Saints:

<a href="">Demons &amp; Saints (pre-release) by Jeff Shattuck</a>