Between March 9, 2009, and March 9, 2012, the Dow Jones industrial average virtually doubled from 6,547 to 12,922.  Although it was a bumpy, zigzaggy ride at times, it was a massive blessing for investors who hung in there.

Whenever this happens, I never cease to be amazed by the individual investors who come out of the woodwork crying about their losses and the ruthlessness of the stock market’s gyrations.  These are the people who were frightened out of the market during one of the prior major declines.  They chose to pull all their money out of the market, and then cried doubly as they watched the market sail on to greater highs.

First, if you are the kind of investor who has to pull your money out of the market at the first sign of market weakness, then you should not be in the market at all.  By virtue of being invested in the market you are accepting the realities of the market.  Second, if you are the kind of investor who absolutely cannot stand for your portfolio to lose significant value in the near-term future, then you should have been more diversified into bonds and income fund holdings where you would not be subject to such major fluctuations.

As J.P. Morgan once quipped, “Stocks tend to fluctuate.”

Please don’t misinterpret me.  I’m all for the small investor buying into the market and riding it up, up, and away.  But he or she better do the homework first.  Throwing hard-earned money into the stock market is not a frivolous activity nor does it guarantee a return.  Whatever money you throw into the market should be part of a long-term, planned, comprehensive investment strategy.

The worst action you can take—and there is always a segment of the investing community that does this—is to have money in the market, see a crash, pull your money out in fear, and then keep it out as the market recovers onto new highs.  This is called “buying high and selling low,” and it is a recipe for investing disaster.  On the other hand, the educated, disciplined investor will, over time, buy low and sell high.  This is what enables the stock market to be your friend instead of your enemy.

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With fascination I have been watching the virtual world’s evolution.  Not that watching the physical world’s evolution isn’t enough to keep me amused, mind you.

As the virtual continues to augment and in some cases replace the real, an interesting situation is arising that all of us should consider.  That is the issue of virtual assets ownership beyond the original owner’s death.

Increasingly, upon a person’s death, lawyers must address the issue of which next of kin owns which digital assets.  For example, if the deceased had a LinkedIn profile primarily used for cultivating business contacts and leads, might another business associate or family member wish to assume control of that account to extract its content value prior to its deletion?  Play out that same scenario with all its potential ramifications for a virtual farm in Farmville, a personal blog, a virtual store in Second Life, the influence of a Twitter account, a Web site, or a powerful character in World of Warcraft.

Another difficult situation arises when marriages dissolve.  Attorneys already report squabbles among clients when a divorce occurs and the two parties argue over who can or cannot retain certain friends on Facebook.  The possible conflicts are endless.

I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers on this one.  It will be interesting to watch though.  Meanwhile, now is probably as good a time as ever to begin thinking about your virtual estate planning.

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Most investment banks tend to use social media only for public relations, marketing, and recruiting.  The big ones, such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs forbid their employees from even using SM on their work computers.  Understandable—There is too much that can go wrong.

Additionally, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires these institutions to archive all employee communications.  That is challenging enough.  Once you throw in Twitter and Facebook, look out!

That is why Deutsche Bank stands out recently for taking a bold stance.  Two months ago, under the company’s direction, Ted Tobiason (Deutsche Bank’s head of equity capital markets for the technology industry) sent his first tweet.  In Tobiason’s words, “Tweeting is a way to show that we are part of the game and that we understand the changes in technology and we are using them” (Saitto, Serena. “The Lone Tweeter of Deutsche Bank.” Bloomberg Businessweek. 3/5/12—3/11/12, p. 55).

In spite of the spontaneous nature of Twitter, Tobiason is not free to just shoot from the hip.  His tweets must all be cleared through the bank’s communications office, and he is limited in what he can share for obvious reason.

Nevertheless, I see this action as a positive move by Deutsche Bank.  Organizations that want to remain current must enter into the same communication avenues most of their customers have too.

If you’re interested, you can follow Ted on Twitter: @TedTobiasonDB.

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It’s all in the timing.  This is true for so many things, is it not?

Among several other experts, Dr. Ralph de la Torre, the CEO of Steward Health Care System, was recently interviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek about the current state of healthcare in America (RX for Reform: Fix This/ Health Care, 2/27/12–3/4/12, pp. 55-60).  The subject was raised that the big problem with healthcare today is the very high price tag for the patient’s last six months of life.  De la Torre responds to that declaring, “No.  The real problem is that you never know when the last six months are” (p. 60).

Perhaps we have echoes of, “If I knew I would live this long when I was younger, I would have taken better care of myself.”

The healthcare debate is certainly a serious matter.  But it is never too serious to not generate a chuckle every now and then.  From what I know, having a sense of humor helps us live longer and healthier anyway.

I hope you have a great laugh today!

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We are moving toward a highway and road system that will allow vehicles to drive themselves.  We have the technology to do it.  Theoretically, this system would significantly improve driving safety too.  What’s not to like about it?

Roadblocks (pun intended?) include standardizing the technology among car and truck manufacturers, developing appropriate federal and state regulations, and achieving consumer acceptance.

Consumer acceptance could be the sticking point.  Recently on a television news program, after sharing a clip about futuristic self-driving cars, the commentator exclaimed, “I’m okay with autopilot when I fly, but on the ground, I want to be in charge.”  I laughed.

This person’s exclamation was a genuine expression of the fact he would feel safer driving himself instead of being driven by a computer.  Although he could accept autopilot at 35,000 feet, he failed to understand it on the ground—even when all the research indicates it would be immensely safer!

Consumer acceptance can often be the make-or-break piece to these new puzzles.  When it comes to self-driving vehicles, only time, and the consumers, will tell.

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