Gary Brown: Step right up and ride the stock market

Gary Brown

When I try to understand the stock market these financially volatile days, I like to remember riding a roller coaster at an amusement park after I ate a lot of carnival food.

There are times when it’s exciting. And there are other times when you sort of want to throw up. To get the thrills you’ve got to endure being a little queasy for a while.

Feelings of nausea separated by moments of satisfaction for having mustered up the courage to get on the thing — that’s kind of how I look at taking the coaster ride and building up my 401(k) plan.

Free-will choices

First you have to decide to ride. Neither riding the coaster nor making a financial investment is forced upon us. It’s our choice.

Say you come to the conclusion that, “yes, I’d like to have something churn my stomach for a while.” So you buy a ticket. If you’re as conservative as I am, that’s a big step. Whether I’m handing money to a suited type at a financial group or a teenager at the admission window, I grip it a little tight as they take it out of my hand.

Once that decision has been made, there is a period of calm anticipation. You sit in the coaster car, joking with friends. This is going to be great!

As you go up the initial inclined portion of the track, your stomach is starting to bubble because now you’ve got your neck at risk. But everything still seems under control. And the view from the top is spectacular. Financially speaking, it’s priceless.


The track dips. Suddenly you’re going downhill faster than a falling Dow Jones average.

You have just experienced your first financial downturn. It might have left little hunks of cotton candy stuck in your throat.

No need for concern

Now, the problem we’ve got here is that it’s difficult to get off of a moving roller coaster.

You could just jump out of the car, I suppose, but that seems a little drastic. My advice to you at this point is to sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about roller coasters is that they finish level after they take you up and down, and fling you right and left, and sometimes even turn you upside down, making you pray to the great stock broker in the sky.

“Please, if I just get through this, I’ll never invest in anything but money market accounts again in my life!”

Yes, you will. Because the ride will stop. And you’ll forget the scary parts.

You may wobble and weave a little when you walk for a few minutes after the ride is over. You may even say “I’ve got to sit down for a while before I lose lunch.”

If your broker is in the same coaster car with you, he’ll understand, and maybe suggest you ride the financial carrousel for a bit until you get your feet back under you.

But eventually the two of you will go back to the coaster. And just before the park closes, there you’ll be, heading down the first hill, smiling and screaming and throwing your arms into the air.

Anyway, that’s my understanding of investing. I may never get rich but I’ll have a lot of roller coaster stories to pass on to my posterity.

Reach Repository Living Section Editor Gary Brown at (330) 580-8303 or e-mail