Wall Street and “Enough”

I was intrigued by a recent article in MONEY magazine, 1 and the explosive reactions to it from some other MONEY readers. It’s written by Roz Warren, a freelance writer and part-time librarian. So what radical thing did she do? She pulled all her money out of the stock market.

Warren had made a financial plan to get to a certain number in financial assets and then retire. Well, not exactly. She’s still going to work part-time at the library because she loves it. But she withdrew everything she had put into a Vanguard balanced fund (60% stocks, 40% bonds), and put it in essentially non-interest-bearing accounts, such as U.S. Treasuries and laddered CDs. She plans to live off those assets for the rest of her life.

You can imagine the firestorm this article created when it was posted online! Most MONEY readers are avid investors in Wall Street, after all. And many of them would recommend that retirement savings be made based on how much income one’s funds generate, not on a fixed money amount. But the publishers put the article in the next print edition anyway. She did make a long-term plan and implemented it, they said, and she’s happy with her decision. She has a modest lifestyle, and her article didn’t encourage anyone else to automatically follow her lead.

Of course I don’t know about the wisdom of her choices for anyone other than her, but I applaud one thing she decided – there is such a thing as having enough. We can figure out what it is for our situation, make a financial plan to reach it and live within our means, and then use the money we have in a way that’s both sustaining and generous in accord with our values.

In Growing Generous Souls, the book I’m now writing, I emphasize “an ethic of enough,” in contrast to voracious profiteering or anxious hoarding of a continual “more.” Whether we consider stocks, bonds, cash or possessions, whatever we have, we can dare to make an informed, healthy, personal decision about how much is enough – and then stick to it.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – Roz Warren, “I Took All My Money Out of Stocks, and It Feels Amazing,” MONEY magazine, January/February 2018, pp. 32f.