Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Different Kind of Investment


As the parent of a daughter away at college for the first time, the events in Blacksburg, Virginia, last week had a particularly horrific effect.

No, she’s not going to school at Virginia Tech, but what happened there could happen anywhere. Parents often worry that, despite years of raising them carefully, our kids will, nonetheless, wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, so far as we know now, all those poor kids did was be in the right place – where they were supposed to be - at a very wrong time. In a matter of minutes, bright and promising futures were brought to a premature close for no better reason than their proximity to a madman.

Many will try to get back to “normal” this week – while for some, normal will never again seem possible. I’ve tried several times to pick up some other theme or idea to speak to in this week’s column – some normal topic, if you will – but all I can think of is those students that won’t be coming home to families. Families that, like mine, were anxiously waiting to have their family once again be complete.

People die unexpectedly every day, of course – and children much younger than the students at Virginia Tech unfortunately have their lives snuffed out in much less dramatic fashion. Still, those tragedies that grab our collective attention for a brief time can serve as a vital wake-up call to things that our busy lives all too frequently set aside for “another time.”

The admonitions that are part of our industry’s DNA – start early, do as much as you can, keep an eye on things – apply to many areas of life. As we make investments in our 401(k)s, we also invest in our friends and family – investments that generally produce a yield that would put to shame the most giddy hedge fund investor.

This week, if you don’t already, I’d encourage you to tell those you care for how you feel – tell them as often as you can; and keep an eye – or an ear - on them, particularly the ones you don’t see every day.

You never know how long you’ll have to do so, after all. And the only thing worse than losing a loved one – would be losing them without having told them how you feel.

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