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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 9, 2001

Wizards, financial or otherwise, do vanish

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Columnist

My broker is David and he says ...

Actually, he doesn't say much of anything these days. He's pretty much incommunicado. He may be vacationing in Costa Rica. For all I know, he's entered the witness protection program.

Once, he and I were always in touch. We were talkin' fools. My broker was fond of telling me how soon I would be getting out of all this mess, how soon I'd be leaving the daily grind behind.

We'd talk about early retirement all the time.

His and mine.

Well, maybe we didn't actually talk. But my broker was fond of sending me tons of information about my so-called portfolio. Letters came almost every day in the mail telling me how well I was doing, how rapidly my money was growing, how much closer I was to early retirement.

At least, that's what I wanted them to say. That's what I read between the lines.

These statements mentioned all kinds of things I didn't understand. Small caps vs. big caps. Nasdaq. Growth ratios. Dividend reinvestment. Sometimes these statements were 14 or 16 pages long. I admit I didn't read all the small print; I always just went to the last page, bottom line:

Your total last year. Your total last month. Your total today.

As long as today's total was bigger than the previous ones, everything was cool.

That was back in the rollicking '90s and good old '00.

When there would be little blips in the stock market, my broker would call to reassure me.

"It's just a blip," he'd say. "Don't worry."

I didn't.

When the blips started adding up to bumps, my broker would still call.

"We're in this for the long haul," he'd say. "You understand that, don't you?"

I did.

When the bumps turned to bust, my broker didn't call so often. Instead, I had to call him.

"Don't worry," he'd say when he called back. "We'll talk as soon as I get back into town."

As the bust finally burst into a near recession, he stopped returning my calls altogether.

At first, his secretary said he was skiing in the Rockies.

Then he didn't have a secretary. And the statements started getting a lot smaller. The bottom line was a lot smaller, too. A lot smaller than last quarter. A lot smaller than last year.

I still dream about getting out of this mess and leaving the daily grind behind. I still dream about early retirement.

Only, these days, there's no one to talk to.

My broker has left the building. I'm still here for the long haul.

Mike Leidemann's columns appear Thursdays and Saturdays in The Advertiser. Reach him at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-5460.