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A Rising Tide: A Falling Market

By Dian Vujovich

With Mr. Madoff in the slammer, one can almost hear a collective sigh of “at last” in the air. And while the Ponzi Master has made minced meat out of many investors’ portfolios, the stock market seemed to like that news.

The timing of Bernie’s Bad has come, in part, to represent all that’s bad about money, our markets and investing. There’s an ugly underbelly to capitalism that, at its worst, happens when greed takes precedence over things like truths, values, honest business practices and well, everything.

Because greed knows no boundaries it carries with it an insatiable appetite that can never be satisfied. Perhaps the judge’s order to deliver Bernie directly to jail will do a couple of things; bring an end to what’s become all too common on Wall Street— corruption and scandals on a number of different levels. And, squash the “Greed is good,” kind of thinking that the character Gordon Gecko made popular in the 1980s movie Wall Street. Greed, as I’ve written before, has never been good.

So just as a rising tide lifts all boats up, a falling market takes money off all tables.

Today, there are fewer billionaires roaming around then there were a year ago: Last year there were 1,125 of them, according to Forbes.com. Now, only 793. And fewer millionaires.

According to a Spectrem Group report, the number of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more (not including first homes) fell by 2.5 million to 6.7 in 2008. That’s the lowest level since 2003.

One of the many things that steep market declines do to those who are invested in it—be they billionaires, millionaires or those with four- or five figures at play—is change everyone’s hopes and dreams. For those who had hoped retirement would be just years away it now means either having no hope of ever retiring or rethinking when—and how– that occasion can happen. For those in their 20s and 30s, time is on their side.

As important as these days of financial readjustments are so comes remembering what’s really important in life—our friends, families, an appreciation of nature and helping others whenever possible. In business, being fair, honest, communicative and trustworthy.

The good I’d like to see come out of what’s currently playing on Wall Street and in Washington is a renewed sense of the importance of all that’s written in the paragraph above along with an understanding that it’s compassion and understanding that truly binds us to one another. Not the number of zeros in our bank accounts.

Read the rest of the story at
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/02/20/business/0222-pay-graphic.html?ref=business and weep.

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