I first ran this short-short of mine on the blog last January (1/30/08 to be exact) in its very earliest days.
With the financial crisis in full boil, crazy news from the business world (AIG anyone?) and a recession that very possibly could morph into a full-blown depression, I think this cautionary tale is still appropriate.
Following is a piece of short fiction. I originally posted this to my website davidkirkpatrick.com January 17, 2002.
Here’s how I introduced the story then:
“Paper” was written after the stumble, but before the fall of the new economy. Its theme fits nicely with today’s cautionary stock market news, headlined by Enron’s troubles.
What is interesting is how this short bit of dialog was written to reflect the tech crash and how many people ended up overextended with paper, rather than liquid, assets. In some ways it’s even more apropos today with the ongoing mortgage crisis.
Without further adieu, the story …
By David Kirkpatrick
“You making any money on the market?” A. asked.
“Nothing spectacular. I’m in for the long haul. I make it a personal rule to not even take a peek anytime the Dow drops over 200 points. How about yourself?”
“Took an absolute bath at the end of last week, but it did get me to move a large chunk out of techs. I’m starting to see the value in the long haul myself,” said A. He waved his nearly empty scotch glass in the bartender’s direction and received a nod in return.
“Techs are wild. The best story I know from last week’s little correction comes from a tech stock. An acquaintance of mine works for a B2B software firm. Not a dotcom, but still overvalued. When they IPOed last year, her stake in the company made her an instant millionaire, one point or two point something or other. Fourth quarter they announced a growth rate way over the projections and she doubled her wealth overnight.
“Around the same time the company moved her out to the valley to the main headquarters. She went to California and her equity finally reached about six million with all signs pointing to doubling within the year.
“And I can see why she would take all this information and feel good about it–everything was simply going up and up. Her paper, the earnings, everything….”
“I see something bad coming here,” said A.
”Well, fully expecting a paper worth of twelve million dollars in a year’s time, she went out and bought a US five million dollar house in San Francisco. I have no idea how she was able to finance this thing holding a paper wealth of about six and not that long of a history with a fat salary.
“At any rate she bought the house and took on a massive monthly debt service on the thing.”
“Wow,” A. said as he started on his new scotch.
“Even buying the place with the twelve in hand looks like a bad idea to me, but five million in real estate with a paper worth of six million is simply begging for some degree of pain.
“After last week I called her because I knew that she took a real serious hit.”
“How serious?” A. asked.
“As of this morning, two point three. Up slightly from last Friday. The problem isn’t that the stock is going to be worthless, because it’s not. The business model is solid and they have a good product. The pain is in the fact that the trading has become realistic and will probably remain so. She’ll get a slow climb back toward that five or six million dollar mark, but twelve is naturally out of the question…”
“And she’s still holding the note with all that goddam debt service on it.” A commented.
“Precisely. That’s the tricky part of this market. When you start going too fast, it just gets too easy to spiral out of control into a really painful crash and burn.
“So before you get too upset about whatever kind of bath you might have taken, remember that it could have been worse. Much worse.”
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