“It’s good to be in something from the ground floor … But lately, I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.” — TV mob boss Tony Soprano
“Many Americans I think feel that way.” — TV psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi
Actor James Gandolfini, who starred in the highly decorated series “The Sopranos," passed away recently while on vacation in Italy.
In many ways, the Sopranos was a genuine reflection of the vagaries of domestic and global economic fortunes, both good and bad, during the eight years the program aired. As head of his New Jersey crime family, Tony demanded that his captains earn significantly, kick 20 percent up to him, and overcome any economic hurdles in their path.
The booming 90’s economy was at its nadir when the series opened in 1999. During a power struggle between Tony and his Uncle Junior in the first episode, Junior says, “Things are good, I’ll grant you that. But this economy is so robust you get credit for (stuff) you had nothing to do with.”
Indeed, the stock market was so strong then that one could almost throw a dart at the Dow and make money.
Tony and wife Carmela were continually conflicted over investing in the market. Tony harbored bundles of cash and preferred “putting his money on the street," rather than committing it to legitimate investments.
Carmela was fearful for her financial future if something happened to Tony, a theme that resonates with many American women. She hounded Tony to invest in the market.
Tony responded, “Stocks? You’ve got to be high up in the corporate structure to make that … work for you.” Tony’s cynicism regarding the market reflects the negative attitudes that some Americans associate with investing.
When the actual global recession ensued, Tony’s captains brought him lighter envelopes. Tony calls his troops together and tells them, “You’re supposed to be earners, so earn!” Then he implores his henchman, Silvio Dante, to explain the economic facts of life to his employees.
“Two things have always been immune to these kind of recessions,” says Silvio. “… show business … and our thing.” Only “their thing” wasn’t immune. It was just as vulnerable as the general American economy was when the mortgage lending crisis evolved and the housing market collapsed.
Tony’s quoted complaint at the top of the column also represents the thinking of many investors, who fear that they have missed the run-up in equities in recent months.
The Dow Jones, however, is a non-inflation adjusted index, and if it were, the Dow would have to currently be at 17,000 to match 2007 highs. Additionally, there are many “Global Giants” equities that pay regular dividends which can still be bought at a fair price.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121~www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.