Risk vs. caution

A former undergraduate student who worked with in my lab in the past drops by from time to time with his progress. He is a remarkable student who had to overcome a lot of obstacles. He went to college late (he is now 32) and has a 4.0 in psychology (Aside: Psychology classes yield the lowest average GPA of all the Arts & Sciences majors, because it is the most challenging A&S major here at OSU). Anyway he’s applying to clinical psych programs and asking my advice re:GRE, Letters, etc. He dropped in on my lunch break and I was checking the price of Google stock to see if it is going up. I told him it was about to go over $400 a share and it will go even higher.

“Can you really make money off of that? I mean did you see any benefits?”

Now, I won’t tell you all what I told him because y’all don’t need to know how much money I’ve lost or gained recently, but let’s pretend I told him about Google instead.

Me: “Yeah, I bought 10 shares of Google at $300 a share back in July. I could sell it now and make $1000 in six months.”

Him: “You mean you actually could get the money?”

Me: “Yeah, all I have to do is pay 7$ to sell the stock. I could take my sweetie out to eat and give her a nice birthday gift. I mean, NICE. You know?”

Him: I never got into that stuff. You could lose money.

And he’s right, and I have. It was a “learning experience”. I’ve learned to minimize the risk by doing a little economic homework before I invest. Funny thing is, this is a smart guy who was a salesman before going to college. But he is just a risk averse guy, whereas I like to occasionally swing for the fences. Now I think that’s the big factor that differentiates nanny-state liberals and economic libertarians like myself. Unfortunately, the academic environment fosters the kind of cautious voter that ensures that risk takers pay for the school lunches and pensions of everyone else after their “windfall” profits. Of course this guy is a big time liberal despite being all the wrong demographics (i.e. blue collar white male), and I think risk-aversion is the big reason for it.

Now, all the caveats apply. Certainly one can be small-government fiscal conservative and be against the war etc. Certainly big hot-shot lawyers take a lot of risks, but they aren’t the rank and file democrat voters, either (but rather pretend to be their shepherds). One always succeeds when trying to break out of his comfort zone, even if he fails at first … when I lost money in stocks @ 23 I learned to avoid the same mistakes when I’m 32.

Posted at 10:10 pm by Johnny B

Posted by Jordan @ 11/22/2005 01:44 PM PST
Interesting, how no one responded to your post yet. I say that because it reminds of my first post, the one that brought down a firestorm upon my head. I guess one of the main differences though is you had the good sense or caution to title yours “Risk v. Caution”, whereas my post was titled more along the lines of “Men vs. Pussies.”

Posted by JohnnyB @ 11/22/2005 06:00 PM PST
I learned from you Jordan. My big departure from your earlier post is that both he and I are intellectual, I’m just willing to take the risk. My problem with your earlier post was that I (kind of) consider myself an intellectual and still a man, and felt I had to defend myself.

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