Some people are giving blood. Some people are hanging flags. My act of personal patriotism is to buy stocks. On Monday morning at the opening, I've directed my broker to buy 100 shares - nearly $4,000 worth of stock - in America's largest company, General Electric (GE, news, msgs).
This is not a short-term trade. I know the price of many stocks will swing erratically on Monday. The opening may be the best price -- or the worst price -- of the day. But I'm not investing for a day, or a week, or even six months. This stock is going in my long-term investment account. I'll make another decision in two years - not before.
It doesn't matter that after I'd placed the order, GE lowered its third-quarter profit forecast, citing the costs it will incur as one of the largest reinsurance companies facing claims from the terrorist attack on downtown Manhattan. And it doesn't matter that NBC (which GE owns and for whom I do commentary on their WMAQ-TV station in Chicago) will lose a fortune as it broadcasts non-stop without commercials this week. This is not about earnings.
Buying stock in America's largest capitalized company is not a professional investment decision -- the kind of action I've learned to take in my 30 years in the financial services industry. It's not what I learned to do as a broker, or as the first woman floor trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange.
In fact, those years taught me quite the contrary. I learned to use fact-based decision-making, not emotion. Learning the importance of self-discipline has been one of the greatest investment lessons of my lifetime. So I acknowledge that this is a purely emotional decision. And I'm proud of it.
I'm proud of my belief that America will survive and prosper, over the long run, as it always has. This is my way of singing "The Star Spangled Banner." And I find I'm not alone. Friday afternoon, I received an e-mail "chain letter" -- urging people to buy $200 worth of stock or mutual funds at the opening Monday. I usually delete that kind of e-mail. But this wasn't spam. It was a collective sense of the importance of making a gesture.
The terrorists aimed at the financial center of the world -- the center of free enterprise capitalism. What they didn't realize is that the center of free enterprise is not in one geographic location or two towering buildings. It is in every American's belief that opportunity exists for a better financial future – for themselves and their children.
That opportunity is represented in our stock markets. That's where my optimism will be displayed. I can't think of a better message to send those terrorists.