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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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I had sold my apartment in January 2009, I got about $50,000

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I had sold my apartment in January 2009, I got about $50,000 in cash from the sale. The stock market had sunk and I knew that if I bought good basic stocks like Amazon or Apple or Verizon they would all come back..
I did that and by May most had come up maybe on average 20% or even more. Then I lost my job in July 2009.. I'm in my mid 50's and all the online articles I was reading were horrible - it looked like I would never work again.
I was worried about another crash and loosing what I had.. So I put half the amount in a guaranteed 5% growth a year annuity in my IRA, so it's fully protected. The rest just sat in cash if I needed it through all of 2010 till I finally got a job in January 2011.
I did wind up using the profits I had made for living expenses. But luckily I didn't have to eat into the original principal, so it worked out.
Then I said "Oh! Since I got a job the economy is back on track!" So I used the $25,000 cash to buy stock - Index funds, ETF funds, all solid investments.. Then the whole thing lost value over the year and sank to about $15,000.. but it's been coming back and since they are long term investments I can deal with it...
Anyway, the problem is.. I found my original stock purchases I made after I sold my apartment and used the $50,000 cash.. and if I had kept everything and never sold..It would have been well over $200,000 now.. almost $250,000...
I have been getting so sad over what might have been. I live very modestly, and even just cashing just a small amount would have made a big difference.. Like I have a 13 year old car that I bought used a few years ago.. it's small and hurts my back. I could have easily bought a nice mid 2000's sedan for maybe $6000....
Or taken a small cruise for $1000...or see a Broadway show.. or whatever. Or bought more annuities for retirement.. Or made donations.. and on and on..
I keep wanting to go back in time to that one day I decided to sell everything and get out, it's like it was "Mistake Day" that changed everything. However, I did learn my lesson from the first go-around. The second time I bought stock, I just bought general funds that don't fluctuate as much and are based on lots of companies.
Also, I know intellectually that I could find XYZ company that was just $1 a share in 2009, and is now $387 a share and if only I had bought that... and on and on and on..
But I still keep going back in that time machine to that print out of the stocks that I had.. and thinking if only.. It makes me feel so sad, like someone had died.. I feel like a poor person in ragged clothes eking out an existence.. When I could have been living in splendor..
In a way it's worse that if let's say I had paid $200,000 for all that stock and it had sunk by now to $15,000... It's more like phantom money.. a mythical amount..
You know, it feels like what I saw once on a documentary about adopted kids finding their parents.. One poor girl finally found her mother after years of searching, only to learn that she had died the year before. They showed the poor girl in the cemetery, at her mother's tombstone.. wishing she had known her..
That's what I feel like! It's been like this for the past week or so.. it's sort of starting to lift.. But now I feel like that list of stocks I sold is going to haunt me the rest of my life!!!! What should I do to make it go away?
Burn the list?
Stack marshmallows on it and put it in the microwave, and eat the melted marshmallows?
Send the list to a woodworker, and have it lacquered and preserved on a plaque?

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 vision!

At the time, you did what you did with the best information that you had available, and let's face it none of us can do any more than that.

What might have been is neither here nor there - what is important is that if you are to have a more comfortable life, you have to learn to deal with what you seem to see as a past mistake or failure, and I suspect that given the circumstances, you are going to need some professional help to do that.

For that reason, I’m going to suggest that you would benefit from some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Your persistent contemplation on what you did ‘wrong’ and what might have been is becoming a serious disruption in your life, and CBT is probably the best way to come to terms with what has happened.

CBT is based on the fact that what we think in any given situation generates beliefs about, and reactions to that situation, and also causes the behaviour and feelings which flow from those beliefs and reactions.

These ‘automatic thoughts’ are so fast that generally, we are unaware that we have even had them. We call them ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) for short.

If the pattern of thinking we use, or our beliefs about our situation are even slightly distorted,

the resulting emotions and actions that flow from them can be extremely negative and unhelpful. The object of CBT is to identify these ‘automatic thoughts’ then to re-adjust our thoughts and beliefs so that they are entirely realistic and correspond to the realities of our lives, and that therefore, the resulting emotions, feelings and actions we have will be more useful and helpful.

Cognitive therapists do not usually interpret or seek for unconscious motivations but bring cognitions and beliefs into the current focus of attention and through guided discovery encourage clients to gently re-evaluate their thinking.

Therapy is not seen as something “done to” the client. CBT is not about trying to prove a client wrong and the therapist right, or getting into unhelpful debates. Through collaboration, questioning and re-evaluating their views, clients come to see for themselves that there are alternatives and that they can change.

Clients try things out in between therapy sessions, putting what has been learned into practice, learning how therapy translates into real life improvement.

Please visit this website for much more detailed information on CBT:

If you cannot afford to see a therapist, there are good free CBT based self-help resources here:

Also, there is a book called ”Feeling good - the new mood therapy” by Dr. David Burns. It has a hand book which gives you practical exercises to work through and further instructions on how to better use CBT. I really do recommend it.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies By Rhena Branch, Rob Willson is also pretty good.

Best wishes, NormanM

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Yes, that's absolutely true! I have realized that what I often feel "bad about" in investments is incredibly subjective.

Like everyone feels bad about not buying Apple when it was just a few dollars a share, and now it's over $600 (a public sentiment which would tip the experts off, I guess, that it's overvalued).

But there's thousands of "unglamorous" stocks that nobody cares about that have gone up even more. It's just that Apple products are so ubiquitous with everyone using iPhones, laptops, Apple Stores, media stories - etc..

....that each time you see anything Apple you are reminded of your big mistake.

Similarly, the negative thoughts occur every time there's thought of something costing money.. always the "what if".. When for other things you don't think "what if" at all - it would seem ridiculous..

I drive and I don't think "what if" every time I pass an intersection, thinking of the car accident that never occured..

In retrospect, I did do a very sensible thing at the time, taking half of the money from the sale, and locking it in a protected annuity - a very sensible investment.. but I won't realize it until years later..

(when Apple is at $12,000 a share?...sigh....)

Excellent answer, I will check out the links.

Glad to help - please remember to rate my answer.
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