PITTSFIELD >> One of my Facebook friends summed up the current state of the economy pretty well last week. He wrote that the stock market had one of its best days last Monday.
He's right. Last Monday was Martin Luther King Day. The markets were closed.
Ironic, right? It would also be funny if it weren't so true.
This January has been absolutely awful on Wall Street. Global insecurity combined with plummeting oil prices have sent investor's portfolios tumbling, often rapidly.
In China, stocks fell so far so fast on Jan. 7 that trading had to be halted after just 30 minutes, which sent tremors through the markets around the world.
Things have stabilized a little since then. But at this time, the downward spiral shows no signs of abating. That's not good news for the economy.
I'll leave the finer points of market analysis to the financial columnists, pundits, and gurus, who know a heck of a lot more about what's going on than me.
What I will say is that if you have investments in the stock market this isn't the time to sell them. Serious investors are usually in it for the long haul, and when you go long in the market you're usually going to have to weather some storms. To me, long term investing is comparable to what sailing a clipper ship on the ocean must have been like. There are going to be rough patches where you're dealing with elements beyond your control that can toss your boat all over the place. But once the storms are over there will inevitably be calm patches where the sailing is smooth.
If you don't believe me, I refer you to the financial pundits. A business reporter on television summed the whole situation up succinctly on Thursday when she said, "patience is a virtue." Sure, it's a cliche. But it's also true.
It's hard to resist the temptation to sell in our current society when everything is geared towards instant gratification. Online tools like e-trade make trading stocks look like some sort of video game. But there's a lot more to it than that.
So hold on to your stocks. Sooner or later the current downturn will subside. You'll be glad that you waited.
What's in a password?
Passwords are an integral part of our daily lives now. In a dot.com world, we use them for everything.
But passwords can be easy to forget if you have to remember a lot of them. And, the kinds of codes we're required to use to form a password can also make coming up with them a hassle. Many require a number, a symbol, a capital letter, etc.
Given those requirements, our passwords often end up looking like the dialogue you used to see in comic books or cartoons to signify that someone had dropped an anvil on their foot, something like $#2!Zx3%!
Lots of people take the path of least resistance and use something common that they can remember, but that also doesn't work. SplashData annually releases a list of the most popular passwords that are discovered in data breaches that were released online over the previous 12 months.
The most popular choices in 2015? "12346" and "password". According to The Washington Post, these two choices have held the top two spots for two years running.
Here are some more popularly breached passwords from last year: "football", "baseball" and "starwars". The latter joining the list in 2015 (I wonder why). It was the 25th most popular choice.
If you're faced with this dilemma, here's what the Post recommends: Consumers are probably better off trying to remember strong, unique passwords for important services, and turning on two-factor authentication, a system where the user has to go through another step to confirm their identity when they log in, like entering a code that's texted to your phone.
Yes, it's difficult, frustrating and time consuming. But when the alternative is losing your data, the extra time is worth the risk.