Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How to Invest Your Retirement Savings: Serbian Thinking vs American Style

If you are an American married to a Serb, you may have had this same experience. I bet I'm not the only one.

When my husband and I got married and started planning for retirement, my ideas were:
1. 70% into low-fee index funds tied to US, European and Asian stock markets. Let sit for years and years and years.
2. 10% into cool peer-to-peer loan accounts like Prosper and LendingClub
3. 20% into tax-free bonds
4. Pay off the mortgage and sit on our house for 30 years, then sell it when it's worth a lot and move into a tiny condo that's easier to maintain.
5. Don't expect diddly from social security.

His ideas were:
1. Buy a bunch of Euros, put them someplace safe like a coffee can in the basement, and let them sit. Forever.
2. Buy a bunch of gold and ditto.
3. Buy 3rd grade farmland, plant a whole bunch of nut trees, let sit for ten years, start to harvest annually.
4. Pay off the mortgage but never ever sell the house because you don't sell family property, are you normal?
5. Improve your Social Security standing - working more years, higher wages, whatever - because a government pension is a very useful thing.

After years of arguments (erm "discussions"), I at last wrested control of the situation. After all, I grew up in a place with stock markets and a booming economy while he grew up in a place with civil war, economic sanctions, and a black market economy. I "knew" what I was doing with investments!

Naturally about a month after I took over managing our retirement accounts, the global stock markets tanked and kept tanking. At the same time gold doubled in value and the Euro cracked the $1.50 barrier and kept on gaining. Not to mention the fact that farmland prices in Serbia and Croatia started rising steadily. If we'd invested my husband's way, we'd be at least 50% wealthier now.

My reputation and confidence as a canny money manager is shattered. Next time someone says, "Let's buy some diamonds and bury them in a box under great-aunt Jadranka's apple tree," I will nod my head and say 'Yes dear, that sounds like a good idea."

1 comment:

Jamie said...

"...are you normal?"

I love reading your blog so much, and seeing this quote was wonderful. I always laughed so much at how often the Serbs say that while I was living in Belgrade.

Thanks again for all of the wonderful entries. :)