Remembering the Great Stock Market Collapse
It was headlines news everywhere last week: the Stock Market suffered their worst one-day plunge in more than three decades as actions by President Donald Trump and the Federal Reserve failed to stem panic over the coronavirus.
I remember that previous day—Oct. 19, 1987—like it happened yesterday. We had just moved back to West Virginia from Colorado and were staying with good friends while looking for a house to rent.
The market crash made headlines nationwide. When my friend’s wife came home from work that day, she asked, “Has the world fallen apart yet?”
The market plunge on that Monday was the largest in history—until last week.
It had personal relevance in 1987, when most of my work involved handling public relations for small publicly-held companies.
That primarily involved writing press releases and earnings reports for companies bound to disclose financial results under federal regulations.
The stock market slide affected me quite dramatically. Within two months, most of my work had vanished.
One company I had helped with some informational-type materials prior to their planned public stock offering. Instead, they discovered in the post-Black Monday environment few financiers were willing to help them take that step.
They went under, owning me more than $900. Another company president who promised to pay my $1,200 invoice never did.
Several others never paid. The biggest account receivable involved almost $5,000.
After months of promises from the president, the treasurer said candidly one day during a phone call: “I’ll level with you. You’re never going to get paid.”
I received that news a few weeks after Black Monday. Soon after that, a company that had signed a monthly retainer agreement exercised its right to end our agreement early through a written notice.
It reminded me of the old joke: If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.
Putting Stock in Recovery
As anyone who follows the stock market knows, the 1987 panic was much worse than the reality. Two years later, those who simply held on to their stocks and did nothing realized gains.
Those who got nervous and sold what otherwise would only have been a loss on paper got butchered.
My point is not to offer any stock tips or sage investing advice. But living through what was one of the darkest times of my life and somehow surviving strengthened my faith in God.
It also gave me the kind of long-term perspective that helps avoid “what if?” scenarios raging on the current coronavirus landscape.
Ironically, just as the retainer agreement—which kept the basic bills paid—ended, I got a call from the assistant editor of a magazine I had talked with before.
She told me they had some rush assignments because of a sudden change of plans by the board of directors.
After outlining the three interviews I would have to do, she warned, “We need these stories in a week.”
“That’s okay,” I replied. “I’m not doing anything else.”
That call touched off a nine-year-long steady stream of work for that publication.
Though I had to navigate a rocky road that included driving a delivery truck part-time for 18 months, the assignments also helped me make the transition to fulltime freelance writing and editing.
This life is no bed of roses, still fraught with uncertainties and fears. The leading one is the current prospect of economic calamity could once again dry up much of my income.
Fortunately, because of what I lived through in the late 1980s, I’m confident of surviving 2020—and beyond.