You are probably employing a rather risky investment strategy, and you may not even know it.
Short-selling is an investment strategy in which you sell a stock (or other asset) that you don’t own for the current price with plans of buying it back at a lower cost. In effect, it is just the act of buying low and selling high, but in reverse – you sell high and (hope to) buy low.
Now, this is generally considered to be a risky strategy, and with good reason. When you short, your best outcome is doubling your money (if the stock goes to $0), but you are taking unlimited risk (as the stock can more than double). If you sell a stock short at $10 hoping it goes to zero, but instead it goes to $1,000, you have to buy it back for $990 more than you sold it.
At this point, you are saying, so what? I don’t sell stock short.
Well, how much gasoline do you keep outside of your car’s gas tank? How much food do you have in your pantry? How much toilet paper do you keep in your house?
If you are planning to continue to drive after you’ve exhausted your current tank of gas, then you are “short” gasoline.
No, this isn’t the same as actively going out and selling gasoline you don’t have hoping to buy it back cheaper, but the effect is the same. In a week or two, you are going to need gas, and you are going to have to pay whatever that market price is.
By the way, you are also short food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc.,. And it is impossible for you to fully hedge all of your short positions.
Take groceries for instance. You can’t just go buy all the food that you will need for the rest of your life. However, you can stock up on non-perishables when you have the opportunity.
When it comes to fuel, you can do all of the things that you know you should to conserve gasoline. Take the junk out of the trunk (yes it does hurt your fuel economy), properly inflate your tires, aggregate your trips, and don’t slam the gas when the light turns green.
You should also adjust your mindset to conservation and scarcity. If you grew up during the depression you have an advantage here.
But the rest of us have become conditioned to believe that we can always get what we want whenever we want it at a low price – thank you Amazon Prime, DoorDash, UberEats, etc.
The tech giants convinced us that we had entered the world of abundance, and that the cost of technology would bring things infinitely lower. While that ship hasn’t sailed, it does look like they’re getting ready for departure.
While technology does have the possibility of bringing costs down, there is no assurance that us humans won’t screw up the process.
One big challenge is that we’ve become so interconnected and dependent on global supply chains that a little thing like a world-wide pandemic, a political spat between China and the US, or a war in Ukraine will break those chains just enough to destroy those savings that the technology provided.
The days of unlimited supply are over, at least for now. Being short the things you need for daily life may be difficult, and that might mean you’re going to have to make some adjustments.
So while it is important to think about the long-term, you have to survive the near-term first.
And be sure to add toilet paper to the list for the Costco run.