Exposure

For the last year, the buzzword on Wall Street has been exposure. As in, “Big Investment Bank is exposed to subprime” or whatever financial instrument is failing at the moment. When companies realize how exposed they are to this or that, they make huge write-downs — reassessments of their profits and net worth, often tallying in the billions.

Investment is about risk. Even buying a new refrigerator, as I recently did, is an investment. I had put off making this investment, because buying a new appliance these days exposes one to all kinds of things like shoddy workmanship, bad installation, and poor customer service. I’m pretty cautious, and would make a very risk-adverse investor. Nevertheless, I took a chance, and it looks like I got bit in the butt for my modest risk-taking…

Now that a serious financial crisis (the one Paterson was afraid of) has hit the Big Apple, resulting in projected job losses, real estate devaluations and decreased tax revenues, maybe it’s time for people elsewhere in the Empire State to start thinking like investors would about hitching their entire portfolio to one financial star. Because sometimes stars fall.

Maybe it’s too late for this round. Maybe we’ve been living like jerks, and we’re in for decades of serious hurt. But maybe it will take something of this magnitude to wake Upstaters up about how they need to diversify their portfolio and fight harder to make better investments in their own future. Investments and risk-taking of all kinds (entrepreneurial, social, political) — not dependency. Isn’t now the time to start re-thinking the old arrangements?