Investing in an insecure world

Your Money

August 27, 2006|By Andrew Leckey | Andrew Leckey,Tribune Media Services

Taking precautions for unexpected events that just might occur is a way of life for Americans.

As a child decades ago my classmates and I spent considerable time seated on the floor of our grade school receiving instruction from our teacher on the preferred positions to help us survive a nuclear attack by the Communists.

Already a veteran of such drills, I eventually joined the "head-tucked-under-while-bent-forward" hallway faction, rather than the "get-under-the-desk-pronto" classroom faction.

My assumption was that a hallway was inherently safer because that was where fire drills took place - even though I would be giving up the formidable protection of my desk's laminate top.

Now, as an adult and a frequent air traveler, I am considering powdering my hair much as our founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did. Those historic figures never had opportunity to try the sort of gels and shampoo that for security reasons are now banned in airplane carry-on luggage.

Here's the modern traveler's drill: Remove shoes in airport security, except when put through new "puffer" machines that shoot puffs of air to shake loose potential traces of explosive residue. Shoes remain on for them. Since last year you've been able to again bring aboard metal nail files and small scissors. Confiscating them had taken up too much security staff time.

The government's drill: The Transportation Security Administration installed secure cockpit doors, in addition to hiring and training luggage screeners in airports. It initiated explosives detection for checked luggage, but has not rolled out CT scanners for carry-on bags because equipment is so expensive.

Even though passengers continue to hang tough with air travel and accept the reality of checking baggage, the fact is that airlines and airports are having trouble coping with these new demands.

Despite the airline industry's return to profitability, it is hard to imagine this sector so battered by competition, bankruptcies, energy costs and labor unrest providing much sustenance to investors. You can only roll with so many punches, and investors should be wary. Airfares are escalating, with carriers recently raising their business fares, though some leisure fares have been reduced.

Most security by its nature is reactive. We reacted to the Communist threat decades ago. Now we're reacting to terrorists who would use explosives in shoes and sports drink bottles to bring down planes.

Here's the investor's precautionary drill for 2006:

Invest as you usually would and make logical decisions, realizing there has never been a time without fears and unwanted surprises. World wars and cold wars have come and gone. Although you must keep the unexpected in mind, never let it alone rule your decisions. Life goes on.

Andrew Leckey writes for Tribune Media Services.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.