This article, by Justin Baiocchi, was originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 5 May 2017.
I had a car accident over the weekend. Nothing too serious fortunately and most importantly nobody was injured. It wasn’t your typical car crash really – no high-speed manoeuvres or screeching brakes. I was in a car park looking for a park. Ahead of me a very large 4×4 started backing out of its park, so I stopped to let it finish and move off. To my alarm, it turned toward me and began to accelerate. I mumbled something under my breath along the lines of ‘surely they can see me’, but it continued to pick up speed and back towards me. At the last moment, I tried to both put the car into reverse and lean on the hooter, failing to do either very effectively. With that the 4×4 crashed into the front of my car, almost landing on the front bonnet. To say I was a little surprised that the driver hadn’t seen me was an understatement. You can imagine my surprise however, when it turned out that there was no driver! The details are a little unclear, but it seems that the car may have been left in neutral without the handbrake on, allowing it roll out of its park and pick up speed as it hurtled down the hill.
In some way, it was fortuitous that my car was there to stop the runaway 4×4. There were quite a few pedestrians about, including small children, who would not have even heard the 2 tonnes of metal rolling down the hill, so placing my car in the way could be seen as an act of self-sacrifice. That’s what I told my car anyway, as it was towed away to an uncertain fate. Being involved in a car crash (albeit a minor one), got me to thinking about stock market crashes. There are some similarities: both result in damage, either financial or physical; both are usually accompanied by lots of confusion and noise; and both can be emotionally unsettling (that said, on an individual level, a bad car crash is much worse – money is just money, but life can’t be replaced). The other commonality between the two is that both stock market and car crashes are unpredictable. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t happen. After a stock market crash, a raft of pundits will come out and say they saw it coming, but that’s often either simply untrue or wishful thinking. Nobody rings a bell (or sounds a hooter) at the top of the market. Preparing your finances to survive a crash is one thing, avoiding it altogether is another.