BigJon@Work wrote:11 trillion is a silly number. Much of it never existed, other than through manipulation and chicanery with the books. If it can be blown away by the failure of a few large banks, it wasn’t wealth to begin with.
I've made that point before. Nonetheless, many believe that the figure on their 401(k) statement to be a true and accurate representation of the value of the stocks they hold.
Let us say that I hold 10,000 shares in the XYZ Corporation, which has been rising steadily. I tell my broker to sell it if the value reaches $100/share, thus making me a millionaire. The stock reaches $100, and the broker offers my shares for sale.
However, he is only able to unload 1,000 shares at the top price. The sudden availbility of 10,000 shares on the market has shifted the supply/demand balance, and the price began to fall immediately. He is able to sell another 1,000 at $95, and 2,000 at $90, before demand falls. The price drops all the way to $75 dollars, before he finds a buyer for 5,000 shares, and finally unloads the remainder at $70. Thus, my million-dollar stock holdings were only worth $820,000, because that is the actual amount that I was able to unload them for.
Anyone who has ever owned any collectibles knows this. Just because 'the book' says your beer stein is worth $1,000, until someone actually gives you that much for it, it's just a figure on a piece of paper. You should ensure it for that, no doubt, but the selling price is the final value, not 'the book'.