by Neil Cavuto
Your Money, But Not Your Whole Life
One of the issues I wrestle with every day in my profession is money versus life. What does money matter if you’re sick, or even worse, dead? What does all the wealth in the world matter if you have no one with whom to share it? One of my biggest challenges in doing my job is figuring out how to handle the show on those days when something horrible has happened before my hour. It could be a plane crash, terrorist act, a kidnapping — you name it.
Suddenly, in those moments, a show that talks about money seems to matter less, and the potential for appearing callous and indifferent bothers me more. That’s why I argue to my bosses at Fox that mine is the toughest job at Fox — keeping loyal news viewers loyal to a business product as well. It’s a tough juggling act, but I try to keep it simple. For me, it’s not about the money, Stupid. It’s about life, Stupid. Everything’s intertwined. Everything’s connected: Our lives. Our money. Our . . . everything.
That’s why I always remind my staff that we should never forget the value of life, first, and doing something with it, second. It’s why I like to put things in perspective. I’ve never hidden the fact that I’ve dealt with illness in my life — first cancer, now multiple sclerosis. I’m no stranger to the ravages of illness; many in my family succumbed years ahead of their time.
Sadly, such things have shaped me and made me — as a man and as a journalist. They’re why I can be such a sentimental moosh. I am moved easily. I cry even more easily. Such are not the qualities you’d expect in a tough, seasoned journalist, but I argue to the contrary. They have helped make me a better journalist, more willing to think outside the box — perhaps because I know that, in the end, we’ll all end up in a box.
That sounds strange, I know, and I don’t mean to come off as grim or glum—just as a guy who sees life as a fleeting, wonderful opportunity, to be savored and enjoyed. But most important, to be put in perspective. It’s why some in my business have called me the antibusiness reporter. They’re partly right. I’m not just about numbers and figures. I’m not married to earnings and acronyms. I am married to life and to everyday lessons — things that don’t change like profit reports but from which we can all profit immensely.
Nowhere and at no time in my career have these two issues — money and life — collided as they did on September 11, 2001. The sheer enormity of the disaster defined generations and seared our conscience in a way that few events ever had. Ostensibly my job as a business reporter was to give the financial take on this disaster. Clearly, the site of the New York attack—but a stone’s throw from the center of capitalism itself—was no accident. The World Trade Center embodied that capitalism; indeed, it housed many of its most prominent players.
But I couldn’t look at this as just a financial event. I had interviewed too many of the very people who died that day, some of whom had been on my show just days earlier. No, this was more than simply a loss of financial capital. This was an enormous loss of human capital. I wanted that to be the story, and my message was to tell that story, again and again—the cruelty of it, the barbarity of it, the senselessness of it. I was sure then we would recover from that tragic day, but I wanted to remind all that this was about good and evil that day.
Some say it’s not a business journalist’s job to blather on about such issues. I disagreed then. I disagree now. After all, from my days back at CNBC more than a decade ago, I had no problem putting my emotion into my work then. I have had no problem putting my heart into the stories, particularly tragic stories like 9/11, since. One could argue that anchors must be passive, even emotionless, observers. By that definition, I guess I do not measure up. But in covering this story, from its sad first moments, to the legions of funerals and eulogies and tragic anniversaries that would follow, I’d cover it somewhat differently — not as a television anchor, but as something more: a human being.
After the Terror — Searching, Hoping
September 18, 2001
Finally, this hour, a small perspective on a huge event. A few little things that may help make sense of this big national pain.
So many of you have shared so many wonderful stories that speak volumes on the American spirit. Like Sally Anne Novak from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, who tells me of taking her mom out to lunch just to, as she says, “Get away from the television for a while.” She mentioned the two policemen eating lunch behind her at the restaurant, and the stranger who quietly picked up their bill.
There’s the trader on Wall Street who attached a picture of his buddy, feared dead, on his lapel. “I’m here for him,” he says, “even though I’m not really here at all.”
And those kids with the lemonade stand, raising hundreds of dollars for the relief effort, nickels and dimes and quarters at a time.
And the grade school students in New York who decided to draw flags and hand them out because there were no real flags to be found.
I know. Small stuff. But, I think, big stuff. Important stuff.
More important than stocks or money or investments or price earnings or EBIDTA, or any of that stuff.
A lot of my usual business guests talked about that stuff. A lot of them are gone.
Like David Alger of Alger Management, as warm and funny as he was prescient and just plain smart. A guy who once said of this market, “Neil, it’s like life. Better things come along.”
Or Bill Meehan of Cantor Fitzgerald, always offering me health advice with a smile and a wink, and one time inquiring about my favorite chocolate snack, “What exactly are Yodels?”
And the many others I talked to, listened to, and learned from. It’s as if they were just here. Then, like that, they were not. One of life’s cruel little twists that leaves a big, gaping void. And me, still wondering what it all means.
I have no idea.
9/11 and My Dad
September 24, 2001
I’ll never forget one of the saddest days of my life. It was my father’s funeral.
A lot of important people were there — the heads of a lot of companies, including his own, and some politicians.
They impressed me, both by coming and by saying so many nice things about my dad. But I’ll never forget the other folks who came. Truck drivers and restaurant owners who knew my dad well, and just wanted to pay their respects.
Some literally came right from work, hardly dressed for a wake or funeral, but hardly caring. Certainly I didn’t.
They were the salt of the earth, the most decent folks you’d ever want to meet. Some gathered to say nice words. Others to say nothing at all. They said they’d set up a memorial. And they did. They meant what they said, they said what they meant. Little guys who stand for big things.
Just like little investors who we’re now told did in fact buy stocks last week, while those big important guys sat on their hands. The folks at market research firm Biryini Associates confirming what I already knew . . . that small trades under ten thousand shares were positive last week right after the attacks. Trades over ten thousand shares were negative — actually, very negative.
Let me say that again: Small investors were buying. Big investors were selling.
Small investors bought what they could. Big investors sold pretty much anything they could.
Both aimed to show their patriotism.
I’m not saying it’s un-American to sell. But it is un-American to say you won’t, and then you do.
Some big guys did that.
No small guy that I know of even considered that.
Proof that the little guy has a big heart and doesn’t make light of something called . . . his word.
Forgive, but Don’t Forget
October 15, 2001
What I’m about to say sounds like financial heresy. But here goes.
A lot of companies are going to come up with a lot of excuses for a lot of lousy sales and earnings numbers these next few weeks. I say we cut ’em slack. And let ’em.
I know more than a few of them are going to use the September 11 “event,” as they’re calling it, as a reason for all these troubles. Some are justified. Some are not.
I just don’t think at this time we question them. Not now. If some of those companies want to throw in the baby with the bath water, so be it. They can’t do it forever, so let’s let them do it now. Here’s why.
There’ll be plenty of time to scrutinize and attack. Now is not that time.
There’ll be plenty of time to truly hold management accountable. Now is not that time.
There’ll be plenty of time to see if all these layoffs were justified. Now is not that time.
So I say, give ’em a pass on this quarter. A lot of us do the same for our kids. Some are acting a bit strangely — maybe not doing as well at school, maybe more frustrated at home.
A lot is going on in their little lives. Who are we to play the heavy in their lives when they’re dealing with all this heavy stuff ?
So I want to treat companies just like we do our kids, with a bit more leeway and a lot more understanding.
I’d much rather hold them accountable for what they can do now, than for what they didn’t do then.
Like our kids, they might be making excuses.
But like our kids, for now I’m gonna let ’em.
The foregoing is excerpted from "Your Money or Your Life" by Neil Cavuto. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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