Column Date 2005-12-14

Here a psychic, there a psychic...

I took a walk in New York City the other day, and wherever I turned there was yet another sign for a psychic. Psychics are flowering in America, even in New York’s obscenely high-priced neighborhoods. Clearly, it’s a growth business – an expanding and important sector of the American economy.

(Note: absolutely no prejudice is intended here. Whatever compliments I pay to psychics could easily apply to tarot card readers, perusers of tea leaves, palmistry practitioners, readers of chicken entrails, astrologers, seance moderators, channelers and whatever you call people who do whatever they do with i ching and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.)

It’s no secret that psychics do quite well in good times and bad. When times are good, more people can afford them. (“I’m in love with two guys – one from Bear, Stearns and one from Goldman, Sachs. Which one do you think...?”) When times are tough, more people think they need them. (“If my job gets outsourced, should I learn to speak Hindi?”) And I hear, from friends of mine who use their services, that your American Express Platinum card is welcome.

This raises an obvious question: how come nobody encourages their children to choose this lucrative career path? Sad to say, American parents are still stuck in the same old-fashioned “success” groove. They all want their kids to grow up to be doctors, lawyers, or CEOs.

It’s time for a reality check, dear parents. I’m sure you mean well, but do you really want your kid to be a doctor?

These days, doctors spend more time arguing with insurance companies than seeing patients. And the pressure from drug companies and their pushy salespeople has got to make doctoring a high-stress, unhealthy occupation.

A lawyer? Not a smart long-term career if you want to see your spouse on a regular basis. Or your kids, if you have time to have any. Eighty or ninety-hour weeks are not uncommon.

A CEO? Well, yes, you make good money for a few years, but it’s all downhill after that. All those miscellaneous expenses (divorce attorneys, dividing your assets with your ex, income lost while doing prison time, etc.) can really diminish your quality of life.

By any measure, becoming a psychic ought to be the hot, new career choice for young people. After all, psychics have been around for thousands of years. The pay is good. You work for yourself. You set your own hours. And it’s usually a cash business.

One thing more. Being a psychic is 100% American and fully in accordance with the secrecy provisions of the Patriot Act. How do I know?

Well, the last sign I saw in New York said the following: “Psychic will tell your future. No questions asked.”

Investment note: As psychics become big business, I suspect that someday you’ll see a public stock offering from a Psychic Corporation. Buy their stock quickly. Think about it this way: if the psychics don’t forsee that the stock is going to rise quickly, why would they offer it in the first place?

©2005 Peter Tannen