I sold my stocks (the psychic said I should)
From Monday's Globe and Mail
December 1, 2008 at 4:14 AM EST
It was late October, the markets were more than a little shaky and Ray Pambrun was pondering his financial future. How should he invest? Which way would the market turn? Should he wait to buy a house?
While most Canadians were dialling up their financial advisers, Mr. Pambrun did what more and more disillusioned investors are doing: He consulted his psychic.
Her advice? Get out of the stock market; it's only going to get worse.
"Sure enough, in November, day after day was just more losses, more bankruptcies, more banks failing, more bailout money," he says.
It’s a bad time for bankers and many businesses, but a great time for psychics, hypnotists and astrologers. (PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY FERNANDO)
His psychic's instruction stood in stark contrast to the "buy, buy, buy" advice economists and financial advisers had been doling out. So after meditating, consulting his deck of tarot cards and talking to his clairvoyant last month, the 30-year-old engineer from Kenora, Ont., sold many of his stocks and remains in the black.
While businesses around the world suffer and shrink in the current financial downturn, psychics, hypnotists and astrologers are basking in the good times. Many say they've seen significant boosts in the past few months, and are seeing greater demand from investors who no longer trust the suit-and-tie financial advisers who told them to buy stocks that eventually tanked.
Toronto clairvoyant Deborah Levin says she's had twice the volume of inquiries she did this time last year. Her new clients are overwhelmingly interested in their financial futures, she says.
"A lot of the new clients I'm getting were maybe at one time total skeptics, but they're at a loss, they've tried everything," she says.
The bulk of her clients used to be younger than 35, but now an older demographic has begun to clog her phone lines.
"I'm seeing a lot of professionals, people in the banking industry, a lot of small-business people, a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of long-term employees, people who've been fired and laid off," she says. "I'm seeing a significant amount of people in their 50s, people who were getting ready for retirement [and lost money]. It's tough, it's such a shame."
Clients she hadn't heard from in ages have come knocking with their financial woes - a reminder of the recession in the early 1990s when she was also up to her ears in requests.
It's not uncommon for people to flock to psychics and become more superstitious when a crisis hits, says John Mowen, a marketing professor at Oklahoma State University.
"When the housing crash [in the United States] first started, you saw all sorts of behaviour related to 'How do I get my house sold?' Homeowners were burying statues of St. Joseph upside down in their yard in order to sell their house," he said. "With superstition, you're using some magical force to make something happen."
People who self-educate and stick to a plan often do best during tough points in the economy, he says. "But if you're going to start using paranormal people who argue they have some sort of means for influencing events or predicting events, [you] are going to be whipsawed - in the market, out of the market and often the timing is exactly wrong."
While the image of a business professional ducking into a psychic's lair may elicit some giggles, it's no big surprise to Gad Saad, an associate professor of marketing at Concordia University.
"In an environment of economic uncertainty ... people are willing to try anything. I would argue that financial advisers are really not too much different from psychics," he says.
The demand for corporate hypnotherapy sessions has risen 20 per cent for Jeff Oatman, a corporate consultant in London, Ont.
Last year he was doing more entertainment and parties; now he's walking into boardrooms of clients who are searching for another way to build teamwork and morale.
While many businesses around her have seen a drop, Kelly Oswald, founder of the West Coast School of Mystic Arts Center for Enlightened Living in Whistler, B.C., says it's business as usual. Her team of more than 20 spiritual "facilitators" has seen a steady increase in clients since the centre opened.
"We're more than managing. I would say that we haven't seen a decline and we've been in the business since 1999. It's grown every year, it's grown steadily," she says.
What's more, she's seeing more men seeking answers from the other side.
"We have an 80-per-cent female, 20-per-cent male [clientele]. I would say it's definitely shifted to maybe even 70-30 within the past year. It's increased significantly."
Ms. Levin, the Toronto psychic, says she's not turning a gratuitous profit from advising the financially frazzled. Predicting the economic downturn, she cut prices in early 2008 for returning clients, who now pay $100 a session instead of the regular $125.
Mr. Pambrun says his psychic also predicted the financial crisis this time last year.
While his buddies with commerce degrees continued buying into the stock market - just as the economists instructed - and suffered losses up to 50 or 60 per cent, Mr. Pambrun says he is in a good position.
And if his buddies - and every other investor in the stock market for that matter - were to tap into "something bigger," maybe they wouldn't have lost so much cash, he says.
"If I told other investors, they'd probably think I was a quack. [But] no analyst is going to convince me right now to buy this or buy that. The ones that were saying that a month ago when they thought the bottom was in? They're washed out again."