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Dow Record: 3 tales of ups, downs and changes

Wednesday - 3/6/2013, 12:06am  ET

In this Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, photo, Vanessa Loder, Founder and CEO of Akoya, LLC, poses at Fort Mason with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background in San Francisco. Loder is a former trader who left the stock market because of the recession. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

SCOTT MAYEROWITZ
AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- When the Dow first crossed 14,000, investors were overjoyed. When it closed at an all-time high of 14,253.77 on Tuesday, it wasn't so much a time for celebration as it was for reflection.

It's been a long five and a half years.

The ups and downs of the market touched us all in some manner. Jobs were lost. Retirements were delayed. Even those who came out mostly unscathed were still reaching for Alka-Seltzer during the many turbulent days.

Through it all, the stock market has slowly climbed back. And many of us have been left with a much more pragmatic view of the economy.

To mark the new record, The Associated Press asked three people to reflect on the fluctuations in the Dow Jones industrial average and how it shaped their own experiences. Here are their stories:

FROM WALL STREET TO LIFE COACH

Vanessa Loder is the ultimate type-A person, the kind who's often attracted to Wall Street. A self-described perfectionist. An overachiever who graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Columbia University while playing Division I varsity soccer.

"I thought it wasn't good enough to be smart or athletic, I needed to be both."

After college, there were jobs at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. By age 24, Loder was making $250,000 a year.

Loder then headed to Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she was co-president of the ski club. After graduating, she took a job with a San Francisco private equity firm.

It was the spring of 2007 and the stock market was on fire. Her hours were consumed with deal after deal.

The Dow just kept climbing. In April, it crossed 13,000. By July, it had passed 14,000.

One of the firm's partners came out of his office and announced the milestone. Many workers had their own investments.

"We were cheering. Everybody was in a good mood," Loder recalls. "And then within a few months, it all came to a halt."

Debt markets dried up. Few companies wanted to do mergers or acquisitions. Those that did couldn't get a loan to finance the deal.

"We were literally twiddling our thumbs in '08 and '09," Loder says.

Boredom set in, and Loder questioned why she was drawn to Wall Street in the first place.

I was totally unhappy and I couldn't understand why," she says. "I just felt lost. I felt like something was missing from my life."

So she quit.

Soul-searching took Loder about as far from finance as possible. She learned hypnosis and techniques to get subjects to conjure memories believed to be from past lives. She spent 10 days doing a silent meditation retreat.

"All this crazy stuff out there, it actually works," she says. "I was kind of shocked."

Today, at 35, Loder runs her own business helping women in finance and Silicon Valley who are unfulfilled by their careers. The company, Akoya Power, runs group coaching programs, corporate workshops and luxury retreats, which can cost up to $12,000 a person.

"If the Dow kept hitting a new high each month, I would have been so busy with deals that I would haven't had time or perspective," Loder says. "I'm so grateful that the economy slowed down the way it did. That triggered my boredom, which made me realize how unhappy I was."

THE CALM ADVISOR

Derek Kennedy spent the recession repeating the same message: stay the course.

The Tennessee financial adviser didn't have clients wake him in the middle of the night worried about their retirement. Instead, he offered plenty of proactive messages telling them to stick to their investment plan.

He'd start each phone call with a joke to break the tension.

"Just checking in," he'd say. "Have you been glued to CNBC? Are you chewing ice cubes?"

The he'd follow up with a somewhat reassuring point: when designing a retirement plan, they had planned for this. Well, not this exact meltdown, but something similar. While stocks were plunging, other parts of the portfolio -- most notably Treasury notes -- were showing a nice return and helping to lessen the overall loss.

"Stay cool. Times of market volatility are times of opportunity for well-constructed, well diversified and properly allocated investment portfolios," he told clients in an email March 15, 2011.

Two year before that, he had a similar message: stay the course.

Sound familiar?

"There really is no reasonable alternative than to remain patient," he wrote in 2009. "It is often hard not to be seduced into playing musical chairs with Wall Street, out of a desire to take at least some kind of action. Just remember, people are losing their chairs every day in these volatile markets."

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