Saturday, September 11, 2021

Prophets of Prosperity


If you were uncertain where the economy is heading and what to do with your investments, Barron’s has settled that for you.  Reporter Carleton English, writing last week under the headline “Nothing Can Take the Stock Market Off Its Record Run”, cited several recent incidents of bad news (U.S. landfall of a category 4 hurricane, dismal August jobs report, COVID hospitalizations rising) and pointed out that the markets shook them off with barely a pause and barreled on to record highs.  He goes on to project the run to continue into the foreseeable future.

So “nothing” can rattle the stock market now?   He’s got some chutzpah.  The crazy thing about economic recessions is that they come from unexpected directions.  Did anyone see the oil embargo coming in the 1970’s?  Did anyone foresee the “dot com” bust in 2000-2001?  How about the sub-prime lending crisis that led to the Great Recession in 2008?  Or the pandemic in 2020?  Actually, there were voices in the wilderness warning about all those things before they happened, but it’s not until they actually occur that everyone else sits up and pays attention.  But by then, the majority of people has lost a lot of money in the stock market. 

And that’s when Congress and regulators step in.  They institute safeguards against poor lending practices.  They start pouring crude oil into the strategic reserve.  They beef up spending on research and development for vaccines and vaccine technology.  As someone has said, we are great at fixing the cause for the last recession, but it usually does little or no good in preventing the next one.  Yet it’s precisely because of the prophets of prosperity like Mr. English that we become overconfident and set ourselves up for the next downturn.  Irrational exuberance, I think it has been called.

But there ARE other voices.  I’ve believed for a while now that the markets are overheated and primed for a big drop.   A well-known economist has parked the majority of his money in cash equivalents.  I’ve done the same.  I’ve definitely missed out on some growth of my nest egg over the last year, but not altogether.  I’ve got some money aggressively invested and it has paid off.  But I don’t want everything at risk.  My thinking is much like a teacher I read about a couple of years ago.  She had invested well and built a modestly sizable retirement account over the years.  When she retired, instead of keeping her money in the stock market where she worried about it constantly, she figured she had enough to live on for the rest of her life and put it into insured bank accounts (savings, CD’s, etc.).  I wouldn’t go that far, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to others because inflation can eat away the value of that account or she may unexpectedly outlive the balance in her accounts.  But I can understand her reasoning.

So use common sense.  Don’t believe all the hype about the markets going ever upward.  The experts don’t know everything.  As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Until next time,


“For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”  I Thessalonians 5:2,3 32 NIV*

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973,   1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission.  All rights reserved worldwide.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

One Hundred Days


This is the one-hundredth posting to my blog, and not coincidentally I’m writing it on the one-hundredth day of my retirement.

Since we measure U.S. presidents by the accomplishments of their first one hundred days in office, I thought it fair to assess myself by the same standard.  What have I accomplished in all that time now that an employer isn’t taking 8+ hours of each day, Monday through Friday, not to mention a hefty portion of my emotional energy?

And right away you capture a glimpse of how I’ve been treating retirement: I measure it in “accomplishments”.  Is that fair?  Should retirement be the final goal, the crowning achievement, the culmination of all you’ve done previously, so now you can relax and do as you please since there is nothing left to accomplish?

Just from the way I phrased that question I think you can guess my answer. 

Perhaps I’ve not read the right journals or online magazines, but it seems that for every 40 or 50 articles about how to save and prepare financially for retirement, there’s only one addressing the emotional aspects of retirement; how to replace the fulfillment achieved at work (assuming you felt fulfilled!); how to maintain friendships outside the work world; how not to fall victim to gray divorce, i.e. divorce after age 55 which is happening to more and more people as they struggle to cope with the post-work world, perhaps complicated by spending more time with their spouse than they ever have before.  While financial preparation for retirement is crucial, money does not equal happiness.  Money does help to facilitate experiences and provide for our basic comfort, and those do offer a measure of happiness.  But money without relationships and life purpose will not be worth much.

The single best retirement advice I read was “You should retire TO something and not FROM something.”  In other words, there needs to be a new purpose, a new organizing principle to the retiree’s life (if it wasn’t there already).  As beings in God’s image, we should be growing and learning and serving constantly.  Think back to your last big vacation.  Didn’t you find that the anticipation was as exciting or even more so than the vacation itself?  If we treat retirement as “the end”, think that there’s nothing more to accomplish or learn, we will stagnate and even die before our time.

That is not to say you do not deserve some leisure time, some relaxation.  You earned it.  But your purpose might be discovered and fulfilled in volunteering, giving, helping neighbors, church work, even hobbies.  There are as many paths to fulfillment as there are retirees.  We were made that way.

Until next time,


“Here and now, my dear friends, we are God’s children.  We don’t know what we shall become in the future.  We only know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!”   I John 3:2 (Phillips)