I Hope You Suffer

Sometimes I say things in the heat of the moment just to have something to say and, then later, when I read the words back, they make sense! It sometimes really does happen that way. It makes me wonder if there really is a God or something.

Some Goon was sticking his elbows out at me in comments he put to a recent blog entry and I went into my usual riff about how all you need is love and love is the answer and what the world needs now is love, sweet love, blah, blah, blah, blee, blee. blee. Then, for reasons unknown to us mere mortals, the Holy Spirit elected to inspire me to talk about the connection between love and suffering. That balanced the gooey, sticky sweet part and made the riff sound more balanced and real and right.

It’s all about love. It’s all about suffering. Both things are so.

Suffering leads to love. Love leads to suffering.

Hey! I didn’t make the rules. I just report on these unfortunate investing realities as I happen to discover them.

If you keep your heart open to love, you are going to suffer. Anyone who tells you different is not your true friend. Like Otis, I’m a love man. But Otis also wrote “Mr. Pitiful.” Otis knows the score and Otis tells the truth. You need to listen to more than one song if you hope to get anywhere in this world.

I noted in that blog entry that the boards are gradually opening up to the idea of permitting honest posting. My dream! So I should be happy, right?

Well, yeah. Except that this opening up process is the result of lots of people losing a large percentage of their life savings. Which means that financial freedom dreams are being crushed. I am in the business of helping people make their financial freedom dreams come true. So I think it would be fair to say that this little detail is a discouraging note in an otherwise happy song.

Sorry about that.

It’s the way life goes on down here in the Valley of Tears. You get to love through suffering. There is no other way.

When I gave the title “Passion Saving” to my first book, I looked up the word “passion” in the dictionary. One of the definitions was “long suffering.” I thought that was funny. I suppose that the reference is to the passion of Jesus. But then why do they call the crucifixion the “passion” anyway? What’s up with that?

All passion comes from suffering. Romeo and Juliet felt a deep passion because their love was denied. If Juliet’s father had said “that Romeo fellow seems like a nice enough boy, perhaps we can find a place for him in the family business,” she would not have felt things so strongly. Love denied grows. A passionate moment is a moment when something that has long been denied to you is given to you.

We’re suffering now because of the lies we told in the 1990s. I wish that everyone would stop with all the nonsense rationalizations and just say things as we all on a deep level know they are. All the blah-blah has its place. But the first thing that is needed is for us to acknowledge that it is our own lies that caused the problem. We need to grow up. We need to stop making up stories that pull our attention away from The Real Story.

The pain is God’s way of forcing us to do that. He doesn’t set things up this way because He wants to crush us. Bear markets are not God’s vengeance. They are God’s way of showing His love for us. He is saying that He expects better of us, that he knows that we are capable of better.

We are a better people than we pretended to be in the late 1990s. We all should be wishing for a bear market so that we can regain the good qualities that we abandoned during that most unfortunate time. We are capable of honesty. We are capable of compassion. We are capable of intelligence. We are capable of courage.

It is by suffering that we regain the good traits that we temporarily set aside. It is by suffering that we learn again how to love.

And you thought that losing the money you hoped to retire on was a bad thing!

Today’s Passion: The article entitled Learning From Your Mistakes — I Never Should Have Bought That Leo Sayer Album explores the suffering involved in trying to find common ground with a girl who likes disco.

Comments

  1. Schroeder says

    “Except that this opening up process is the result of lots of people losing a large percentage of their life savings. Which means that financial freedom dreams are being crushed.”

    I can’t speak for people I don’t know. So I don’t know whether lots of people lost the majority of their life savings. Most likely, the only people who lost the majority of their life savings either sold out near the bottom of the 2000-2002 bear market or had most of their savings in dotcoms and tech during bubble and crash. Not good.

    However, some of us haven’t been hurt that badly. For example, the Dow reached an all-time high last year at 14,000. It’s down around 10% at 12,500. Maybe that’s too severe for some people to suffer through.

    Schroeder

  2. Rob says

    Thanks for joining in with your thoughts, Schroeder.

    I remember reading the stories of some of the people whose lives were all but destroyed in the Tech Crash. That was serious stuff. There were real live people who had saved money for decades and then it was all gone at a time when they were a few years from the time when they hoped to retire. That’s not a joke. That’s serious pain.

    Have the “experts” learned anything from that?

    It was the Passive Investing idea (the idea that an investor need not adjust his stock allocation when prices get out of hand) that caused the Tech Crash. Had those investors been warned on a regular basis that there has never in the history of the market been a time when prices got to runaway levels that those heaviliy in invested in stocks did not come to pay a huge price, lots of those people could have been helped. Why were the “experts” not saying that and saying it strong and saying it hard and saying it freqeuntly?

    Now it’s the S&P500, a far broader index, that is on its way down. Is there a reason why we should not use the lessons learned in the earlier crash to help people trying to cope with this one? There are lots of middle-class people getting nervous about the fact that the Super-Safe asset classes (TIPS, IBonds, and CDs) have been beating stocks for 10 years running now. That’s not supposed to happen in a world where it’s always Stocks for the Long Run. Did someone get something wrong? Did someone mislead us?

    A whole lot of someones got something wrong. Prices matter. When stocks get to the prices that apply today, the typical price drop is 67 percent. People invested in stocks need to know that. If people want to take a gamble regardless of what the historical data says, they of course should be free to do so. But people should be permitted to hear the realities. Free speech should apply in discussions of stock investing to the same extent it applies in the discussion of all other topics, in my view.

    Here’s a link to an article in which 101 of our fellow community members ask that honest posting on the effect of valuations on long-term returns be permitted at Motley Fool, at the Early Retirement Forum, and at the Morningstar boards:

    http://www.passionsaving.com/investing-discussion-boards.html

    I think those people have rights. I think those people should be permitted to have the discussions they have expressed a desire to have at the boards they created to have just such discussions. Those people’s retirements are at stake. I care about those people.

    That’s where I am coming from re all this. I get the sense that some people see this as some sort of inellectual battle. They cannot win the intellectual battle on the merits, so they ban honest posting and feel that they way they can make it appear as if they had “won.” I see this as a matter of the heart as much or perhaps even more than a matter of the mind. When people are getting hurt, we should do what we can to take steps to help them. Lots and lots of people are getting hurt in very serious ways. People should work up the courage to take some steps before things get even worse.

    We are going to have to address these matters either before the price crash takes place or after it takes place. It seems to me that it makes a whole big bunch more sense to do so before it takes place. I see all upside and postiively no down side.

    Those are my sincere thoughts re all this.

    Rob

  3. Jack says

    This site consists of oddball appeals to fear and greed. Unfortunately, its days are numbered. As soon as 2001/2002 drop off of the 10 year annualized return list, no one is going to be interested in the song and dance happening at this website.

  4. okrahoma says

    Sort of strange ideas here.

    First, I’m surprised that you’d have a website named “Passion Savings” and not know the etymology of “passion”. The word comes from the Latin “passus”, the passive tense of “pati”, to suffer. The word “passion” originally was coined in the second century AD to describe Christ’s suffering. All the other definitions of the word evolved from that. Sorry for the diatribe, but I got a good Catholic education as a kid.

    “All passion comes from suffering.” It’s unfortunate if that’s what you’ve experienced, but it’s sure not my experience. If you really feel that way, I suggest that you try to expand your emotional support base. You really don’t have to suffer to feel passion.

    “We’re suffering now because of the lies we told in the 1990s.” You might be suffering, but I’m sure not. I’ve been invested in stocks long before the 1990′s and broadly diversified with a balanced portfolio and passively managed index funds. Sure, there was froth in the mix in the late 1990′s and I took a loss in the tech wreck, but things have pretty much bounced back.

    “Now it’s the S&P500, a far broader index, that is on its way down.” Looked at the S&P500 lately? It’s recovering from our current recession.

    “The pain is God’s way of forcing us to do that.” Goodness! God is now held responsible for your investment problems and the Dow Jones? Again, perhaps it is my Catholic education, but I do believe in free will.

  5. Rob says

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Jack.

    Since I am always the one going on about the historical data, I don’t think it would hurt for me to cite some data makng the case that the sorts of developments you are talking about might indeed come to pass.

    The Stock-Return Predictor tells us that there is a 20 percent chance that stocks will provide an annualized 10-year return of better than 4.55 percent real. Yowsa! If that happens, I am so totally cooked!

    In all seriousness, it could happen. The data reveals probabilities, not certainties. Do enough runs on the Scenario Surfer and you will come to appreciate that it is possible for a bubble to be followed by a super-bubble. It’s not the most likely scenario. But it would be a big mistake to rule out the possibility when making your stock allocation decisions, in my assessment.

    Rob

  6. Rob says

    Sorry for the diatribe, but I got a good Catholic education as a kid.

    They tried with me too, Okrahoma. I somehow got the idea in my head that it was my job to make it a challenge.

    As Jimmy Buffett nearly said:

    Some people claim that it’s the nuns who are to blame
    But I know — it’s my own darned fault!

    Rob

  7. says

    Rob,

    I know exactly where you are coming from. I would not say that I am where you are…yet…but I am getting there. In my recent blog post about my family and their reason for passion savings, I detailed job loss after job loss. One particular year God brought me so low, I had no choice but to listen to what He was telling me. He told me to be thankful for what He gave us, He told me to stop complaining about such petty things, He also provided for us when the “math” just didn’t work out on paper. When I began to listen, He started to uplift us from that low spot.

    I remember one day in particular laying in my car (as an escape from work during lunch) trying to get myself together because I was under the impression I would have to work Memorial Day weekend after working several weekends before. The weight on my body was so heavy. Something inside said to get up, and go back to work. As difficult as it was, I did. When I returned I found an e-mail from my boss telling the customer that we would not be working Memorial Day weekend. A little over a month later I found my current job.

    I would not change that year of suffering for anything. It really helped me prioritize what was important and what was not. At my current job people complain about such silly, useless things. Why do people associate God putting challenges in front of them to suffer as a bad thing? God was not testing me, God was not punishing me, God put me in a place He knew that I would finally listen from – that place was to suffer.

    Thank you.

  8. Rob says

    It’s an honor to have you join in the conversation here, Frugalicious. For those who do not know, Frugalicious is the author of the Texas Money Talk blog, which is a fine blog, Here’s a link:

    http://www.texasmoneytalk.blogspot.com/

    I would not say that I am where you are…yet…but I am getting there.

    To the contrary. The words of your post suggest that you are at a place that I can only pray to someday be able to visit, Frugalicious. I talk a good game. But talk is cheap, you know?

    One particular year God brought me so low, I had no choice but to listen to what He was telling me.

    I have seen things work this way both in my own life and the lives of others.

    He told me to stop complaining about such petty things,

    These are words of deep wisdom. We all have troubles. And we all have blessings. Our biggest real problem is that there is some sort of machinary within us that causes us to zero in on the troubles and take the blessings for granted. Figure out how to make that machinary work a bit more properly, and you’ve got a big part of the life project figured out. Those who learn how to do this are the true lifetime successes, in my assessment.

    I would not change that year of suffering for anything.

    I know precisely what you are saying. There’s a part of my mind that rejects the possibility that anyone could ever truly be grateful for suffering. There’s another part of my mind that knows that I should be grateful myself for some of the suffering I have been asked to endure at earlier times of my life. You are telling us the true story here, Frugalicious. This is the stuff that they are not always able to find room enough to fit into the newspapers.

    Every word that appears at this site is the product of a time of great suffering for me. I lost a job that I loved deeply during the recession of the early 1990s. That experience caused me to spend a lot of time thinking about the role that money played in my life and got me on the track that caused all the learning experiences that followed.

    I remember thinking at the time “If I can ever find some good in this job loss, what a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful world this would be.” Today, it’s easy for me to do that.

    The other side of the story, of course, is that today I face new struggles, new kinds of pain. We never get entirely over to the other side so long as we are walking the Valley of Tears. We are always being given new opportunities to apply the lessons we learned in earlier trials.

    What a joy it was to read your post, Frugalicious! I tried to write that particular blog entry true and your response tells me that I really did pull it off in at least this one case. Your post gave me a nice lift.

    I am going to say a special prayer tonight that God sends more terrible challenges into your path soon and thereby brings you to even higher levels of loving.

    That’s a joke! I am going to pray only that your most important dreams of today come true. I’ll leave it to The Big Guy as to the precise details of how He makes all that good stuff happen.

    Rob

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