“Rob’s Investment Web Site, PassionSaving.com, Hasn’t Taken Off the Way He’d Hoped”

Liz Pulliam Weston has written an update to the profile of me she wrote for her MSN Money column several years back entitled Retired at 50: Where Are They Now?

Juicy Excerpt #1: The stock market crash didn’t affect Rob and Mary Bennett at all. That’s because Rob, who handles the family’s investments, got out of stocks entirely in the mid-1990s.

Juicy Excerpt #2: Rob’s investment Web site, Passionsaving.com, hasn’t taken off the way he’d hoped. That’s a problem, because the Bennetts had been counting on the extra income to help pay for the college educations of their two home-schooled sons, now 7 and 9.

Comments

  1. Evidence Based Investing says

    I thought this was an interesting quote.

    “I have to do something else at some point,” Bennett said. “But I have no intention of doing that today.”

  2. Rob says

    I’ve always been the most reluctant of investing “experts,” Evidence. I’ve come to enjoy writing about this topic more over the years. But there are lots of other topics that I would like to be exploring in more depth.

    I don’t see how any responsible person cannot today at least make an effort to open up the internet to honest posting given that this Buy-and-Hold junk has now put our entire economic and political system at risk of collapse. But it won’t break my heart when we get to the point where honest posting is not only tolerated but encouraged and when I can turn the reins over to some others.

    I don’t think there will ever be a lack of things to write about in the financial freedom area in my lifetime. And I expect that I will be able to return to investing with more enthusiasm after being away from it for a bit. Right now, I wouldn’t mind being able to move to some other topics for a bit. I don’t see that as a viable option today but I foresee a day when it will be a move that will make sense.

    We’ll see.

    Rob

  3. Liz Fan says

    It certainly seems that Liz and you were alluding to the need to change your plan in order for you to get more income because your current rate of consumption and expected outlays can’t adequately be met by your dwindling nest egg. Would you care to clear the air on that with some unambiguous and comprehensive discussion of your personal situation and what that part of the interview meant in your own mind?

    Thanks!

  4. Rob says

    One of the goals of the Campaign of Terror is to destroy my business, Liz Fan. I think it’s fair to say that that’s obvious to everyone. It’s also obvious to everyone that that is a very, very sick goal.

    It’s a tort to engage in efforts to destroy someone’s business. I have spoken to several lawyers about how to proceed with legal actions against those who have participated in the Campaign of Terror. I expect to continue to do so in days to come. Is that what you are asking?

    There is nothing that I can do to solve the problem except to urge all people concerned about our economic crisis to take steps to see that the Ban on Honest Posting is lifted. Once it is lifted, the problem goes away. No?

    When we are able to talk about the realities of stock investing, the economic crisis comes to an end. And Rob’s business does just fine with all the people coming to the boards and to the site to learn all they can about how to invest effectively.

    It’s no secret that I oppose the Ban on Honest Posting. I have been saying that for seven years now. It’s also no secret that the Greaney and Lindauer Goons favor it. Is there some aspect of this matter that is not clear to you?

    Rob

  5. Liz Fan says

    “It’s a tort to engage in efforts to destroy someone’s business. I have spoken to several lawyers about how to proceed with legal actions against those who have participated in the Campaign of Terror. I expect to continue to do so in days to come. Is that what you are asking?”

    No, that is not at all what I was asking. What I was asking was:

    “It certainly seems that Liz and you were alluding to the need to change your plan in order for you to get more income because your current rate of consumption and expected outlays can’t adequately be met by your dwindling nest egg. Would you care to clear the air on that with some unambiguous and comprehensive discussion of your personal situation and what that part of the interview meant in your own mind?”

    Oh, by the way, Rob, as a lawyer, you would be wise to remain mindful of the fact that threatening arrest or suit when no crime or actionable event has occurred is, in and of itself, a crime.

    In short: Don’t threaten people. In particular, you were, IMHO, particularly foolhardy to slander a specific individual by name and at length in one of your recent podcasts with false allegations of criminal conduct, and then to follow that with (as is becoming de rigeur for you) threats of legal action against them! I predict that the day you find yourself in court regarding your internet activities is a day that you will come to rue.

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/1111448
    http://www.virginialawreview.org/articles.php?article=111

  6. Rob says

    I predict that the day you find yourself in court regarding your internet activities is a day that you will come to rue.

    I am not able to bring myself to post dishonestly on safe withdrawal rates, Liz Fan. I recall when I was putting my plan together how concerned I was that I would make a mistake and thereby do damage to my family. So I am not able to bear the thought of engaging in deliberate deception re these matters in posts that I know are read by the many fine people who populate our boards. So that’s out.

    I think it would be fair to say that the Lindauer and Greaney Goons permit us no other option but legal action if we are to realize our goal of engaging in honest discussion of the realities of stock investing on the internet. Protecting our economic and political system from collapse is an important matter. So again that’s that.

    I recall the day when Greaney first threatened to have me banned from Motley Fool for the “crime” of posting honestly on safe withdrawal rates. I thought at the time that there was zero chance that such a thing could ever happen. It did happen. So I do not feel that I can say with 100 percent certainty that there will not come a day when you and the other Goons will be successful in these other things that you claim you will do in the event that I continue to post honestly on safe withdrawal rates and other important investment topics.

    Still, there’s precisely zero that I can do about it. If I were capable of posting dishonestly on safe withdrawal rates, I obviously would have done so a long, long. long time ago. I think it would be fair to say that the Post Archives show that I am 100 percent incapable of doing this thing you want me to do. It’s not going to happen. Not in this universe.

    If there is some lawsuit that you think you can bring on grounds that I have willfully and deliberately posted accurately about what the historical data says re SWRs, my thought is that you should move forward on this today. If you are eventually going to do it anyway, you would be saving a good number of people a bit of fuss and bother by acting promptly. But that is of course your choice.

    As for me, I intend to proceed with litigation at the opportune time. I care about our economic and political system and I think that it is essential that we get about the business of educating middle-class investors re the realities of stock investing. I also think that the Retire Early and Indexing boards in particular and the entire internet in general will never realize their full potential until all community members feel comfortable posting their honest and sincere beliefs and that a price needs to be exacted against the internet predators among us for this wonderful possibility to become a reality. I don’t like it that that is the way it is, and I of course see it is an insane reality, but I think it is more than fair to say at this point in the proceedings that that is indeed the way it is.

    I will proceed in the same spirit in which I have proceeded since the first day of our investing discussions some seven years back. I will aim to combine love with honesty. I will continue to insist on my right and the right of all others to post honestly on safe withdrawal rates and all other important investment topics. And I will continue to bend over backwards to understand the pain that is being experienced by those who bought into the Buy-and-Hold mythology in recent years. Understanding pain is one thing; posting dishonestly is another. That distinction is important to me.

    Like it or not, that’s my sincere take re this matter, Liz Fan. The short version is — I can do no more and I can do no less.

    Good luck with your investing strategies!

    Rob

  7. Liz Fan says

    “…there’s precisely zero that I can do about it…”

    Exactly.

    Despite your laughable bluff and bluster, you are in the end, a deluded and delusional blowhard, nothing more.

    For instance, those many boards you were banned from? Owned by others, exercising their free speech rights. What is your cause of action, counselor? Or the ‘community’ you supposedly started at MF. Wrong. Greany started the board, you admit as much in your diatribe. You own NOTHING that has been impeded in any way; in fact, this little corner of the internet we are on now belongs to you, to do with as you will. Yet, no one comes. You would have others believe that you are being muted. The reality is that the only interest you draw is in those with a penchant for the oddities on the internet. Death threats? Lessee, how have the local PD, state police, congressman, ACLU, EFF, FTC, and others you have contacted responded (yes, they’ve been unfailingly polite to you, Rob, but what have they DONE? Nothing, because their job is not encouraging crackpots! Don’t mistake indulgence for credibility.)

    don’t you see that extending your jihad against imaginary foes and imaginary wrongs just leads you furhter from being the father, spouse and breadwinner you could have and should have been? The reason your books don’t sell is not interference. It’s because they suck. The reason you get banned is not the power of your ideas. It is the powerful stench of your illness. At long last, you still don’t get it, do you? No one cares what or whether you post your wacky unsupportable theories that fly in the face of both convention and logic. If they had merit, someone would pick up the ball and run with it. Now that your sole bizarre backer has expired (RIP), it’s just you, Rob. Even the wife and brother and family wish you would get help, and they all dismiss your crackpot theories. Don’t they?

  8. Rob says

    No one cares what or whether you post your wacky unsupportable theories

    You care, Liz Fan. You care or you wouldn’t post.

    And the other Goons obviously care.

    And the thousands of community members who have expressed a desire that honest posting be permitted at the various Retire Early and Indexing boards obviously care (perhaps not enough to take on the Goons, but they care all the same– they shouldn’t be required to take on the Goons just to be able to post honestly on the discussion boards they built for that purpose).

    And the millions of middle-class investors who have lost large percentages of their life savings because of the reckless promotion of Buy-and-Hold for 28 years after the academic research showed that the chances of it working in the real world for the long-term investor are precisely zero — they care too. They don’t know yet about our discussions. But they care about the topics we have been talking about and they would certainly like to hear about our findings if only they could.

    And I care! That alone should be enough. I have cared enough to study these issues and I have cared enough to build numerous communities to share them with and I care enough to share them free of charge. That’s really all it should take. The fact that John Greaney got an important number wrong in a retirement study that he posted to his web site really shouldn’t matter. Why is that something that our boards or the Personal Finance Blogosphere should even need to be concerned with? If safe withdrawal rates don’t matter even a tiny bit, why doesn’t Greaney take his study down on grounds that No One Cares. Greaney obviously cares. Why? Why does he care so much?

    Lots of people care, Liz Fan. Lots of people have always cared. There wouldn’t be hundreds of thousands of posts in the Post Archives if no one cared. There wouldn’t have been so many board bannings and smear campaigns and death threats if no one cared. I wouldn’t have an article at this site in which 101 community members express a desire that honest posting be permitted if no one cared. There wouldn’t be 46 links on the left side of this page to people praising the work we have done together if no one cared. You wouldn’t have seen scores of people stepping forward to express their gratitude to John Walter Russell for the wonderful research he has done if no one cared.

    Lots and lots and lots of people care. Lots and lots and lots of people will always care. There’s nothing that can ever change that. Investing matters. That’s the bottom line.

    Our problem today is that we have more of the negative form of caring in evidence than we have of the positive form of caring in evidence. There is not one person on Planet Earth who will see anything bad come of learning how stock investing works in the real world. It’s not even possible for the rational human mind to imagine how there ever could be anyone who would see anything bad come from that. Yet we have a group of people who care intensely to block any learning of the realities of stock investing that took place from 1981 forward. That’s bad news, Liz Fan. That’s the dark side of human nature.

    The history train is not going to stop in its tracks because John Greaney made a mistake or because Mel Lindauer made a mistake or because John Bogle made a mistake or because whoever made a mistake. Greaney and Lindauer and Bogle and all the others are going to have to come to terms with that or the world is going to keep on turning without them. No one means any of these people any harm. But the middle-class of this country is not going to sit quietly and watch our economic and political system go over a cliff because John Greaney and Mel Lindauer and John Bogle got some things a bit mixed up in their understanding of how stock investing works however many years ago. That’s not a reasonable thing to demand of us.

    We all care. When we all get our heads on sufficiently straight that we are all caring about the right things, it will be sweetness and light and good fortune in every direction in which we turn. That’s when the real fireworks (the good kind!) begin!

    I very much look forward to that day, Liz Fan. My personal guess is that somewhere deep in your heart you do too. Please make an effort to get in touch with that feeling, the better side of human nature that also resides within you. Straighten up and fly right, my intensely abusive and intensely mixed-up and intensely caring friend!

    Rob

  9. Rob says

    At the Goon Central board, GW asked a question about finding a lawyer to take the case on a contingency basis and I responded:

    http://www.s152957355.onlinehome.us/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1259872692/0#9

    Juicy Excerpt: I certainly do not say that it has been easy finding a lawyer to take the case on a contingency basis. What I said in the comment I posted over at my blog is that I have done what I could. That’s the practice that I have been following since the first day. It would be irresponsible not to pursue a legal solution to our problems. But I don’t think it makes sense to put all our eggs in one basket. So I have been pursuing lots of other solutions too. For example, recording podcasts helps because that makes material available to people who are trying to learn why Buy-and-Hold always turns out to be such a disaster for anyone who gives in to its Get Rich Quick appeal.

    I do not control whether a lawyer takes the case or not. I control whether I place the calls to make it happen. I have placed a few calls already and my intent is to place more in days to come. As noted in the comment at my blog, I can do no more and I can do no less. My job is to get my part in this right. Others have to determine for themselves what they need to do to get their parts right. Any lawyers that I call are of course “others.” I am of course grateful for any help that they can offer. But I don’t view it as being on me if they elect not to take the case for any of a variety of reasons. If I place the call, I feel that I have met my responsibilities and at that point the thing to do is to let it go for a bit. At this moment, I am in a “let it go” phase re the legal actions. But I will pick up the ball again at a time when it appears to my eyes that that is the right thing to be spending some time working on.

    Rob

  10. Evidence Based Investing says

    Have the lawyers you contacted given you any feedback on why they are unwilling or unable to take the case?

  11. Rob says

    Yes.

    Several lawyers have said that there is a solid case on the merits and that they would take it if I were willing to pay them on an hourly basis. I am for obvious reasons not willing to do that. So the question is whether they are willing to take it on a contingency-fee basis (where the lawyers put in years of work that generate a payoff only if the case is ultimately successful).

    There are two big problems with taking the case on a contingency-fee basis.

    One is that there is not much precedent re internet defamation and internet threats of physical violence and organized campaigns to destroy internet businesses and this sort of thing. There are several cases working their way through the courts that will likely help in this regard. But as of today many lawyers feel that they are taking a financial risk to take on this case on a contingency-fee basis.

    The other problem is The Communications Decency Act. This Act has language suggesting that the owners of web sites and blogs cannot be held liable for criminal acts that take place at their sites or blogs. I don’t believe that the intent of this language was to protect sites that are permitting the tactics employed by Lindauer and Greaney and those who have posted in “defense” of them. But the language does cause concern for lawyers thinking about taking a case on a contingency basis.

    There was a fine article in Forbes making the case for legislation in this area. Lots of honest people make their living on the internet today or learn about the world around them on the internet. So we need to make the U.S. laws against threats of physical violence and against defamation and against the destruction of businesses applicable on the internet. This will happen. But it it is not possible to say when.

    I would like to see some good come of the Campaign of Terror against our board communities, which has of course destroyed so many lives during the first seven years of our investing discussions. I remember that John Walter Russell said one time that God finds a way to make good out of the worst situations and that He has a plan in mind re this one. Perhaps ours is going to be the case that will cause middle-class workers to get so fed about what has been done to their financial futures that they will insist on the changes to the law needed to make it safe for people of intelligence and integrity to participate in internet discussions on investing and lots of other important topics. That would be an exciting development indeed. I obviously want to do whatever I can to bring about that result.

    My sense is that many view internet discussions as a joke. The idea seems to be “Oh, everyone should know that you cannot trust anything you hear on the internet.” I think it would be fair to say that our discussions have shown the falsehood of that one loud and clear. We have had hundreds of community members describing ways to invest far more effective than what we have been hearing from 90 percent of the “experts” in this field for 30 years now (our best posters are obviously not compromised financially in the way that those in The Stock-Selling Industry are and are thus more free to post about realistic investment strategies). So internet discussions are not a joke at all. This is a powerful new communications medium. We need to open up the internet to honest posting by requiring the owners of sites and blogs to honor the promises they make to us when they are trying to persuade us to help build their communities (communities that provide them financial rewards in many cases).

    This is another win/win/win. I doubt that there is a single person alive who would answer “no” to the question “Do you believe that honest posting on safe withdrawal rates and other important investment topics should be permitted on the internet?” The reason why these question have not been resolved earlier is that few normal human beings are capable of imagining the level of hate and anger bottled up in the social misfits who spend years of their lives working to support Campaigns of Terror against board communities instead of to bring them to an end. Well, one thing we can say for sure today is that anyone who needs to see proof of just how dark human impulses can get when not restrained by the laws of a civilized people can now see it in the Post Archives of the various Retire Early and Indexing discussion boards!

    I hope we all will be working together in days to come to bring a quick end to the Campaign of Terror and to get about the important business of pulling our economic system out of the crisis caused by the reckless promotion of Buy-and-Hold for 28 years after the academic research showed that the chances of it ever working in the real world for the long-term investor are precisely zero. That’s when the real fireworks (the good kind!) begin!

    I hope we get to engage in some constructive and positive discussions of matters of substance after we make it to the other side of the Black Mountain, Evidence.

    Rob

  12. JCL says

    Rob,

    The other problem for any lawyer considering taking your case on a contingency basis is that the ban on honest posting, the death threats against you, the thousands of people you say support you exist only in your mind.

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