I reported yesterday on my recent e-mail to a blogger friend about how the Personal Finance Blogosphere can bring the economic crisis to an end by opening up the internet to honest posting on safe withdrawal rates and many other critically important investment-related topics. Set forth below are the words of the response of my blogger friend, followed by the words of my reply:
Here’s my dilemma with this. In my universe, the afflictions and narrow minded focus of the investment crowd isn’t a cause, but merely a symptom of something much larger and not entirely idenfied or identifiable. Excessive valuations are a symptom of a world that’s drunk on an absence of reason, and detached from any sense of real value. That’s much bigger than buy-and-hold. It will not be possible to remedy the distortions in the financial markets without addressing other, more fundamental imbalances. Time and space don’t permit me to get into my speculations on what’s behind it all, but I think it affects everything in the world.
There’s no way to address my big picture concerns without looking alarmist and way out there.
Does that make any sense?
It does make sense.
I don’t dismiss what you are saying. I acknowledge that you may be right.
But take it to the next step in the logic chain. If you are right, why bothering writing anything about personal finance? We are doomed. People should stop saving altogether and have a big party in the last days before the ship goes down. Saving for retirement is stupid in a world about to go down.
My problem with this reasoning is that things have appeared to be very bad numerous times in the past and yet we pulled through. Things looked really bad during the Civil War but we have had lots of good times and have accomplished lots of important things in all the years since. So I start with the premise (however shaky) that we are going to pull through again and then direct my efforts to making things as good as they can be IF we happen to pull through.
If you are right, the smart thing is to get one’s soul prepared for The Big Test. I try to do that too because I acknowledge that there is evidence pointing in the direction of showing that you are right. I compartmentalize the two parts of my life. I pray because I think you may be right. I try to pull us out of the economic crisis on the thinking that we may all survive to fight another day and, if we do, we are going to need some sound investing advice on the other side.
The praying part is the important part. If you’ve got that one right (it certainly appears that you do), you’ve got the big one right. Please pray for me that I don’t get so caught up in this other, much smaller, thing as to mess up on the big thing.