Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to another blog entry at this site:
“If you don’t get the $500 million, what will your family do to get by?”
Live in a tiny house and forego vacations and the other stuff normal kids get.
“You’re on your own for college son, but Dad’s got big dreams for the future! BIG DREAMS!”
I wouldn’t include the sarcastic tone if I were the one saying it, Anonymous. But the THRUST of what you are communicating here is not too terribly off the mark.
I wrote my book on money management (Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work) prior to the onset of the 14-year Campaign of Terror against our board and blog communities. Yet I addressed this issue in an indirect way in Chapter 12 of that book. I’ve always thought that that was sort of weird. It is not an issue that most people would address in a book on money management. But something in my head told me that it should be addressed in my book and so I spoke to it.
The book explains how to make use of one’s savings not to finance an old-age retirement but to finance a shift to a more fulfilling type of employment, a job that pays less in the early days but that stands a good chance of paying more in the long term because it is more aligned to one’s personal strengths. The other chapters explore in depth the considerations that need to be addressed in putting together a plan for making such a career shift. Chapter 12 deals with some of the personal issues, such as the effect that following such a path might have on one’s family.
One downside of the shift that I made (the book wasn’t only about my plan but I obviously used my thinking about the development of my own plan to guide my thinking on the general concept) is that you can never know for certain whether a plan is going to work financially. You can take care of hundreds of details and it could still fail in the flesh-and-blood world. You might assume that stocks will continue to generate returns of 6.5 percent real but the currency might be destabilized and there might be a time when the money we all have invested in stocks becomes worthless. What then? There is no plan that covers all eventualities.
I said in that chapter that the right thing to do is to do one’s absolute best to cover all eventualities — I believe that a husband and father has a responsibility to do that (not in all families, many are set up differently today, but this is how ours was set up through mutual agreement of my wife and me — her responsibility was to homeschool our children). So I fully accepted my responsibility to provide financially for four human beings but I also recognized that there was a tiny possibility that despite my extensive planning efforts things might fall through on the financial side.
That’s what has happened, at least for a time. I left my corporate job on August 1, 2000, and in the 16 years since I have brought in not one penny. So the plan did not work in one very important sense. I have an asset (this web site) worth many millions and I believe with something close to 100 percent confidence that I will be able following the next price crash to cash that asset in for many millions of dollars and thereby to provide financially for many generations of Bennetts. But the brutally clear reality of the day is that I have generated not one penny of financial support for my family in 16 years and this is my responsibility according to all involved.
What to do, what to do?
What I say in Chapter 12 is that, when this sort of thing happens, you have to accept that it is God’s will. I don’t refer to God. But I think the word is implicit in what I do say. I essentially say that we cannot plan for every eventuality, that we have a responsibility to plan for everything that we can anticipate but that it is beyond the power of humans to plan for every eventuality and that at some point you just have to accept that a good plan may not work out for reasons 100 percent beyond the control of the person who developed the plan and you just have to accept that as God’s will.
I believe that God loves us. So, when I say that something is God’s will, I am by implication saying that it is a good thing. I BELIEVE THAT IT WAS THE PLAN OF A LOVING GOD THAT I NOT EARN ONE PENNY IN 16 YEARS FROM THE AMAZINGLY GOOD AND IMPORTANT WORK THAT I HAVE DONE DURING THAT TIME. It drives me freakin’ nuts. I have some questions that I intend to put to this kind and loving God the next time I catch up with him. But this is what I believe.
It is sometimes impossible for us poor deluded humans to understand what God is up to, He does some things that to our minds do not seem good and loving AT ALL. But we just have to accept that there are things that we cannot understand and let it go. That’s the way it is. We can rage at God if we like. But it won’t change things for the better and it probably will change things for the worse for us to do so. We have to accept Gods’s will for us and try to let it go. So says Rob Bennett. I say it and so it must be so. (That’s a joke.)
This takes us back to the story of Abraham and Issac. I said out loud when I told that story to my boys that “Your dad would never do that.” I couldn’t tell the story without adding those words because I felt that it would be dishonest of me not to add that caveat. But the full and funny reality is that I have done something not so terribly different from what Abraham did. I didn’t put a literal stake through the hearts of my boys. But I have damaged their chances of getting a good start in life by making choices that have limited the amount of money that my wife and I can use to help get them started.
We are of course going to do all that we possibly can and that probably will be enough in the eyes of most people. But I will always know in my head that we might have done more if I had not been so darn stubborn as to stand up to you Goons and insist on my right (and the right of thousands of others) to post honesty on what the last 35 years of peer-reviewed research says re safe withdrawal rates and scores of other critically important investment-related topics.
I’ll give one example of how it works according to my assessment.
I mentioned in an earlier comment how my mother had to leave school in eight grade because her family needed her to work in a factory to help put food on the table. My mother loved school and she was greatly ashamed that she never finished eight grade. When she would go on dates, boys would ask her where she went to school. When she had to say that she worked in a factory, it pained her. She never got over this. She still talked about having to leave school in eighth grade when she was in her early 90s and preparing to die.
This changed my life in about 20 different ways. I went to college. Most of the kids who grew up in my neighborhood did not. Then I went to law school. That was rare for kids in my neighborhood. Then I took on all these various jobs as a result of going to college and law school. These things happened in my life because my mother had to leave school in eight grade and because she never forgot that pain and because she drilled into me and my brothers the importance of school because of that experience. We didn’t know why she was so crazy re the subject. I know now. It is clear to me now that I am older. When she was checking my homework every night and I knew that none of my friends were having their homework checked, I just figured that she was a nutcase and a big pain in the ass.
That was God’s plan. In my assessment. I could be wrong. But that’s what I truly believe.
God wanted Rob Bennett to go to law school. This was part of his grand plan. To make it happen, he had to take my mother out of school in eight grade. It caused her great pain. She lived through that pain while being influenced by it and thereby she played a role in seeing that God’s plan was fulfilled here on Planet Earth. My hope is that some of the sins that she surely committed during her time down here in the Valley of Tears will be overlooked because she was willing to submit to God’s will and play a role in seeing it fulfilled in the way in which it was fulfilled when I applied to and was accepted into law school.
So it is with my boys.
I never in a million years would have planned to be in the financial circumstances that I am in today as a result of my unwillingness to lie about the numbers that my friends use to plan their retirements. It’s not my plan. But it is God’s plan. I had a duty to create my own plan. Had I failed to do that, I would have sinned, in my assessment. But I had a plan, a good plan. My plan assumed that the laws of the United States would be promptly enforced when you Goons violated them with your death threats and your threats to get academic researchers fired from their jobs and with all the other garbage that you have thrown at the wall. I did good re the part of this that is my responsibility. Then I let it go. I have accepted God’s will for me and for my family re the part that God does not intend for me to control.
My boys could learn something from this that will cause them to do great things in some future day just as I ended up going to law school because of my mother’s pain when she was a girl. I don’t know what those great things will be. It would probably be foolish for me to speculate too much. My brain is not big enough for me to grasp God’s plan in detail. I just believe that there is one. If I stop believing that, I am not sure that I would be able to pull myself out of bed tomorrow morning. If I stop believing that, everything that happens in this world is random and without purpose and I cannot bear the pain that I often see playing out before my eyes.
Take it or leave it, that’s this boy’s story.
I have caused my wife pain. I have caused my boys pain. I hate the idea. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Just as much as Abraham hated driving a stake through his boy’s heart. But Abraham did what he felt he was required to do and I am in the process of doing what I believe that I am required to do and that’s that. Right or wrong (one never knows for absolute certain), I am just going to have to watch the thing play out to the end. I do not have it in me to play it any other way.
This is why people become alcoholics, you know? We never know. And sometimes the pain of not knowing becomes so great that we have to do something to dull that pain and drinking can do that for a time. So people make this crazy decision to become alcoholics. I have not become an alcoholic. But I was eating too many chocolate-chip cookies for a time an now I have a diabetes condition to deal with. So I am no better than all the alcoholics. The cookie thing is now under control and I continue on with life. But there’s been pain.
If that’s what you Goons want to hear, well here is the announcement. You Goons have caused the family of Old Farmer Hocus great pain. Good for you, you know? Heaven help us all.
But God is bigger than even Mel Lindauer and John Greaney and Jack Bogle and all the members of all their various Goon Squads all put together. That’s what I sincerely believe. God will take this to someplace good over time. I just have to exercise enough patience to watch it all play out. I am forbidden from ever letting hate enter my own heart. That’s a no-no. If I go there, I become a Goon myself and then all the “it will all work out for the best” stuff gets cancelled.
So that one is a big deal. But so long as I don’t make the fatal mistake of giving in to feelings of hate that I might be tempted to feel towards you Goons, all is cool. God will take care of me. I might end up destitute. That is within the realm of possibility. But even after I am officially declared destitute, it will all work out somehow. If not in this life, in the next. I am not in control. The Big Guy is in control. He calls the shots, I just carry out his orders for me to the best of my ability.
That’s it. That’s the deal. FOR ME. You are free to say that I need to take my meds. That’s on you. But what I have written here is my testimony. I will let me wife know about it. She may read it if she pleases (or she may elect not to read it if she pleases). I will let my boys know about it. I will let me priest know about it. The Big Guy already knows. I don’t need to read it to him. I might do so just because it’s something to talk about with him and I need to make an effort to stay in touch more frequently. But I think he knew all this before you posted your question. I am just one of the Big Guy’s many stenographers.
I hope this all makes at least a tiny bit of sense to you, my old friend.
I naturally wish you all the best that this life has to offer a person.