Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for another blog entry at this site:
Which means that you are the most important person in the history of personal finance. Of course, you’re too modest to say so yourself. But what else could justify your many years of pain, abuse and deprivation?
Can’t decide though which of these is correct:
a) Rob Bennett is as important as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
b) Rob Bennett is MORE important than Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and gosh darn it, anyone else who ever lived.
I am very proud of the work that I have done, Anonymous. Yes, I have played the lead role in getting the most important advance in the history of personal finance written up on the front page of the New York Times. Telling investors how to reduce stock investing risk by 70 while doing away with economic crises is a very big deal and my name is all over the story.
But this has very much been a community effort. Shiller obviously had to put his neck on the line 35 years ago, no? I couldn’t have gotten to first base without John Walter Russell having been willing to devote eight years of his life to developing these ideas without his getting paid a penny. In every area other than valuations, I just borrow Bogle’s ideas and incorporate them into the Valuation-Informed Indexing model. I gained great popularity at Motley Fool and then used the supporters I had there to help in the fight against you Goons and I wouldn’t have had those supporters had the Garner brothers not built Motley Fool into a pretty darn cool operation in the early days of the internet.
Chapter Two of Bill Bernstein’s book told me that I was right about all this stuff back in the days when you Goons were trying to convince me that the entire issue was that I was forgetting to take my meds. The bloggers that I met at the FinCon events who told me how much they loved my stuff and how much they wished that they had the courage to do what I was doing and how much they wished that I kept on keeping on obviously played a role in helping us all get to the other side of The Big Black Mountain.
How can I even describe how important a role Wade Pfau played? Can you imagine a boy who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia who didn’t even major in Economics co-authoring the most important peer-reviewed research published in his lifetime? What are the odds of that happening? Would I have even believed it had happened after it happened if I didn’t have hundreds of e-mails in my possession in which a fellow with a Ph.D. in economics was giving positive feedback on my explorations of every issue and telling me how my work had changed his life and was going to in days ahead change the lives of millions?
Bill Schultheis played a role. I knew that it was impossible that he was biased against Buy-and-Hold because he is the world’s #1 advocate. That he would be so excited to learn about the advances that I achieved gave me objective feedback of an exceedingly positive nature. How could I possibly have done this without Jacob over at Value Walk? The guy has been there for me to publish over 300 columns exploring the first true research-based model from every possible angle and thereby to learn and learn and learn things that I never would have learned just sitting around thinking about this stuff and not having to meet a weekly deadline to come up with a new column.
Greaney helped me with my Retire Early plan by posting the stuff at his web site on saving. I couldn’t have done this if I had had to work at a corporate job all those years. So he helped. And, ironically as all get out, his SWR study helped too. It was his SWR study that got me excited about his site because I had been thinking that it was important to know the SWR before handing in a resignation from a corporate job and his saying it told me that I was on the right track and that this Retire Early stuff wasn’t as impossible as some people made it out to be.
How about Carl Richards? When he sent me that e-mail telling me that he thought that my work was of “huge value” but that he was banning me from his site because having his readers learn about the last 35 years of peer-reviewed research in this field wasn’t good for business confirmed my suspicions as to what is really behind the Buy-and-Hold phenomenon.
Freakin’ Rob Arnott! Arnott is the guy who gave me the guts to say half of the things that I have said over the past 15 years. Like one community member said, I used to be a “puppy dog poster.” Arnott showed brass balls in the columns he wrote for the Financial Analysts Journal. I used to marvel at his stuff and wonder if I could ever work up the courage to tell it like it is instead of always watering down my insights to make them more acceptable to the people trying to turn a quick buck pushing a very different approach than the one suggested by the past 35 years of peer-reviewed research. How do you think it felt to have Rob come to my web site and tell me that everything that I have been saying for years now is spot on in his assessment? It was like being declared the winner of the World Freakin’ Series, it was like becoming the Chase Utley of InvestoWorld. Is there room for Rob Arnott to get some credit here?
You Goons have helped. I put up a post just yesterday noting how you recently pointed me to two articles that have generated five or six columns. Does that not constitute an assist? You hate me with a burning hate. But somewhere deep in your hearts you want to know how stock investing works and you can’t resist bringing up matters of substance every now and again and helping me and yourselves and millions of your fellow middle-class investors by doing so.
And on and on and on and on, you know? It was millions of us who caused our economic and political crisis and it is going to be millions of us who are going to show the path forward to something a lot better. President Obama said once that “You didn’t build that,” a community did, and, while I agree with my conservative friends that it is possible to exaggerate that insight, I also agree with my liberal friends that there is an important insight being advanced there. I didn’t build Valuation-Informed Indexing by myself. It wouldn’t be what it is today without my efforts. But it wouldn’t be what it is today without the efforts of thousands of others too. Who is to say which of us played the essential role?
And why does it matter anyway? We are living in the years when the biggest advance in the history of personal advance in history is being achieved. I think it makes sense to focus on the amazing good that is being accomplished here and perhaps not worry so much about who gets the credit. I think it would be fair to say that there is plenty of credit to go around. How about saying that the invention of the internet brought this about or that the laws of the United States brought this about (thanks, whoever came up with the idea of making financial fraud a felony!) or how about thanking my long-suffering wife or perhaps the Sisters of Saint Joseph who insisted that I learn how to diagram those darn sentences when there were a few things that I personally believed might be a better use of my time?
We all deserve lots of credit just for getting up each morning and making our way through this Valley of Tears with smiles on our faces. That’s my take, Anonymous. I am not worried about getting enough credit. I have the funny feeling that I will probably at the end of the day end up getting about five times the amount of credit that I deserve. It has been my experience that that’s the way things often play out in this big old goofy world of ours. John Prine once wrote:
I was sittin’ in the bathtub just countin’ my toes
When the radiator broke, water all froze
I was stuck in the ice without any clothes
Naked as the eyes of a clown
I was cryin’ ice cubes, hopin’ I’d croak
When the sun came through the window, the ice all broke
I stood up and laughed, I thought it was a joke
That’s the way that the world goes ’round
Now Dylan suggested in All Along the Watchtower that it is a mistake to conclude that it is all a big joke but I don’t know, Prine makes a pretty darn case in the words quoted above. I am going to hold off on advancing a final statement re this important matter. But I will say that it does at least appear at times to be a big joke. Sometimes the ball just bounces in funny ways and the trick is keeping your head and not getting too rattled just because there are millions of people watching to see if you can get the ball into the infield in two seconds or less.
My sincere take.
Take good care, man.