A Rich Life http://arichlife.passionsaving.com The Old Ideas on Saving & Investing Don't Work -- Here's What Does Thu, 20 Jul 2017 14:05:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 2004-2008 rob@passionsaving.com (A Rich Life) rob@passionsaving.com (A Rich Life) 1440 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/wp-content/plugins/podpress/images/powered_by_podpress.jpg A Rich Life http://arichlife.passionsaving.com 144 144 The Old Ideas on Saving & Investing Don't Work -- Here's What Does A Rich Life A Rich Life rob@passionsaving.com no no “It Certainly Is True That the Market Has Always Gone Up and Down. But the Downs Cause Us Bigger Problems Today Because Millions of Middle-Class People Need to Finance Their Own Retirements and the Downs Throw All Their Numbers Wildly Off When It Is Too Late in Their Lives For Them to Make Up for the Losses. So the Huge Losses That Have Been Typical in the Market in the Past Are No Longer Acceptable.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/20/it-certainly-is-true-that-the-market-has-always-gone-up-and-down-but-what-the-downs-cause-us-bigger-problems-today-because-millions-of-middle-class-people-need-to-finance-their-own-retirements-and/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/20/it-certainly-is-true-that-the-market-has-always-gone-up-and-down-but-what-the-downs-cause-us-bigger-problems-today-because-millions-of-middle-class-people-need-to-finance-their-own-retirements-and/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 11:17:53 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13395 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for another blog entry at this site:

“Nobody here has ever missed a meal”

That’s great, but frankly it’s not saying much. Even homeless people get regular meals. The real question is whether your family truly agrees with your course of action. I don’t recall you saying that they do, or that you ever even asked.

I’ve certainly asked. There have been lots of conversations about it. And I have written here about my wife’s feelings about the matter on more than one occasion.

My wife accepts that my work has great importance. She knows that I am honest. She knows about the things that John Walter Russell and Wade Pfau and Rob Arnott and hundreds of others have said about my work. And she knows what an internet Goon is. So she gets the basic picture and we are in agreement that far.

The fact that money has not been coming in for 15 years scares her. I think it would be fair to say that we do not see eye to eye re that one.

I see her reaction as being similar to the reactions of lots of others. Wade Pfau’s reaction is similar in many respects. He gets it that the Buy-and-Hold retirement studies are dangerous; they do not tell the people planning retirements what they need to know. Wade has said that on many occasions. He even wrote to the authors of the Trinity study asking that they correct their study. So Wade gets it.

But then again he doesn’t. Wade is no longer contacting the authors of Buy-and-Hold retirement studies seeking corrections. He is not even asking that the Bogleheads Forum be opened to honest posting. He is not seeking to get the research paper that he co-authored with me written up on the front page of the New York Times. So — Wade DOESN’T get it.

He gets it and he doesn’t get it. At the same time! The same person! That’s where we are today, Anonymous.

That’s my wife. She gets it and she doesn’t get it. At the same time. The same person. That’s where we are as a people.

I spoke with an acquaintance of mine about these general issues a week or two ago. He has every reason to take my side and he certainly did not want to endorse the behavior of you Goons. At one point, I mentioned something you Goons did and his face had a look of intense distaste. So he is not biased against me, he is if anything biased for me. But his conclusion was: “The stock market goes up and the stock market goes down — it always has!”

That’s what you might call a philosophical attitude. Does this fellow get it? Or does he not get it?

It is my view that he does NOT get it. It certainly is true that the market has always gone up and down. But what he is missing is that the downs cause us bigger problems today because millions of middle-class people need to finance their own retirements and the downs throw all their numbers wildly off when it is too late in their lives to make up for the losses. So the huge losses that have been typical in the market in the past are no longer acceptable.

Fortunately, Shiller’s research shows us how to avoid both the ups and the downs. But we cannot talk about Shiller’s research because the Buy-and-Holders didn’t know about it when they developed their strategy (he hadn’t published it yet!) and it makes them feel bad to acknowledge not always having known everything there is to know about the subject. So each day we drift closer to the edge of the waterfalls and all of us who see what is happening keep it to ourselves if we know what is good for us.

This guy thinks he gets it. And he is a smart fellow and a nice fellow and an unbiased fellow. Yet he does not get an important part of the story. He intellectually is capable of getting it. But emotionally he cannot accept what has happened. It is an incredible story. What I am saying is that most of the biggest-name experts in the field — good and smart people — are giving dangerous advice and aren’t even aware that they are doing it. This fellow tunes this out and just retreats to his philosophical stance — the market goes up and down, it always has and it always will.

That’s what I am up against. That’s a different version of my wife’s take. She knows me. So she knows that there is merit to much of what I am saying. But there are elements to this story that are hard to swallow. There’s a thing called “cognitive dissonance.” When a story is too hard for the humans to swallow, this cognitive dissonance thing kicks in.

I believe that the next price crash is going to bring the cognitive dissonance to an end. It is one thing to read peer-reviewed research showing that the continued promotion of Buy-and-Hold is going to put us in the Second Great Depression. It is something else to see with your own eyes the human misery that that entails. I believe that the next price crash will shock the cognitive dissonance away. I don’t have much choice. If I didn’t believe that, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning.

Maybe I will be proven wrong. I am not God. I have gotten things wrong before. I cannot say with certainty that it is not in the process of happening again.

But what would you have me do? Every piece of evidence that we have seen for 15 years now has supported the peer-reviewed research of the last 36 years. Shiller says that investing is a highly emotional activity and the Buy-and-Holders have let their emotions run wild to the point of threatening to get academic researchers fired from their jobs if they continue to produce honest research. I have developed a funny feeling over the years that this Shiller fellow might be on to something. And you don’t need to have an I.Q. of 140 to see that, if this Shiller fellow is on to something, continued promotion of Buy-and-Hold is going to leave us all in a very, very, very scary place.

So I do what I have to do, Anonymous. You make it sound like a father’s ONLY responsibility is to bring in the bucks. That’s one important responsibility and I have honored it well for 25 years of marriage now. But that is not my only responsibility. If I wake up in the middle of the night and see that the house is on fire, I have a responsibility to bring my family members to safety. I cannot just lay in bed and tell myself “Hey! I bring in a steady paycheck! Let someone else handle the darn fire problem!”

Our economic system is on fire. Things have reached a point where the fire is beginning to spread to our political system. I have responsibilities in that regard too. So I am doing what I can. We have to find a means to work around you Goons and get honest and accurate reports of what the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research tells us about how stock investing works to the millions of middle-class investors who very much want it and need it. That’s my job. I have been elected to carry out the task. So I intend to carry it out to completion.

That’s the deal, Anonymous. I talk to my wife about it frequently. We are not in complete agreement. That makes it harder to do the job. But the job must be done successfully all the same. The survival of our economic and political systems is no small thing. SOMEONE sure has to do this job? Do you see anyone else stepping up to the plate? No, me neither. That’s why I am leading the charge.

I hope that works for you.


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“The Wall Street Con Men Never Meant to Cause an Economic Crisis When They Came Up with Buy-and-Hold. They Thought They Were Doing a Good Thing. They Never Imagined in Their Worst Nightmares That They Were Creating a Monster and That Some Day Things Would Get So Horribly Out of Hand.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/19/the-wall-street-con-men-never-meant-to-cause-an-economic-crisis-when-they-came-up-with-buy-and-hold-they-thought-they-were-doing-a-good-thing-they-never-imagined-in-their-worst-nightmares-that-the/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/19/the-wall-street-con-men-never-meant-to-cause-an-economic-crisis-when-they-came-up-with-buy-and-hold-they-thought-they-were-doing-a-good-thing-they-never-imagined-in-their-worst-nightmares-that-the/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 11:11:46 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13393 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for another blog entry at this site:

“That’s not a decision that I made lightly. In Chapter 12 of my book (Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work), I examine the possibility that worse could come to worse and that I would not be able to provide for my family. I say that, in those unlikely circumstances, one has to conclude that that was what was meant (by God or by Evolution or by The Fates or by whatever you believe in — I believe in God) to be and that my wife and my children have to learn whatever lesson they were meant to learn from the experience.”

What lesson did your wife and children learn from all of this?

We don’t know yet, Anonymous. We’re still living through it.

The point is that things happen in this life for a purpose. That’s a core belief of mine. John Walter Russell said a long, long time ago (perhaps in 2003) that (I am paraphrasing): “I believe that this is going to work out better than anyone could possibly imagine.” That had the ring of truth for me at the time he said it and there have been scores and scores of things that have happened in the days since that have confirmed for me that we are in the process of seeing some amazing, positive, life-affirming developments here. As I often put it, the good that we have seen here has been 50 times more good than the bad that we have seen here has been bad.

What makes life hard is that you don’t get to see the conclusion of the process while you are working your way through it. You have to have faith in your fellow man that, if you do what is right, there will be a payoff at the end. I believe that. I love my country. I love the internet. I love Bogle’s idea of using the peer-reviewed research as guidance on how to invest. My confidence in those things is going to pay off in the long run. The great things about our economic and legal system are going to pay off big time for all of us. The invention of the internet is going to pay off big time for all of us. The peer-reviewed research is going to pay off big time for all of us.

I believe that strongly. But you never know precisely how it is going to happen. That’s the drama. That’s the scary part. That’s what makes faith hard. That what makes life hard.

And we cannot force God (or Evolution or whatever) to play it the way we want Him to play it. My mother once told me that maybe Valuation-Informed Indexing might catch on after I die. That one also had the ring of truth to my ears! Maybe I watched too many episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” when I was a kid and I am just drawn to trick endings. But I could see something like that happening. It could turn out that Valuation-Informed Indexing really is the future and that in time it becomes dominant over Buy-and-Hold but that all this would only happen after I were no longer around. I would hate that! But it could happen. I don’t rule out something like that.

That could benefit my boys. They will be around after I am gone. It could be that that they will see it all play out in a positive way after I am gone and then realize for themselves the importance of being determined and perhaps make some change in their own lives as a result that will pay off in a big way for them or their children. I don’t know the specifics. We don’t get to know the specifics. But of course I wouldn’t know the specifics of staying at the corporate job either. Some people would describe that path as “safer.” But no one can ever say for sure. You might choose the safe path and then end up becoming an alcoholic because the work you do is so meaningless — Oops!

I have done the right thing for my country and for my fellow community members and for my profession and for my family and for myself and for my parents (who did so much to prepare me to do something like this) and for my friends (from whom I have learned things that made it possible for me to pull this off) and from the authors of my favorite books and for the writers of the songs that aided my determination and for the academic researchers who long for the day when they can do honest work again. I don’t have any doubt about any of that.

I have done the right thing for the Wall Street Con Men. The Wall Street Con Men never meant to cause an economic crisis when they came up with Buy-and-Hold. They thought they were doing a good thing. They never imagined in their worst nightmares that they were creating a monster and that some day things would get so horribly out of hand. I have done the right thing for you Goons. You cannot bear to acknowledge it. But I believe that 100 percent. I treat you like humans. I don’t make rationalizations for not standing up to you (I once did, but I have not done this since the morning of May 13, 2002). I show you respect when I treat you like humans. That’s charity. Failing to speak up is cowardice, not kindness. I am 100 percent sure re that one.

I cannot tell you what lessons my wife and children will learn from this. I can tell you that I know that I have done the right thing and that I BELIEVE that doing the right thing pays off in the long run. I have lived a blessed life in just about every other respect. Perhaps I have had it too good and God wanted me to experience some suffering to prepare my soul in some way for other things that I will be seeing in future days and perhaps the same is true for my wife and my children. I do not know. I believe that there is a purpose in life and I believe that abandoning all that you believe in because some Goon on the internet is embarrassed for people to know that he got an important number wrong in a retirement study posted at his web site is not the way to go. Not for anyone. Not even for that Goon.

That’s where I am coming from in any event, Anonymous.

I naturally wish you all the best that this life has to offer a person.


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“I Wouldn’t Have Been Able to Develop the Retire Early Board into the Most Successful Discussion Board at the Motley Fool Site Had I Stayed at My Corporate Job. I Wouldn’t Have Been Able to Write ‘Passion Saving.’ I Never Would Have Been Put in Circumstances in Which I Had to Work Up the Courage to Stand Up to Greaney. I Never Would Have Met John Walter Russell or Wade Pfau or Rob Arnott or Any of the Others. I Never Would Have Developed the Five Calculators at This Site or Have Written the Hundreds of Columns or Have Recorded the Hundreds of RobCasts.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/18/i-wouldnt-have-been-able-to-develop-the-retire-early-board-into-the-most-successful-discussion-board-at-the-motley-fool-site-had-i-stayed-at-my-corporate-job-i-wouldnt-have-been-a/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/18/i-wouldnt-have-been-able-to-develop-the-retire-early-board-into-the-most-successful-discussion-board-at-the-motley-fool-site-had-i-stayed-at-my-corporate-job-i-wouldnt-have-been-a/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 11:41:01 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13389 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for another blog entry at this site:

Do you regret quitting your job?

I do not, Anonymous.

That’s not a decision that I made lightly. In Chapter 12 of my book (Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work), I examine the possibility that worse could come to worse and that I would not be able to provide for my family. I say that, in those unlikely circumstances, one has to conclude that that was what was meant (by God or by Evolution or by The Fates or by whatever you believe in — I believe in God) to be and that my wife and my children have to learn whatever lesson they were meant to learn from the experience.

Tolkien was an orphan. He could have given up on life when he lost first his father and then his mother. He didn’t. He put his loneliness to a good purpose. He developed the fantasy world that became Lord of the Rings many years later, a trilogy that some list as the best novel of the 20th Century. I don’t believe that those sorts of things happen by accident. I believe that Tolkien was meant to write Lord of the Rings. The opportunity to develop the special skills needed to write it were presented to him when he lost his father and mother. He could have said “no” to the assignment, just as Frodo was tempted to say “no” to his assignment. He said “yes” and that changed history (as did Frodo in the imaginary world in which he said “yes” as well).

I wouldn’t have been able to develop the Retire Early board into the most successful discussion board at the Motley Fool site had I stayed at my corporate job, Anonymous. I wouldn’t have been able to write “Passion Saving.” I wouldn’t have met all the wonderful people that I met at the Retire Early board and learned from their stories. I never would have been put in circumstances in which I had to work up the courage to stand up to Greaney. I never would have met John Walter Russell or Wade Pfau or Rob Arnott or any of the others. I never would have developed the five calculators at this site or have written the hundreds of columns or have recorded the hundreds of RobCasts or any of the rest of it.

I was meant to leave that job at that time. I was meant to remain there for nine years accumulating the assets that permitted me to do all the wonderful stuff that I became empowered to do as a result of leaving that job. But I was not meant to remain there until age 65 or whatever and to collect a pension. Taking that path would have killed me or turned me into an alcoholic. I am sure.

Now —

Being sure doesn’t mean that one never has doubts. What makes life hard is that, even when one is sure, one can entertain doubts from time to time. There is no instruction booklet for life that we are handed when we are born and can follow to reach a successful conclusion. We have to figure it out as we go along. So I won’t say that I never stop and think about the question you asked.

What I say is that every time that I stop to think about it, I reach the same conclusion — it was the right thing to do and I do not regret the decision. That’s what I mean when I say that I am “100 percent sure.”

I hope that helps a small bit, my old friend.


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“We Humans Are Influenced by Social Pressures and the Social Pressures to Believe That Buy-and-Hold Is at Least Largely on the Right Track Are INTENSE.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/17/we-humans-are-influenced-by-social-pressures-and-the-social-pressures-to-believe-that-buy-and-hold-is-at-least-largely-on-the-right-track-are-intense/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/17/we-humans-are-influenced-by-social-pressures-and-the-social-pressures-to-believe-that-buy-and-hold-is-at-least-largely-on-the-right-track-are-intense/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 11:12:58 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13387 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for one of my columns at the Value Walk site:

As for another example of how Rob lies, here is an article that discusses Rob’s post from May 2002.


First, Wade does a great job pointing out Rob’s mistake. Secondly, if you read the thread that is linked in Wade’s post (the actual thread from 2002), you will see how Rob is given an education and then admits he was wrong at the very end of the thread. Rob has been embarrassed by this since 2002, so he tries to cover it up with his stories about John Greaney. Further, you will see that his thread is not really “famous”, as Rob puts it. Instead, it was the beginning of Rob’s humiliation.

I did apologize at the end of the thread. I think we all could learn a lot about why our deeper understanding of how stock investing works has been delayed for so many years by thinking through what caused me to apologize.

I loved the Retire Early community; I had made lots of friends there and enjoyed talking things over with the people who congregated there and learning about both saving and investing by trading ideas. My post of the morning of May 13, 2002 (it is VERY famous in the Retire Early and Indexing communities — I had many people come up to me at Financial Blogger Conferences and say “Oh, so YOU are that guy!”) pointed out that the Buy-and-Hold retirement studies lack an adjustment for the valuation level that applies on the day the retirement begins and thus get the numbers wildly wrong.  Shiller showed in 1981 that valuations affect long-term returns, so it is obviously not possible that any study not showing the effect of valuations could get the numbers even close to right at times of insanely high valuations.

The reaction to the post was mixed. There were a large number of community members who loved, loved, loved it. Dozen of people were calling the discussion that followed the best discussion that was ever held at that board community. I of course was gratified by that reaction and didn’t want to let those people down. But there was another, larger group that desperately wanted to stop the discussion and made clear that it would engage in any form of abusiveness needed to crush any community member who offered constructive comments. I did not understand the issues nearly as well then as I do now. But I was strongly committed to sticking with the discussion and encouraging others to do so with the aim of helping us all to enjoy a solid learning experience.

On the night that I made that apology, there was a fellow (I believe that it was “Prometheus”) who made a point that I believed at the time I might have been wrong about. I was not sure and I believe today that I was not wrong. But I felt that the friction might cause lasting damage to the board community and that was the last thing in the world that I wanted to see. So I felt that, if there was even a chance that I was wrong, I should apologize. I also felt that I should not offer a niggling apology. If I was going to apologize, I wanted to say clearly that I was just wrong and not limit the apology by saying that I was wrong only about a few aspects of the question. So I wrote it that way.

Following the apology, the Goons became even MORE abusive. I then realized that they were not willing to try to work things out in any reasonable way, they intended to use intimidation tactics to silence any community members who offered thoughts not in accord with their own. So I re-entered the debate. The rest of course is history.

I did not think that I was 100 percent wrong at the time I made the apology. I said that I did think that. But I do not think that I was being dishonest. I stated things in the best way that I could given the circumstances that applied. My reasoning mind told me one thing (that it is not possible to calculate the safe withdrawal rate without considering valuations if valuations affect the result) and my emotional mind told me something different (that people whom I respect and like believe that a valuations adjustment is not required). For a day or so, my emotional/social brain had the upper hand and I disassociated myself from what my reasoning brain told me was true. Then I returned to making my rational brain the primary one.

This is what we are all going through. Jack Bogle is as smart as smart can be. And I believe that he is a good man — the last thing in the world that he would want to do is to cause millions of failed retirements. But Bogle has let his emotional/social brain achieve primacy over his reasoning brain. His reasoning brain of course understands that it is not possible to calculate the safe withdrawal rate accurately without taking valuations into account (Bogle has said that “Reversion to the Mean is an Iron Law of stock investing ” — it was this statement of Bogle’s that convinced me that the numbers in the Buy-and-Hold studies must be wrong).

But Bogle has invested decades of work into developing the Buy-and-Hold strategy and to acknowledge that valuation adjustments are required in all calculations is to acknowledge that the Buy-and-Holders have been getting important questions terribly wrong for many years now. It’s too much for him to accept, just as it was too much for me to accept that my post might cause the Retire Early community to self-destruct. Bogle is suffering from cognitive dissonance. He “knows” that Buy-and-Hold is gravely flawed and yet he also “knows” that that is impossible.

So he rationalizes. He tells himself that things will work out somehow even if the investing community does not explore these issues. That’s like somebody who suspects he has cancer telling himself that there is no need to see a doctor because he probably is just fine. No! If there is even a tiny chance that the Buy-and-Hold retirement studies got the numbers even a tiny bit wrong, we should be discussing that possibility at every discussion board and blog on the internet. If we see millions of failed retirements in days to come because we failed to grant the wishes of the thousands of community members (including some of the biggest-name experts in the field) that a debate be permitted, we will all live through one of the worst social catastrophes in our nation’s history.

I think we need to permit the debate to go forward. That is in everyone’s best interest. There is not one person who will not benefit from such a debate. In the event that the Valuation-Informed Indexers are right, we of course need to learn that and to get the word out to everyone. In the event that the Buy-and-Holders are right, we need to learn that and, in the event that they are right, the result of the debate will be to show that to be the case.

I was wrong to apologize. I am a little embarrassed by it. How could I get something so simple so wrong?

The explanation is that I am one of those darn humans. We humans are influenced by social pressures and the social pressures to believe that Buy-and-Hold is at least largely on the right track are INTENSE. If Buy-and-Hold is wrong in the way that Shiller’s research shows it to be wrong, it was the promotion of Buy-and-Hold strategies that was the primary cause of our economic crisis (Shiller actually predicted the crisis years in advance in his book –How did he do that if he is such a fool?). This is no small matter. This is a big deal.

In our nation, we talk over big-deal matters. That’s how over time we bring them to successful resolutions. In an ideal world, this debate would have started in 1981, when Shiller first published his “revolutionary” (his word) research. That didn’t happen. I am 100 percent certain that Bogle would play if differently if he could travel in a time machine back to 1981. But of course Bogle does not have access to a time machine and none of us can provide him one. The only thing that we can do at this point in the proceedings is to launch the debate TODAY and do the best we can with what we learn as a result of holding it.

These are my sincere thoughts re this terribly important matter in any event.

I naturally wish you the best of luck in all your future life endeavors, Sammy. Please take good care, my old friend.


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“Greaney Put Forward His First Death Threat on the Evening of August 27, 2002, and 200 of My Fellow Community Members Endorsed It While Only 50 Condemned It. Since Then, an Important Part of My Work Has Been Figuring Out How Something Like That Could Happen. The Short Version Is That, So Long As the P/E10 Value Resides Where It Does Today, It Really Couldn’t Be Any Other Way. You Couldn’t Have Insanely Dangerous P/E10 Levels Without Lots of Abusive Posting Helping to Keep Most of Us in the Dark.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/14/greaney-put-forward-his-first-death-threat-on-the-evening-of-august-27-2002-and-200-of-my-fellow-community-members-endorsed-it-while-only-50-condemned-it-since-then-an-important-part-of-my-work/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/14/greaney-put-forward-his-first-death-threat-on-the-evening-of-august-27-2002-and-200-of-my-fellow-community-members-endorsed-it-while-only-50-condemned-it-since-then-an-important-part-of-my-work/#comments Fri, 14 Jul 2017 11:02:48 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13385 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for one of my columns at the Value Walk site:

Wow. Thanks Sammy. Without knowing the basic back story, I would have never guessed that 2002 Hocus and 2017 Rob are one in the same. The Hocus plan, while totally inadequate of course, at least was lucid and detailed. And some people responded favorably. None of which can be said for today’s Rob.

Conspicuously missing from Hocus are tales of death threats, conspiracies, prison sentences, $500 million paydays, or even VII. Makes one ponder whether this descent was rapid or gradual. Was it accelerated by Rob’s retirement and resulting social isolation?

Just rhetorical questions. No need to respond, Rob, as I’ve picked on you enough this week.

I certainly did not appreciate the extent of the cover-up on the morning of May 13, 2002, Dan. The moment that did more than any other to accelerate my understanding of the realities was the moment that Greaney put forward his first death threat on the evening of August 27, 2002, and 200 of my fellow community members endorsed it while only 50 condemned it. Since then, an important part of my work has been figuring out how something like that could happen. I have made lots of progress but I wouldn’t say that I am 100 percent there even today.

The Buy-and-Holders are good and smart and hard-working people. I have said that hundreds of times because I believe it and because, given that I believe it, I think it would be counter-productive not to say it in circumstances like these. So why? Why don’t the Buy-and-Holders (the vast majority of whom are not out-and-out Goons) speak up about what they have seen?

I’ll spare you my long, detailed answer to that one. The short version is that, so long as the P/E10 value resides where it does today, it really couldn’t be any other way. Say that Motley Fool banned Greaney on the day he advanced his first death threat and that the hundreds of my fellow community members who had expressed interest in having a sustained debate about the realities of safe withdrawal rates had been given what they requested? What would have happened?

The P/E10 value would have fallen to fair-value levels. People want to invest effectively. Each and every one of us. People are indeed capable of rationality even if it’s not safe to assume that we always practice it. Give us the tools we need to make effective investing choices and we are going to make them. If Motley Fool has enforced its posting rules in a reasonable manner, the debate that started at Motley Fool would have spread to lots of other sites. And the hundreds of thousands of investors who thus became better informed about how stock investing works would have lowered their stock allocations. They would do that by selling shares until prices dropped back to fair-value levels, at which point investing in an informed way would no longer require a lowering of one’s stock allocation.

Today we see a lot of abusiveness when we permit honest posting on the far-reaching implications of the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research in this field. Today the P/E10 level is at insanely dangerous high levels. Those two sentences are two different ways of saying exactly the same thing. You couldn’t have insanely dangerous P/E10 levels without lots of abusive posting helping to keep most of us in the dark. And there would be no motivation for anyone to post abusively if valuations were at reasonable levels and there were not lots of investors possessing a strong desire to keep themselves and others in the dark.

I didn’t create this crazy situation, Dan. I didn’t know it existed when I put up my famous post of the morning of May 13, 2002. I walked into a firestorm. Lucky me, you know? My job is to bring the firestorm to an end. My job is to normalize discussions of how stock investing works. That means opening up every investing site on the internet to honest discussion of the far-reaching implications of the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research in this field.

That means taking lots of hits. If Shiller were wrong and Fama were right, it would not mean taking any hits at all. If Fama were right and investors were capable of acting in their self-interest even without ever having been able to talk over the implications of Shiler’s research, the Buy-and-Holders would not be upset to hear me question the accuracy of retirement studies that do not contain an adjustment for the valuation level that applies on the day the retirement begins. They would make their case, permit me to make mine, and we would be friends despite our differences on how stock investing works. But because Shiller is right, because investing is primarily an emotional activity and only secondarily an intellectual activity, we are doing it this other, crazy way instead.

The point is that we cannot all learn how stock investing works until those of us who appreciate the “revolutionary” (Shiller’s word) nature of Shiller’s findings work up the backbone to take on the hits that inevitably are going to be delivered by the Buy-and-Holders and not let them deter us from continuing to state our views in a clear and firm and bold way. I believe in Shiller’s research findings. It follows that I believe that Buy-and-Hold is dangerous. It follows that I must say so if I am to do honest work in this field.

The Buy-and-Holders are not bad people, Dan. I don’t say that. But I do say that they are people. That means that they are subject to the same emotional urges that have influenced people to invest in foolish ways ever since the first stock market opened for business. And, because getting stock investing right is so darn important, our Buy-and-Hold friends are going to get very upset when I state my honest views in perfectly acceptable ways. They are going to put forward death threats and all the rest. In the face of 36 years of peer-reviewed research showing that they made a mistake, what realistic choice do they have?

I cannot go back in time and persuade Jack Bogle to come clean re his mistake when he first learned about it in 1981. We are where we are. The only way out of this dark corner is for people like me to behave just as people behave in every field of human endeavor other than the stock investing field. I have nothing to apologize for in being the first person to identify the safe withdrawal rate accurately. That was a good thing to do. I am 100 percent confident that the entire world will recognize that once we all experience the mountain of human misery that will come with the next price crash.

You often describe the craziness that we have all seen in your comments, Dan. I get it that this is crazy as all get-out, But please understand that it is the “side” putting forward the death threats and all the rest that has brought on the craziness. That stuff has to stop for us all to move forward. It will stop when the pain of Buy-and-Hold becomes so obvious and so widespread that large numbers of people work up the courage to speak up about your abusiveness.

Shiller’s research changes the world in an extremely life-affirming way. I want to bring on that change. I obviously cannot do it by myself. I need a group of people insisting as I do on their right to post honestly, just as people living in this country feel free to do in all other fields of human endeavor. While I am waiting for that group of people to assert itself, I continue on my own to write columns and guest blog entries and to record podcasts and all the rest. Why? Because doing that stuff generates material that will benefit us all once we work up the courage to restore to discussions of stock investing the ethical rules that once applied to them and to this day apply in all other fields of human endeavor.

I don’t deny the craziness. But I believe that in fairness you should also say where the craziness comes from. It begins with the idea that there is some mystery planet where it is not necessary for investors to practice price discipline when buying stocks. That’s not the planet we live on. If there were any evidence that it is not necessary to practice price discipline, the Buy-and-Holders would have pointed to it many years back. What possible motive could they have for not doing so if such evidence in fact existence.

I could be wrong. But I’m not.

My best wishes.


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“I Don’t See Anything Wrong With There Not Being a Single Formula for Valuation-Informed Indexing. Different Valuation-Informed Indexers Have Different Risk Tolerances. They Should Take That Into Consideration. And Different Valuation-Informed Indexers Have Differing Levels of Confidence in Valuation-Informed Indexing. They Should Take That Into Consideration.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/13/i-dont-see-anything-wrong-with-there-not-being-a-single-formula-for-valuation-informed-indexing-different-valuation-informed-indexers-have-different-risk-tolerances-they-should-take-that-into-co/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/13/i-dont-see-anything-wrong-with-there-not-being-a-single-formula-for-valuation-informed-indexing-different-valuation-informed-indexers-have-different-risk-tolerances-they-should-take-that-into-co/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 11:06:29 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13383 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for one of my columns at the Value Walk site:

As always, you ignore the key point and filibuster on a side remark.

Rob, I’ll make a deal with you. Just answer one question directly and I promise I’ll leave you alone forever. (In fact, I might anyway, because unlike you, I do get tired of this.) Here is my question:

Define the precise formula for implementing VII.

But your usual nonsense is not acceptable. This is the start of a formula: “An investor should be in x% stocks and y% bonds when PE10 is at z.”

These are not formulas: “Buy low, sell high.” “It depends on the person.” “It depends on the market direction.” “I’ll tell you after the next crash.” “We need more people talking about it to figure it out.”

In other words, if your answer cannot be measured, it fails.

What fails in your eyes does not necessarily fail in my eyes or in the eyes of millions of other middle-class investors, Dan. You are not the ultimate authority re this stuff. Nor am I, to be sure. Each investor gets to decide for himself or herself how to play it.

There is no one formula that applies for all investors. Each investor decides for himself what formula he will follow.

That’s exactly how it is done in Buy-and-Hold. You have never heard Jack Bogle say “all investors should go with an x percent stock allocation.” He says that you need to take the investor’s risk tolerance into consideration. He says that you need to take the investor’s age into consideration. That makes perfect sense. I don’t find fault with Bogle for not stating a single formula for Buy-and-Hold and it is my view that you should not either.

I don’t see anything wrong with there not being a single formula for Valuation-Informed Indexing either. Different Valuation-Informed Indexers have different risk tolerances too. They should take that into consideration. And different Valuation-Informed Indexers have differing levels of confidence in Valuation-Informed Indexing. They should take that into consideration.

Someone who is seeking a mix of Valuation-Informed Indexing and Buy-and-Hold would want to limit the number and size of the allocation shifts that he employed in his strategy. For example, he might go with 70 percent stocks at all times when the P/E10 level is below 25 and with 40 percent stocks when the P/E10 level is at 25 or above. That’s not Buy-and-Hold. With Buy-and-Hold, there are no allocation shifts in response to changes in valuations. But it is pretty darn close to Buy-and-Hold. The research shows that that investor would receive a big benefit from switching to Valuation-Informed Indexing but not as much of a benefit as those who were open to making more allocation shifts and bigger allocation shifts.

Why do you feel a need to demand a single formula? What does that add?

I prefer it the other way. The more open we are to different approaches, the more people there will be who will feel comfortable offering their thoughts. I might favor one particular allocation strategy and might write an article advocating it. Someone else might come along and write an article making the case for something different. Isn’t that a plus? Isn’t there a good chance that someone other than me will have some good ideas? That sounds like an absolute lock to my ears. So why discourage people from offering their thoughts? I would like to see as much of that as possible. I would like to see a national debate in which we see thousands of good and smart people stepping up to the plate and taking their swings.

I am a “Let a thousands flowers bloom!” sort of guy, not a “Here is the one acceptable formula and don’t anyone dare question it” sort of guy. It’s dogmatism that got us into the mess that we are in today. So I am not too excited about taking the dogmatism poison that killed Buy-and-Hold and injecting it into Valuation-Informed Indexing. If there is one formula that is clearly better than all others, that will become evident over time. People are not dumb. People can be trusted to figure these things out for themselves.

I personally doubt that there will ever be a single formula that works for all people and for all circumstances and for all times. I am not even on the look-out for a single formula. I think we all learn by talking that sort of thing over. I might argue for one formula on Monday and for another on Tuesday in the way that law students argue one side of a case on Monday and the other on Tuesday. Crafting the arguments helps clarify one’s thinking.

So far as I am concerned, someone could say that his formula is always to stay at the same stock allocation until he got close to retirement. That’s Buy-and-Hold! If a guy wants to say that Buy-and-Hold is his formula for implementing Valuation-Informed Indexing, I am not going to lose any sleep over it. I define “Valuation-Informed Indexing” as a strategy in which the investor makes allocation shifts in response to valuation shifts (because valuations affect long-term returns). So that formula as a technical matter does not fit the definition. But it wouldn’t bother me if some fellow wanted to walk that path with his own money. It’s his money, you know? Who am I to tell him that he is not allowed to do what he wants? Why would it even matter what I said anyway?

My thoughts.


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“Shiller’s P/E10 Is a Metric That Translates Human Emotion Into a Number So That It Can Be Used in Investing Calculations.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/12/shillers-pe10-is-a-metric-that-translates-human-emotion-into-a-number-so-that-it-can-be-used-in-investing-calculations/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/12/shillers-pe10-is-a-metric-that-translates-human-emotion-into-a-number-so-that-it-can-be-used-in-investing-calculations/#respond Wed, 12 Jul 2017 10:54:57 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13381 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for one of my columns at the Value Walk site:

“These discussions have been going on for 15 years, Dan. You have been present for them the entire time.”

No I haven’t. I only stumbled upon you in the last few months. But I have to admit, you are a unique individual.

“I am 100 percent confident that, if you do the calculation again, you will find something similar.”

Why should I do your work? You’re the one who claims to have the answers. State your exact formula, plug in your real time, real life numbers, and let’s see how you made out.

Of course, this will never happen. Your whole shtick is based on pushing vague, unprovable hypotheticals as undeniable fact. That your gut feelings are right, and actual data is wrong. And the fascinating thing is, you never get seem to get tired of it.

It’s true that my gut feelings tell me that the price you pay for stocks should influence the value proposition obtained by making the purchase. I don’t agree that this is a “vague, unprovable hypothetical.” It seems to me that this can be checked by examining the historical return data. And it further seems to me that this is what was revealed by Shiller’s “revolutionary” (his word) research. I am not the only one who believes that that research tells us something important. Shiller was awarded the Nobel prize in Economics a few years back.

I don’t get tired of it because I am always discovering new things that help me to understand in a better and clearer and deeper way what is going on. With Buy-and-Hold, investing analysis was a numbers game. Post-1981, it is still a numbers game. But it is a numbers game informed by consideration of the effects of human psychology. Shiller’s P/E10 is a metric that translates human emotion into a number so that it can be used in investing calculations.

Think of what happened when Freud showed that humans engage in self-deception. That changed everything, didn’t it? It gave us the means to approach issues like crime and drug abuse and marriage difficulties from entirely new perspectives and to make progress dealing with them that was not possible before his insights were advanced. I don’t say that Freud did everything perfectly any more than I say that Shiller did everything perfectly. But I believe that both Freud and Shiller opened up new worlds to explore.

That’s why I don’t get bored with this. I love learning and teaching. It’s the reason why I became a journalist. Exploring the many far-reaching implications of Shiller’s Nobel-prize-winning research provides me opportunities for unlimited amounts of learning and teaching in a field of human endeavor that affects us all in a big way. Putting me in the circumstances in which I have been put over the past 15 years is like putting a baseball player in the World Series or putting a politician in a Presidential debate or putting a group of four musicians on the Ed Sullivan show on Sunday evening in February 1964. This is where it’s happening. This is where I want to be, Dan.

I want to see the work helping millions of people. That’s the aim. So I am not trying to say that I enjoy your abusiveness. I am saying that the abusiveness is part of the story (we would not see abusiveness if Shiller were not right that investing is a highly emotional activity, right?) and that the story needs to be told and that I seem to have been placed in circumstances that permit me to tell it in a way that no one else possibly could. I feel a responsibility not to turn away from the job and to be sure to work it hard enough to get it right. It’s exciting. It’s fulfilling. It’s rewarding. It’s life-affirming.

I hope that that makes at least a little bit of sense to you, my good friend.


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“The Popularity of Buy-and-Hold Has Nothing to Do With Any Intellectual Merits. It Is Popular Because It Offers EMOTIONAL Relief. We Are All Worried About Having Enough to Retire. Double Your Portfolio Size and the Numbers Work Better. Buy-and-Hold Tells Us to Ignore the Fact That Stocks Are Today Priced at Two Times Their Fair Value and Thus to Fool Ourselves Into Thinking That Our Portfolio Values Have Been Doubled.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/11/the-popularity-of-buy-and-hold-has-nothing-to-do-with-any-intellectual-merits-it-is-popular-because-it-offers-emotional-relief-we-are-all-worried-about-having-enough-to-retire-double-your-portfol/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/11/the-popularity-of-buy-and-hold-has-nothing-to-do-with-any-intellectual-merits-it-is-popular-because-it-offers-emotional-relief-we-are-all-worried-about-having-enough-to-retire-double-your-portfol/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 11:36:33 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13379 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for one of my columns at the Value Walk site:

“I am ahead of the Buy-and-Holders on a risk-adjusted basis”

That claim means nothing with details. Given your admitted 15 years with no income (or at least, none earned by you) most likely your net worth is at or near zero. Of course, you are always free to set the record straight.

These discussions have been going on for 15 years, Dan. You have been present for them the entire time. There have been dozens of times when community members have suggested that we run the numbers for how Buy-and-Hold compares with Valuation-Informed Indexing starting from 1996 (when I got out of stocks) or from 2000 (when the bull market peaked). Every time the numbers come back the same. Those who moved to TIPS or IBonds in 2000 are ahead today. Those who moved in 1996 are a small bit behind on a nominal basis and a small bit ahead on a risk-adjusted basis.

I am 100 percent confident that, if you do the calculation again, you will find something similar. It’s been turning out that way for 145 years now. How could it ever be different. To stick with the same stock allocation regardless of valuations is to fail to practice price discipline when buying stocks. Huh? What the? Why would any rational person think that such an “idea” could ever work?

It never works. The popularity of Buy-and-Hold has nothing to do with any intellectual merits. It is popular because it offers EMOTIONAL relief. We are all worried about having enough to retire. Double your portfolio size and the numbers work better. Buy-and-Hold tells us to ignore the fact that stocks are today priced at two times their fair value and thus to fool ourselves into thinking that our portfolio values have been doubled.

The question remains as to whether we will continue fooling ourselves after prices have crashed and we are all feeling the real-world pain of having engaged in such a massive act of self-deception. I think we are going to give it up. But there’s only one way to find out for sure — we are just going to have to be a little patient and see how things play out.

I wish you the best of luck with it, Dan. Maybe I will be proven wrong. I don’t think it is going to happen. But Bogle didn’t think that Shiller or anyone else was ever going to be able to show that valuations affect long-term returns and that one sure happened. So we all need to try to keep our minds a tiny bit open to the possibility that we could be wrong. Especially when millions of retirements are riding on what we say.

Hang in there, my good friend.


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“The Vast Majority of Buy-and-Holders Did Not Join in With the Ugly Stuff. But the Vast Majority Did Tolerate the Bad Behavior.” http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/10/the-vast-majority-of-buy-and-holders-did-not-join-in-with-the-ugly-stuff-but-the-vast-majority-did-tolerate-the-bad-behavior/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/10/the-vast-majority-of-buy-and-holders-did-not-join-in-with-the-ugly-stuff-but-the-vast-majority-did-tolerate-the-bad-behavior/#comments Mon, 10 Jul 2017 11:42:20 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13377 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for one of my columns at the Value Walk site:

You probably thought you could be the next William Bernstein or Jack Bogle, but ended up being Bozo The Clown.

How is that $500 million windfall plan working out for you?

I think it is working well, Sammy. It’s certainly not working in the way that I wanted it to work or in the way that I expected it to work. But I think it is working very well indeed in a long-term sense.

I was a Buy-and-Holder once. I know the appeal. I gave up on Buy-and-Hold when I saw a large discussion-board community express a great deal of interest in learning more about what the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research teaches us about how stock investing works and a small number of Buy-and-Holders jump in and disrupt the conversations people were trying to have using the most brutally abusive tactics imaginable. The vast majority of Buy-and-Holders did not join in with the ugly stuff. But the vast majority did tolerate the bad behavior. That’s how we got to where we are today.

That’s Buy-and-Hold, Sammy. It’s all emotion. There’s great stuff in the Buy-and-Hold Model. Tons of it. But all the good stuff gets sidetracked by the core idea that there is no need to exercise price discipline when buying stocks. That one terribly and obviously wrong element ruins the entire project. It makes Buy-and-Holders too emotional because they are trying to believe that their bull market gains are real but their common sense is telling them that it is not so. They are always at war with their own minds and of course with the minds of others who dare to “cross” them by reporting what the research says plainly and non-apologetically and boldly.

This is the biggest story in personal finance today. We all should be talking about the emotion we see on the Buy-and-Hold side of the table. There’s huge leverage in doing that. Each time one more person works up the courage to do it, there are ten others who have their own takes on what is being said and we learn more and more and more. It’s been very, very hard to get the ball rolling. I’ll give you that one. But the potential here is just off-the-charts amazing. I am humbled to be a part of the effort to get things moving in a positive direction.

We get closer to mining all the good stuff with every passing day. You don’t see it that way. I sure do. On the content side, I am 10,000 times happier about how things have gone than I possibly could have imagined ever being back on the morning of May 13, 2002. On the process side, I am despondent. The process side has been a 100 percent catastrophe, I’ll give you that one. But it’s the content side that matters most in the long run. Our entire system of government, the idea that news ideas replace old ones once the old ones are discredited because we let everyone have his or her say, is set up to insure that the content side is what matters in the end.

You look at all my process-side setbacks as losses. I do not. I see the tactics used to keep the word about the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research from spreading as tactics that hold lots of people back from competing with me to do this good work. I want competitors! I want people offering takes that are different and better than my own! But I sure don’t see it as a financial negative that you Goons and all the normal Buy-and-Holders who tolerate your abusiveness have been intimidating my potential competitors for fighting for their piece of the pie for 15 years now. In a long-term sense, that’s a huge financial plus for me. Thanks, man!

I don’t like any of the negative stuff. But I just don’t see it as something that can continue following the next price crash. I view your tactics as desperation tactics. And seeing the desperation reassures me that we really do need to get about the business of opening every discussion board and blog to honest posting re safe withdrawal rates and scores of other critically important investment-related topics.

We interpret developments differently. As the Buy-and-Holders become increasingly abusive, you say “Oh, that proves that no one will ever be able to promote true research-based strategies, we will always crush them!” I say “Wow, the Buy-and-Holders are really feeling bad about themselves, they just keep sinking lower and lower.” And I figure that, if even the Buy-and-Holders cannot think of any legitimate ways to defend their strategy, what does that say about its capacity to remain influential in the future?

Every abusive post that you put forward makes me more confident of where this train is headed in the long run. Your posts are the sort of posts you see when a strategy has been discredited by 36 years of peer-reviewed research. Valuation-Informed Indexing is the future, Buy-and-Hold is the past.

That’s my sincere take, in any event. I could be wrong. I have been wrong many times in the past, and, if it were happening again, I would no doubt be the last to know. But that is my sincere take. And for someone with that take these are truly exciting days. We are as a nation on the threshold of achieving the most exciting advances in the history of personal finance. We all will be living richer lives once the next price crash opens the entire internet to honest posting on safe withdrawal rates and other stuff. That’s pretty darn cool stuff.

We live in an amazing country. Flawed, to be sure. But amazing all the same. Because of how the internet works, we are getting to see how the process plays out in great detail. THAT’S amazing too. We have a tiger by the tale re this one. I am 100 percent sure.

Again — my take only.

I wish you all good things.


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Buy-and-Hold Goon to Rob: “Your Response Is Just More Verbal Diarrhea, Consisting of the Same Repetitive Nonsense.” Rob: “I Wish That You Could Find It In Yourself to Add the Words ‘In My Opinion'”. http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/07/buy-and-hold-goon-to-rob-your-response-is-just-more-verbal-diarrhea-consisting-of-the-same-repetitive-nonsense-rob-i-wish-that-you-could-find-it-in-yourself-to-add-the-words-in-my-opinion/ http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/2017/07/07/buy-and-hold-goon-to-rob-your-response-is-just-more-verbal-diarrhea-consisting-of-the-same-repetitive-nonsense-rob-i-wish-that-you-could-find-it-in-yourself-to-add-the-words-in-my-opinion/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 11:10:13 +0000 http://arichlife.passionsaving.com/?p=13375 Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for one of my columns at the Value Walk site:


You response is just more verbal diarrhea, consisting of the same repetitive nonsense.

I wish that you could find it in yourself to add the words “in my opinion,” Sammy.

Thousands of our fellow community members have had a very different reaction to my work. They have told me that my words changed their lives, that they learned from me things about how stock investing works that they never learned by reading anyone else.

Those people matter. My intent is to continue giving them my best efforts.

While also wishing you all the best that this life has to offer a person, to be sure.


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