Wednesday, September 12, 2012

like silent raindrops fell and echoed

Sometimes I'm reminded just exactly how contrary I am.  This time it came in the form of a casual conversation that didn't involve me between a young man and an old man.  It went something like this:

young man: So, what would I look at to invest in?
old man: Some fund, like Vanguard or something.
young man: blah blah blah
old man: blah blah blah with 20 year history of 10-20% returns blah

Then me of course, because I can't help it.  Don't have conversations around me that you don't want me to pay attention to.  And for goodness sakes, don't say that you've checked a water trough when I know you are lying because I am going to go behind you and rat you out, mostly because I am just not going to let you kill a horse despite my husband's advice to do just that because that is evidently the only thing that anyone is going to actually pay any attention to.  But I digress a bit.  I cannot even stand young man.  I am learning great lessons from his irritating presence at the periphery of my life however.

Me:  You are are talking investing?  In the stock market?  Really?  No, I would never put any money at all in the stock market at this point in time.
old man: Tricky (that most trusted of investment advisers, the farrier) was talking to him about how a young man like himself, if he put even $100 month into something, he'd have something to retire on.
Me: I can't believe you are saying that since you yourself lost so much of you so-called retirement money in the stock market.
old man: It wasn't in funds.
Me: The funds haven't necessarily fared any better.  The old rule of thumb, my dad's rule of thumb (and he stayed mostly with bank stock himself) was that you never invest money that you cannot afford to lose.
old man: I wouldn't put money in a bank because they don't pay nothing.
me: They don't lose nothing either.
young, arrogant, jerk of a young man who will never have a $100/month that doesn't burn a hole right through his pocket and who probably ought to first think about buying insurance on the truck he's driving or even health insurance before "investing" in a "fund", but he won't: So, a fund then?

So do you see my dismay.

I have so many thoughts on the subject and so far I haven't got them to anything that is organized.  I will say that I've recently read The Man Who Quit Money about Daniel Suelo and I personally think everyone everywhere regardless of circumstance, finances or philosophy ought to read it.  I think it opens up so much deep thought on the subject of money, and work, and how we live, and how we relate to others, and so very very much.  So I put that here, at the start of this, go, read that book.

I do not think that sitting on your ass and collecting money is morally right.  That goes some for the overpaid in our society, the celebrity, the executive, the professional.  But it obviously goes for those who "invest" for retirement.  My dad did, and he died, unhappy, 4 1/2 years after retiring.  There's a reason for that.  My FIL retired early and, I swear, has not accomplished one blessed thing since then.  He's always going to write a book, or paint a painting, just as soon as he's finished putting up this bookshelf or pulling that weed out of the edge of the driveway.  There's a reason for that.  Work is a good thing.  Being productive, being useful, we have a deep down human NEED for this.  The lack of this is one of the reasons schooling for children is so bad.  (Simple inefficiency is the main reason school is bad for the rest of us -- we can so much better and more quickly and more cheaply learn anything via some other learning process than school).  Retirement itself is an immoral thing.  We should progress in our life's stages a la Erikson, but quit?  Do nothing but still eat?  Naw.

But a corollary to that is that I don't think debt is morally right.   Retirement is trying to live off the past.  Debt is trying to live off the future.   Not that I don't understand how people get into it from time to time, even get mired in it.  But it is, at the least, to be avoided.  Like the plague.

What I newly notice and what I don't understand, is how people mired in debt also are mired in the myth of investment.  I didn't notice that for so long, no doubt, because my dad and my grandfather, from whom I learned my financial savvy, were not like that.  No debt for them when possible.  Although I do think my dad was weakening in his waning years: he could not stand up to the tide of common knowledge.  So that someone who will never, in his lifetime, pay off his farm, who will sweat the payments some years, will tell a young man to put money in something as amorphous as a mutual fund instead of into his own mortgage, into his own business, into his own skills. 

Because that's where we've put our money, and where I'd advise other to put theirs.  If I had more money, I would do more of the same.  Although I might take the kids to DC too.  But you know what I mean.  The more we simplify our tools, the less money and bother it takes to make a living with them, the more fun we have, the more time we have.  The person hired to do the needed work can choose to do that or do something else, can do whatever she wants with her life because her farm is free and clear.  And it has taken standing against the tide of common knowledge to be here.

I pretty much wouldn't recommend that anyone go to college either -- it is a bad deal.  Spend your money, and your time, more wisely.  Not that I don't do things that are not wise with my money and time, when there is a payoff that I perceive.  Like, you know, I'm putting money in a jar for Parelli, which on some level is ridiculous, if only because it costs waaaay and away more than it should.  But I'm also getting something out of it.  Anyway.

I do not have any desire to be Daniel Suelo and give up money entirely but I do hope that my purchase today of a wringer washer will mean the need for less flow through of money.  At other times, I'll choose more flow through of money, like this internet connection, but only when I have it, and only when having it doesn't cost me too much.

Another of the connections I notice is this:  Before the financial titans came up with 401Ks, very few people invested.  My dad was one.  He bought bank stocks because the banker lived down the street.  That was a time when there was "a banker", responsible basically for a whole bank. After 401Ks, everyone invested.  Companies set up retirements in stocks.  People who qualified for food stamps had a 401K at work.  And what was happening to median income even before the Great Recession?  It had been going down for more than a decade, and likely, if measured only slightly differently, much longer than that. 

What was going up at that same time was the believing that a projection was a reality -- that Clinton has a budget surplus (all projection, not real); that all those Enron people lost half a million dollars when it never existed except as a projection; and old man himself.  Who I love.  As much as I can't stand young man, I really like old man.  But they are both screwed on this one. 

And neither one can hear a word I say.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

And they won't ever hear you ... until, maybe, they've lost all of their money and the farm, and you're sitting on yours, debt-free with a full belly.

What's more frustrating than trying to tell other people is trying to convince someone of this stuff who actually has some impact on your life. That's hard.