We’ve Created this Nightmare but We Can End It Too

Even the produce department had virtually nothing. I wound up buying a can of peas because it was literally one of the only vegetables available in the entire grocery store.

No one can hurt you as badly as you can. I learned this lesson in a very brutal way as I worked through my divorce in 2016. Yes, the girl I had dedicated myself to loving and spending my life with had done some horrible, cruel things (please don’t misconstrue this as me saying I had no responsibility for the failure of the relationship – I certainly did). But I’m the one who tortured myself over them. I’m the one who took much longer than necessary to let it all go. And in the end, the vast majority of the pain I experienced wound up being self-inflicted. Now I want to apply this concept to the situation we find ourselves in today.

The most dangerous virus on earth is the mainstream media and the product it creates. This collective group of people profits from reporting on almost exclusively the worst elements of humanity. And it is getting worse. What had been an hour of reading the news with little or no personal opinion being featured has turned into hundreds of channels of absurdly biased, round the clock “analysis,” which actually amounts to little more than propaganda in most cases. What had been a clickbait headline has turned into a rage baiting headline that fuels hatred of fellow human beings.

And now this horrifying phenomenon has devastated the entire world economy over a virus that, by all accounts, amounts to a moderately worse strain of the common cold. It’s not just the trillions of dollars in equity that has been vaporized in markets all over the world. People in everyday America have lost desperately needed income (way too many people live paycheck to paycheck even in the richest country in the history of the world, but that is another topic for another day) because the hysteria has demolished the businesses that had provided them. Some of these job losses will become permanent. And it’s also the fear and mob mentality that has resulted in some of our stupidest people buying up almost all the household supplies and even food so there is barely any left for the rest of us to buy.

If this goes much further, we’re going to see riots, looting, and other behavior that has no place in a civilized society. Already there have been reports of physical fights over toilet paper. Yes, there are actually people in this world who will get into a fight over fucking toilet paper. I would love to blame the media for all of this, and undoubtedly that would be at least partially correct. But at the end of the day, the media only exists in its current form because we let it. MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and the rest of the horde of ENTERTAINMENT news channels (and websites) are only doing what they are because it is profitable. And it is only profitable because people watch.

Under normal circumstances, this is a big enough problem. The media encourages us to hate people who think differently and yell them down rather than to try to understand and work together. It amplifies everything that is evil in us as humans. If someone is doing something genuinely good like feeding starving children, it may get a passing mention, but it is very unlikely that anyone will remember this person’s name in a week. But if someone shoots up a school full of kids, it will be shouted from the rooftops for months until none of us can ever forget his name. This doesn’t just make it very easy to believe that “the world’s going to hell in a handbasket!” It also creates a feedback loop of negative behavior. Lots of other troubled kids watch this all happen and it isn’t lost on them that suddenly the whole world is paying attention to someone who had previously been a bullied, ignored kid a lot like them. I would bet my life that the media has literally caused school shootings that otherwise would not have happened.

In the case of recent events, the media has created a panic where none existed before, nor would one have been justified. Enough people watched enough of this nonsense on tv, decided they had to prepare for Armageddon, and went out and did just that. I’ve heard reports of people cleaning out their bank accounts to go supply shopping. This is nothing short of hysteria. And guess who then gets to report on it, profit from it, and create even more of it? The same group of people that started it to begin with. Make no mistake; despite the grim faces on the tv, this situation is an absolute dream for the media. But for the rest of us, of course, it’s a nightmare.

This reminds me of a Simpsons episode from years ago when the show was worth watching. It was smart back then. This particular episode was a Halloween themed nightmare scenario. A bunch of giant advertising creatures had come to life and were terrorizing people. Lisa visited the ad agency that created some of them and was advised that just like any other advertising, these creatures would go away if people simply stopped paying attention to them. With Paul Anka’s help, she came up with a little jingle called “Just Don’t Look” and sure enough, as soon as people stopped paying attention, the monsters all collapsed and the town was saved.

If we want to stop our real life media monster, this is exactly what we have to do. Stop paying attention. For the love of God, turn off the fucking tv. Get off of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the other methods you are using to squander the precious time you have on this earth being addicted to misery. Go back to living a productive, healthy life. The summarizing message of the coronavirus should be “wash your hands, eat healthy food, exercise, get enough sleep, stay home if you’re sick, and otherwise go about your business.” These are all common sense practices that should be followed regardless of the circumstances. If we stop feeding the disease that is the current state of the media, it will have to die – or at least change into something less destructive.

I’m going to close this post with a plea for sanity. Please, let’s stop hording years’ worth of supplies and let some other people buy what they need in order to get through the next week or two. Please, let’s be calm and rational. And most importantly, please, PLEASE, let’s stop allowing the mainstream media to turn us into little more than angry, hateful, idiotic puppets. We are better than this.

What I’m Doing Now that the Long Overdue Market Correction Is Finally Happening

Yes, I’ve used this picture before. But it’s a good one for today’s post too since stock market corrections are just another example of something going on sale!

I’m back! A wild string of events, combined with some laziness on my part, has resulted in me posting absolutely nothing for an entire month. I even considered shutting down the blog altogether. But after some reflection, I’ve decided that my original purpose of sharing my financial and life experience with anyone who wants it is still worthwhile and more than doable – provided I recommit myself to it a little. At this point, in light of my rapidly changing life circumstances, my goal is one post a week. And what better cue to get back to posting than a historic stock market event?

For the last couple of years, I’ve had plenty of people laughing at me. After all, I’ve been calling for a significant correction, or even a recession, since 2018 and I even did so publicly on this blog. In my eyes, the underlying economic fundamentals of this economy, as well as those of others around the world, have nowhere near justified the stratospheric asset pricing we’ve been seeing for quite a while now. And while recent events may be a little vindicating, this is no time for schadenfreude or gloating. Besides the fact that I’m not that petty, that wouldn’t do anyone any good. Instead, here is my take on where we are now and what I plan to do going forward. Please note that everyone should do his or her own diligence and I am in no way advising anyone to do anything in particular.

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, over the last week or so, stocks have collapsed, blowing right through correction territory (a loss of 10% or more) to the cusp of finally ending the more than decade long bull market that has had more people believing themselves to be investment savants than at possibly any previous point in the history of the world and entering a bear market (20% loss or more). Today alone, the DOW, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 indexes each lost over 7% of their value and even caused trading to be temporarily suspended for the first time since the Great Recession. At first, this was attributed mostly to the coronavirus, or more accurately, to the resulting mass hysteria drummed up by the typically profit motivated, rubbernecking mainstream media. But at this point, it appears pretty safe to say that was nothing more than a catalyst to the broad-based obliteration of trillions of dollars in asset value.

So what am I doing about this? Absolutely nothing…yet. I’ve had less than 5% of my assets exposed to the stock market in any way, shape, or form for well over a year now. But I’m eying the trigger with greater and greater excitement as I await the right time to start moving back in. I don’t think we’re there yet. I anticipate at least another week or two of serious volatility and carnage. Remember, the oil price collapse element just happened over the weekend so there will likely be more industry fallout there. Plus, the FED is likely to do at least one more pointless knee jerk rate cut, which will likely have a similar lack of positive effect to the .50% one they did last week, since they’ve long since painted themselves into a corner by following a policy of presidential placating rather than giving the economy the tough love it actually needed. When I decide it’s time, I’ll start pushing my 401K and Roth IRA money back in, probably 20% at a time. It’s almost impossible to “catch the falling knife,” so I’ll use dollar cost averaging to get as close as I reasonably can.

What if you didn’t get out when I did? If you have a long enough timeline before you need the money – I’m talking years – you’re fine. Staying in as opposed to bailing out has historically been the right move. Remember, you haven’t lost a penny until you’ve actually sold your asset for less than it was worth when you bought it. And if you keep putting additional money in, you will dollar cost average your way into a better position over time.

If you don’t have a long enough timeline, you shouldn’t have been in a stock heavy position. Sorry to be blunt, but sugarcoating isn’t going to make the situation any better. At this point, you have to adjust your plan to accommodate the new reality. Maybe you can hold off on retiring until the market recovers or if you have to retire soon, maybe you can work part time or do something else to bring in enough income to avoid being forced to sell and realize losses. Or if you have gains elsewhere, maybe you can use those assets for some liquidity and harvest some losses to offset them so you at least get a tax benefit out of the situation. It depends entirely on your individual circumstances.

Remember, there are two ways to look at this. One is that your asset values have declined. The other is that there is a big sale going on! If a recession does take place, it will definitely create huge opportunities one way or another. Happy hunting!