I Left My Money in a Leaky Boat

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When I woke up this morning and turned on CNN, the first thing that I heard was that I might soon be getting wet. The earthquake in American Samoa (8.3, so they say) was making big ripples. CNN wasn’t helpful, since they haven’t discovered Papua New Guinea yet, so I had to wait until I got to the office to find out that it was due to hit Madang at 10:41. My office is about a hundred metres from the ocean and about one metre above sea level. I decided that I was too busy to be bothered. Anyway, it’s now 11:28 and my feet are still dry, so, I guess I’ll stop thinking about it.

Well, it’s a gloomy subject today, so we may as well begin with a gloomy sunrise:Gloomy Sunrise

To transition into my subject of the day, here’s another sunrise as seen from our veranda. This boat may or may not be leaky. It was still afloat when it went around the corner into Dallman Passage:

Leaky boat sunrise

I only wish it were the same for the next one. Here is an image of a very leaky boat. My only comfort being aboard this leaky boat is that I have a lot of company. I’d brave it alone, if only I could help others, but that’s not to be. It makes me think of the Minnow  and the “three hour cruise”. What you are looking at here is the rapid and terrifying demise of our financial future:

The Leaky Boat Graph

The graph starts out in 2006. The red line is our Charles Schwab investments. The blue line is our PNG shares. The upward kinks are when we made deposits. The downward movements are all, except for one, the leaky boat syndrome. As you can see, our lifetime savings are now about half of what they were at their peak. If you start thinking of what might have been,  it’s only a fraction of our projection. It’s interesting to note that PNG shares were still climbing even as world-wide investment values were imitating lead balloons. It’s dropped now, but holding steady. Cash under the mattress will do as well.

It’s obvious that my daily interest in recording share values evaporated when hitting the ticker on the web only produced additional depression. You get to the point where you just don’t want to know. You feel like shooting the messenger, and then maybe yourself.

The big  drop on the right in the red line is when we pulled out all of our cash from the Schwab account to pay down the mortgage on our last remaining property. It’s in falling-down condition, but there is a renter there covering the mortgage payments. I want to get out of debt. In two or three years, except for incidental credit card charges, we won’t owe anybody a dime.

We’ve followed the “best advice” to the letter to try, on our pathetic income, to be as responsible as possible to provide for our future when we may no longer be able to earn (like now).  What’s it done for us? Nada, zip,  zilch!

When it was advised that our best bet was to buy houses, leveraging each one to get another, we did that. Well, we all know how well that  went. We’ve sold them all but one now. We didn’t lose much, but we didn’t make anything either. When the best advice was “buy and hold”, we did that. How’s that working for you?  I’m not so happy with it.

Our new financial plan is to ignore everybody’s advice. I’m through with the “Talk to Chuck” philosophy. I can look back now and see a dozen times when I went with the “best advice” against my gut instinct and got zapped for it in the end (pun intended). We’re smart enough to manage our own money. Right now, it’s going into cash and paying off debt. If we’re able, we’ll invest in the future in things that we control with our own hands and our own brains.

Rage spent. Tirade finished. How about some flowers?

Here’s a pretty little orchid only about the size of your thumb. There is a huge spray of about a hundred just down the steps of our veranda:

A front-yard orchid

And the magnificent Harmonious Daisy which I have featured several times since our visitation by Swami Monty:

The Harmonious Daisy

Hey, it’s only money.

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13 Responses to “I Left My Money in a Leaky Boat”

  1. Steve Goodheart Says:

    “We’ve followed the “best advice” to the letter to try, on our pathetic income, to be as responsible as possible to provide for our future when we may no longer be able to earn (like now). What’s it done for us? Nada, zip, zilch!”

    That’s the twist of the knife for so many, many people, Jan. My wife and I both lost half of our retirement and 401K money…month by month, we saw it just melt away….nothing we could do to stop it. And what’s really infuriating is most that those responsible for this fiasco are walking away with golden parachutes. Infuriating, and frustrating, and scary. I always thought I’d be working until I dropped, as a writer/editor, but now I *have* to do it — same for millions of others. So, your tirade certainly struck a sympathetic note in this fan of your site.

  2. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Interesting synchroncity, btw, as I was writing my comment, I was listening to one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Chris Smither, and this verse from “The Devil’s Real” came sailing by:

    They told me “You ain’t got no problems, you’re self-deceived”
    These seeming contradictions, well they make believe
    It was then that I decided my life was being guided
    By a second-rate dependence on first-class thieves
    They told me I was breaking through, I was breaking down
    By the time I learned the difference they had long left town.

    If you don’t know Chris, check him out on Youtube — here’s a pretty good live recording:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68f6Glcq53E

    and for a taste of his humor, don’t miss his “Origin of Species”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpNoQaB2LT0

    Best wishes,
    Steve

  3. MadDog Says:

    Steve, it’s always gratifying to get agreeable comments, but shared experience (misery) makes the firmest foundation for dialog. I’m sure that you know that I sympathise as much with your situation as you do for ours. I never planned to retire. I reckoned that I’d live about a year if I didn’t have some driving purpose. I’d just like to be able to choose that purpose and maybe make a change. Now I have no option but to stick with what I’m doing and pray that I don’t get too sick or senile to stay on the job.

    Thanks for reading, Steve. I’ll try to keep it interesting. Send my URL along to friends of like mind. If I can’t be rich, maybe I can be famous.

  4. MadDog Says:

    I love moments such as that, when, as Kurt Vonnegut described as a chronocynclastic infundibulum in The Sirens of Titan you arrive at “those places … where all the different kinds of truths fit together”. I sometimes feel as if I’m being poked by God. It’s scary and comforting at the same time. Weird, eh?

    Chris Smither – wow, I’m glad you pointed me his way. He’s a sort of bluegrass Tom Lehrer. I loved “Origin of Species”. It pretty much encapsulates, rather crudely, my view of creation. Don’t tell my co-workers!

    Thanks for reading, Steve. And thanks for taking the time to comment. Most people just suck it in for free and don’t give anything back.

    Jan

  5. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Hey Jan! Thanks! I know the sympathy and empathy are mutual, and shared experience is indeed a great basis for dialog. Like you, I never plan to retire, but as I’ve gotten older, I can’t say I’ve never worried about someday becoming too sick or incapacitated to work. (As far as senility, from all I’ve read, the most important thing for us as we grow older, aside from healthy diet and exercise, of course, is to always be growing, to always be interested in life, to always be learning. I think your website, and your marvelous photography and nature writing indicate you have little risk of mentally “checking out,” and I suspect you’ll go out in a blaze of glory, though may that day be far, far away — for us both!)

  6. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Chronocynclastic infundibulum? Whoa, love it! I’ll have to check out The Sirens of Titan….one of my many resolutions for this year was to read more Vonnegut….because I was a science major, I’m afraid I’m woefully under-read in many areas of literature. I know what you mean about those “God pokes.” I think that what I love about some of the best nature writers, guys like Loren Eiseley, for example, is that they sometimes write about those “pokes.” Eiseley can break my heart wide open when he writes about those moments with such achingly beautiful prose — those times when the whole universe reconfigures for a moment, and we see, in face of a baby fox that invites him to play with and toss a bone, the laughing face of the Universe. Or when the Star Thrower break through Eiseley’s nihilistic depression and he suddenly finds, in an absurd act of compassion for some starfish, the deepest meaning and purpose to life.

  7. Steve Goodheart Says:

    So glad Chris Smither resonated with you! He really is a remarkable musician and songwriter — mainly blues-centric, but he draws from all Americana — country, folk, bluegrass, roots stuff. He’s one of my favorite folk/blues guitarist and shows the strong influences of Lightning Hopkins and John Lee Hooker, his boyhood idols. You’ll find he’ll really grow on you, if you give him a chance.

    As for taking the time to comment, I feel remiss that I haven’t long before now, because I enjoyed your photography and writing so much. But I wasn’t sure if it would seem a bit forward or something — I thought maybe only close friends would typically comment or something (some blogs are like that.) Anyway, I began to feel, “Man, this guy is putting out some great stuff, and as a writer and editor, I know how much time and energy it can take to do something even modest. I can’t believe he gets so little feedback.” I know I’ve felt that way. On my own time, I used to do some creative in-house newsletters for a publishing company I worked for. I’d pour my heart into a weekly “extreme science” mailing — incredible images and really fun science — and while I did get some nice feedback at times, at other times I wondered, “Hello, is anybody out there? Is anybody even reading this stuff I put so much heart and time into?” So, I can totally relate to your feeling about others taking without giving. Still, I knew I’d do the newsletter for myself, even if no one read it, and in fact, I had a much bigger fan base than I ever realized. It just would have been nice to have know that some times! So, keep on truckin’! I know you’ll always keep it interesting.

  8. MadDog Says:

    Steve, if I ever start to “check out” mentally, I’ll CHECK OUT! This isn’t Hotel California.

  9. MadDog Says:

    Steve, I think that you’d like Vonnegut. I’ve read all his stuff at least a couple of times. The best thing to do is start with Player Piano and read them in chronological order. You may get to the point, after Breakfast of Champions, where the shine is worn off and you’ll lose interest. But his early stuff is gut wrenching (Slaughterhouse 9) and poignant to the point of tears.

    I get a “God poke” about once a day. I’m a cynic at heart, so those little pokes probably keep me honest. There’s more to life than what the pure empiricists would have us believe.

  10. MadDog Says:

    I dig what you say about feedback. Sometimes I get that “big, empty hall” echo feeling. I do apprecaite that some people take the time to comment intellegently. Frankly, with visitors now running about a thousand a day, I’m glad everybody doesn’t chime in, because I like to respond to comments and I still have to make a living.

    BTW, I’m looking for a brave publisher for a couple of books. Any ideas?

    None of my business, but why don’t you run a blog (excuse me – journal – i hate that B word, it’s not what I do)? Or, if you do, please point me at it.

  11. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Thanks for the Vonnegut tips…sounds like a good way in to the man. And yes, there’s WAY more to life than what pure empiricists say – I have empirical data on this! :)

    Hmmm, a publisher…well, as I said, a few years ago I worked in the Science department of the Houghton Mifflin Company, now called Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, after a incredibly stupid and product-redundant merger of them with Harcourt. I was a K through 6th grade textbook editor, so I didn’t really get to know folks in HMH’s regular book publishing departments, but I think they do include science/nature books such as I suspect you might write in their catalog, along with their big fish like “Lord of the Rings” and their Peterson Field Guides. Check out this link to see if what you have in mind seems like it’s in their ballpark:

    http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/

    and for submissions, here:

    http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/faq/submission.html

    Thanks for the query/encouragement about doing a B word, I mean, Journal. Actually, I ‘m very close to doing so, but I haven’t been able to pin a focus down just yet. I’m torn between writing about nature and science stuff — maybe for kids? — and musings and practical sharing about spiritual practice in Buddhism and meditation and this “God poking” stuff. Also, if you don’t mind, at some point, I’d like to ask you some practical questions about your B, I mean J — like about WordPress and the like. If you’re too busy, I certainly understand. Thanks again. Steve

  12. MadDog Says:

    Steve, I’ll check out the links for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Nothing ventured . . .

    Try http://www.wordpress.com and set up a throw-away blog just to try it out. It’s free and you can do quite a bit with it. There are some limitations as far as the fancy stuff is concerned, but it is very useable. I spent my first year journalling with a free WordPress blog and only moved to a self-hosted site when I wanted to do some flashy stuff that didn’t really add anything to the quality of the content. You should be alble to have a dummy blog up and running in about a half-hour. You can play with the free themes until you find something that pleases you, kick around some ideas about what you want to do with it, and then dump it and start a “real” one. Or, you may find that you’ve made all the right choices and just keep on using the original one.

    Let me know if you need any help. Feel free to send an email to jan@messersmith.name.

  13. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Thanks, Jan, that’s awfully kind of you. WordPress is very tempting…I also happen to have a MobileMe account, so I’m also contemplating using iWeb for my first one….seems pretty automated, but I don’t know if iWeb will have the flexibility in handling and replying to comments that I’d want…..got to get to work on these issues….

    On a more serious note, the earthquake in Indonesia looks to be devastating…..my heart goes out to all the people there…..a 7.6 quake made a hundred times worse by virtual no building codes or enforcement thereof…..the subduction of the Indian-Australia Plate under the Eurasian Plate sure makes life interesting in your part of the world!