Mail Bag: Disappearing Blog Posts at About.com
You aren’t imagining it, a lot of the blog posts disappeared over at About.com …
I love your blog, which I use multiple times a day, every day. I have been searching for an article from the past for some time, but I still can’t find it. The article is about selling stocks during the recession, which you wrote during the recession. To paraphrase, you wrote something like “do not sell. If you sell your stocks, my family will buy them. 10 years from now, I will be wealthier for this decision, and you will not.” Do you know the article to which I am referring? If it helps, I believe you published it on about.com. I would really appreciate it if you could direct me to this article. However, I understand if my description was overly vague. Thanks for all your hard work on this blog.
It’s been thirteen years since I first began writing for the public and I don’t think I will ever get used to the idea of people reading, let alone remembering, some of the things I pen. A friend of mine jokes it is because I don’t think any of you are real; that I do this as sort of a way to organize my own thoughts, just like I used to write in journals back in high school and college.
You are somehow recalling a 690 word post I wrote on October 9th, 2008 on Investing for Beginners at About.com back during The New York Times years. The original URL was http://beginnersinvest.about.com/b/2008/10/09/want-to-know-a-secret-ill-tell-you-in-this-rare-moment-of-total-candor.htm but you can’t access it, anymore. It was never a stand-alone article, but rather hidden in the archives of the site after appearing briefly one week.
As part of the recent Google Panda updates, About.com did away with the guide blogs and now just post excerpts from new articles on the landing pages. That means 80%+ of the blog posts were hidden from public view to improve search rankings. I can still get to them from the administrative panel but nearly a decade of posts was otherwise deleted from public view.
Here is a copy of the original blog post, verbatim, written less than a month after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and AIG. Otherwise rational people were selling their holdings in fear. I had never witnessed anything like it. Major personalities were on television, radio, and in print telling people that they had no business owning stocks now that the prices were fluctuating. In a moment of exasperation, I was a little too unguarded. (On a side note, Berkshire Class B shares have since split 50-1 since. The $1,950 per share price would be comparable to $39.00 per share today. The stock now trades at $134.34.)
Lou Dobbs just said on live television that it is “irresponsible” for people to recommend buying stocks right now.
I’m going to speak to you for a moment precisely as I have to members of my family over the past few days. Candid. Frank. This is intended to illustrate how we feel so please do not take it as harsh or unfeeling because the whole point is to try to leave no ambiguity in our convictions on stocks. I’m saying this so that you understand how an emotional decision could set you back years, if not decades, in your life goals and retirement dreams.
Are you ready? Okay. Here we go.
Right now, if you panic and cash out of your 401(k), people like me are sitting, waiting, in the market with our cash and buying your stocks at 30, 40, or 50 cents on the dollar. We are buying the very assets that you are selling. In ten years, you will sit at home and whine about the wealthy on Wall Street and how the game is stacked against you, and wonder how we ended up with tens of millions of dollars in additional wealth. This is how. If you own good, quality, blue chip stocks, are reasonably diversified, and believe America will be stronger and better off in ten years, now is the time to get rich. Every time you sell shares, there is a buyer on the other end of that transaction. Depending upon the quality of your holdings (we are only interested in strong businesses with little bankruptcy risk), that buyer just might be one of my companies.
That doesn’t mean stocks won’t fall another 50 percent. That doesn’t bother us. We are only concerned with building serious wealth for the future. Who the hell cares if your stocks are getting cheaper as long as the underlying businesses are generating tons of cash and you expect the value to be three, four, five or more times higher by 2018?
To give you an idea of one of the core holdings that I tend to freely discuss, my family and companies have invested huge amounts in shares of Berkshire Hathaway as they have fallen nearly 27% over the past year. I imagine Warren Buffett is doing cartwheels in Omaha at some of the prices he’s seeing in the market. As a family, we are glad to have him deploying our portion of the $40 billion cash hoard he’s built up over the past few years. We’ve already seen how he’s gotten fantastic terms on the Goldman Sachs and General Electric deals, plus the Constellation Energy purchase of assets at $0.60 on dollar! You would have to be a complete and total idiot to think that Berkshire won’t be generating far more money ten years hence. So if the shares fall by half – to $1,950 per Class B share and $58,500 per Class A share, my concern won’t be the huge paper loss to my net worth. It will be getting my hands on millions of dollars in fresh, new cash to buy more.
The United States of America is the greatest wealth creating machine in the history of the world. Our system works. Whether you are an auto mechanic or a waitress, you have an opportunity to build your capital and enjoy wealth if you study how money compounds. I know first hand how great that system is because both my spouse and I were first generation college graduates that had to put ourselves through school and start with nothing in building our companies. We had no connections, no capital, and no help, but the American system was so amazing that it enabled us to achieve our dream very, very young. You deserve the same thing, but it is only possible if you are rational, focused, and disciplined.
Personally, if I were working for a company that offered retirement benefits, I’d have run down to the HR department a few days ago and bumped my 401(k) contribution to the maximum $15,500 or whatever was permitted by my employer. Given the volatility, I’d only invest in a low-cost S&P 500 index fund, but I’d be buying everything I could afford.
I don’t know how on Earth you’d remember something like that. It’s been six years since it briefly appeared then got buried before ultimately hidden behind the administrative panel. You can tell I was a lot younger then. I don’t think I’d ever write something like that these days, I’d just quietly go about my business. Youth is a funny thing. It’s interesting how much a person changes from his mid-twenties to early thirties.