Executive summary: Father of three young children; author; obsessive financial observer; trained as a scientist; experienced in business; has made profound changes in his lifestyle because of what he sees coming.
I think it’s important that you understand who I am, how I have arrived at my conclusions and opinions, and why I’ve dedicated my life to communicating them to you.
First of all, I am not an economist. I am trained as a scientist, having completed both a PhD and a post-doctoral program at Duke University, where I specialized in neurotoxicology. I tell you this because my extensive training as a scientist informs and guides how I think. I gather data, I develop hypotheses, and I continually seek to accept or reject my hypotheses based on the evidence at hand. I let the data tell me the story.
It is also important for you to know that I entered the profession of science with the intention of teaching at the college level. I love teaching, and I especially enjoy the challenge of explaining difficult or complicated subjects to people with limited or no background in those subjects. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Once I figured out that most of the (so-called) better colleges place “effective teacher” pretty much near the bottom of their list of characteristics that factor into tenure review, I switched gears, obtained an MBA from Cornell (in Finance), and spent the next ten years working my way through positions in both corporate finance and strategic consulting. From these experiences I gather my comfort with numbers and finance.
So much for the credentials.
The most important thing for you to know is the impact that the information that I’ve now placed on this site had on me. Let’s do this as a Before and After.
Before: I am a 40-year-old professional who has worked his way up to Vice President of a large, international Fortune 300 company and is living in a waterfront, 5 bathroom house in Mystic, CT, which is mostly paid off. My three young children are either in or about to enter public school, and my portfolio of investments is being managed by a broker at a large institution. I do not really know any of my neighbors, and many of my local connections are superficial at best.
After: I am a 45-year-old who has willingly terminated his former high-paying, high-status position because it seemed like an unnecessary diversion from the real tasks at hand. My children are now homeschooled, and the big house in Mystic was sold in July of 2003 in preference for a 1.5 bathroom rental in rural western Massachusetts. In 2002, I discovered that my broker was unable to navigate a bear market and I’ve been managing our investments ever since. Since that time my portfolio has gained 166%, which works out to a compounded yearly gain of 27.8% for five years running (whereas my broker, by keeping me in the usual assortment of stocks, would have scored me a 38% return, or 8.39%/yr). I grow a garden every year; preserve food; and know how to brew beer & wine, raise chickens, and slaughter sheep. I’ve carefully examined each support system (food, energy, security, etc) and for each of them I’ve figured out either a means of being more self-sufficient or how to do without. But, most importantly, I now know that the most important descriptor of wealth is not my dollar holdings, but the depth and richness of my local community.