If you're serious about getting rich, now is the time. We've entered a period of mass-produced pessimism, when bad news is everywhere, and the best time to invest is when optimists become pessimists.
The Weird Turn Pro
Journalist Hunter S. Thompson used to say, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." That's true in investing, too: At the height of every market boom, the weird turn into professional investors. In 2000, millions of people became professional day traders or investors in dotcom companies. Mutual funds had a record net inflow of $309 billion that year, too.
In an earlier column, I stated that it was time to sell all nonperforming real estate. My market indicator? A checkout girl at the local supermarket, who handed me her real estate agent card. She was quitting her job to become a real estate professional.
As a bull market turns into a bear market, the new pros turn into optimists, hoping and praying the bear market will become a bull and save them. But as the market remains bearish, the optimists become pessimists, quit the profession, and return to their day jobs. This is when the real professional investors re-enter the market. That's what's happening now.
Pessimism vs. Realism
In 1987, the United States experienced one of the biggest stock market crashes in history. The savings and loan industry was wiped out. Real estate crashed and a federal bailout entity known as the Resolution Trust Corporation, or the RTC, was formed. The RTC took from the financially foolish and gave to the financially smart.
Right on schedule 20 years later, Dow Industrials and Transports struck their last highs together in July 2007. Since then, nothing but bad news has emerged. In August 2007 a new word surfaced in the world's vocabulary: subprime. That October, I appeared on a number of television shows and was asked when the market would turn and head back up. My reply was, "This is a bad one. The worst is yet to come."
Many of the optimistic TV hosts got angry with me, asking me why I was so pessimistic. I told them, "The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that a pessimist is a realist. I'm just being realistic."
As we all know, things only got worse in early 2008, with the demise of Bear Stearns and the Federal Reserve stepping in to save investment bankers. In February, many of those optimistic TV (and print) reporters became pessimists -- and when journalists become pessimists, the public follows. By March, mutual funds had a net outflow of $45 billion as investors fled the market.
Surviving the Bad Times
Back in 1987, as savings and loans closed and investors' stock and real estate portfolios were wiped out, my wife, Kim, and I were living in Portland, Ore. Many people were depressed and hiding from the truth. The following year, I said to Kim, "Now is the time for you to begin investing."
In 1989, she purchased a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house for $45,000, putting $5,000 down and earning $25 a month in positive cash flow. Today, she owns over 1,400 units and -- because more people are renting than buying -- she earns hundreds of thousands a year in positive cash flow.
The period from 1987 to 1995 was a rough one, even for the rich. In his book "The Art of the Comeback," my friend Donald Trump writes about being a billion dollars down at the time. Rather than give up, he kept on fighting to survive. He and I often talk about how that period was great for character development.
I believe we're through the worst of the current bust. I know there will be more aftershocks, and the news will continue to be pessimistic for at least two more years, possibly until the summer of 2010.
But the upside to this is that it gives us at least two years to do our market research and find the next big stock or real estate bargain. Before buying, I strongly suggest you study, read books, and take courses on your asset of choice. If your choice is stocks, take a course on stocks or options. If it's real estate, take a course on real estate. Now is the time to learn; not only will you know more than the average person and be in a good position when the market turns, but you'll also meet people with a similar mindset.
You have about two years to get into position. Opportunities this big don't come along often, so this is your time to get rich.
Climbing Bulls, Flying Bears
Am I optimistic for the long-term? Absolutely not. I still believe we're due for the mother of all market crashes, and that the U.S. economy is running on borrowed time -- and I do mean borrowed. I think most baby boomers are in serious financial trouble, and that oil will climb above $200 a barrel. Inflation will also increase, causing more pain for the poor and middle class.
The Fed is flooding the market with nearly a trillion dollars of liquidity, which is why I believe gold under $1,200 an ounce and silver under $30 an ounce are bargains. Gold and silver should peak and decline before 2020, completing two 20-year cycles. My exit is to sell silver around 2015. I plan to hold onto gold, income-producing real estate, oil wells, and stocks.
Most of us know the bull climbs slowly up the stairs, but the bear jumps out the window. I believe the bull is still climbing the stairs, and the bear hasn't jumped yet. But rest assured that it will.