Don’t Call Me a Douchebag

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Editor’s note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest book is I Was Blind But Now I SeeYou can follow him @jaltucher.

I was once backstage at a news show. Six  people were on a box in the screen screaming at each other about the economy. The producer was laughing. He leaned over to me and said, “the whole idea of this is to fill the time between one commercial segment and the next.”

Every day they want to scare me. Greece is going to suddenly disappear. Or have some sort of debt “contagion” that will spread across the Atlantic. Everyone is a “contagion” expert. Just like we were all experts on “Avian Flu”. Whatever happened to that one? Did anyone die of Avian flu?

Here’s what happens in a newsroom. I know this because I’ve been in many newsrooms: Top editor/producer says: Ok. What do we have to work with? Reporter says: Well, the economy is up. Editor says: Not good enough. Reporter says: Well, radiation from a tiny island in Japan might hit San Francisco tomorrow. Editor/Producer: BINGO! And then it’s all over the news. And then everyone in San Francisco gets sick from iodine pills. And then no radiation hits. And the media moves on: ECONOMY HEADING FOR PROBABLE RECESSION!

No apologies.

I want an apology.

For me, its personal. Some economist (Mish Shedlock) wrote a blog post in 2010, “James, you are completely whacko”” because of my stance on the economy. Nouriel Roubini thought I was crazy that we weren’t going into another recession (in mid 2010). Some random guy made a cartoon video “Altucher is a douchebag” a year ago because of my economic stance. The stock market is up 30% since then. No apology.

Why do they make it so personal? I never in my life called anyone a “whacko”. Who even says “whacko”? Isn’t it spelled “wacko”? Or “douchebag”. Here’s my daughters watching the “douchebag” video. I thought it would be educational for them to learn why people think their dad is a method used to clean the inside of a vagina.

Entrepreneurs don’t need to care about the economy. In fact, the worse the economy, the better the time it is to start a business. Because the one thing I know about every bad economic situation in the US – it always gets better. Since 1600.

But, unfortunately now, the economy is on fire and is going to stay that way for awhile.

Here’s why, in quick bullet points:

- 23 consecutive months of private sector job growth.

Just an aside. I searched on Google News to track the occurrences of the words “jobless recovery” across every news source. Here’s the result:

In other words, after every single recession, all the newspapers spoke about a “jobless recovery”. Well, we had one again. And guess what. 23 consecutive months of private sector job growth is what’s called “good news”.

  • real GDP has grown for 10 consecutive quarters. People will say, “oh that’s fueled by QE2”. No it isn’t. QE2 might be bad or good. We don’t know yet. The last dollar in QE2 was spent in June, 2011. It takes 6-18 months, if not longer, for the effects of QE2 to be felt. So we just don’t know yet. What we do know is: 10 consecutive quarters of GDP growth is what’s called a “good thing”.
  • car sales are up 53% from the bottom in 2009.
  • earnings yield on stocks are at 7.4%, treasury yields are at 2%. Remember back in Ancient Times? Like the 1980s and 1990s? This ratio was reversed. Does that mean the S&P 500 is going to triple? Maybe. Maybe not. But it means stocks are a much more lucrative bet now than treasury yields.
  • money supply is growing – this means that banks are finally starting to lend. Money supply is measured by M2. This has just been starting (see the “six months” I mention above.)
  • corporate cash at a high. Not only that but…

  • first recession in 200 years where cash increased quarter over quarter every single quarter. So wait a second, didn’t we have a recession. Yeah, but companies made more money than ever by firing all of their dead weight. Is this good or bad? I don’t know. But now employment coming back and cash is in the bank.
  • trailing P/E on S&P is 12. P/E is price over earnings and is used to gauge whether the market is cheap or not. The average is 15, about 20% higher. If you look at forward earnings, the forward P/E is about 10 (because of earnings growth and all of the announced buybacks). That means the  market could easily be worth more than 50% higher than where it is now. Well, the media  can say, “what if profits go down?” Yeah, what if? Shut up.

Well, what about Greece?  Yeah, I say, what about Greece. I was on TV a month ago and this came up. I said, “Greece to the Eurozone is like Rhode Island to the United States in terms of GDP.” And I live 40 minutes from Rhode Island and have never set foot in it. So why should I care about some beach resort 5,000 miles away.

So the response from the erudite reporter was, “but investor psychology cares about Greece.”

“Yeah,” I said, “because of you every day blabbering about it on TV. Let’s talk about Kim Kardashian instead. A much more interesting topic.”

So what does this all mean? Does this mean your life is going to be better because the economy is going to be better? Who knows. That’s up to you to choose. Does this mean the media will start apologizing for all the misinformation? No, of course not. They will just figure out the next thing that scares you.

Does this mean that I will start getting apologies. Absolutely not. I’m nobody.

It does mean this: turn off the TV. Don’t read the newspapers. Stop blaming the economy or Greece or “Avian Flu”. Sleep 9 hours a day. And once you can ignore all of these distractions you will have the time to start a business and get rich, regardless of what the talking heads (including me) are saying about the economy. Good luck and godspeed.

(Or you can also read my latest post on “How to Break out of Prison”)