May 1, 2009

A Bug Years in the Making

How to Profit from the Y2K Recession: …by Converting the Year 2000 Crisis into an Opportunity for Your Investments and Business by John Mauldin (St. Martin’s Press, 1999, ISBN: 0-312-20706-9)

This book was written by: John F. Mauldin. Mr. Mauldin is an investment analyst, an expert on the Y2K problem, and a member of the Knights of Malta. It is unclear whether Mr. Mauldin belongs to the Knights of Malta that is the pope's militia or the one that is operating outside the pope's control. However, Sir Glen may be able to clear up the confusion if you write to him at his AOL address, assuming that the order of Malta webpage doesn't answer your questions.

What is in this book: Sound financial plans. After all, “Buy-and-hold will continue to be a good strategy until it stops working, and then it won’t be”(p.159), so you should be prepared. Mauldin says that “for a long time, I have been a believer in market timing”(p.182), and if you want to profit from the Y2K Recession, “I think that you should have a significant percentage of your money in bonds at this time”(p.192). You’ll make a killing in the market because “as we will see, the Y2K Recession takes bonds from boring to glamorous!”(p.190) That’s why “you should sell all, or as much as you can (and then hedge the rest) of all your stocks and equity mutual funds now”(p.189), regardless of any capital gains/losses, penalties, or tax consequences.

What is not in this book: Sugar coating. When the millennium bug finally hits us, it’s going to be bad, people. “Y2K is going to be like Smoking Joe’s left hook. It is going to hit us seemingly from out of nowhere”(p.131), and although the new millennium isn't bringing oceans of blood, typhoons of fire, or a hail of brimstone, “The worst effects of the Millennium Bug are going to be economic. It will cause the Y2K Recession”(p.12, emphasis the author’s). When it hits, “the Y2K problem is going to be the cause of the mother of all traffic jams on the information highway”(p.2), and because of it “America will likely suffer the loss of millions of jobs”(p.96). Eventually, “historians will look back one hundred years from now and note the irony of a brief, but severe, global recession caused by a simple programming decision that interrupted an ongoing global expansion”(p.293). Hopefully, those historians will be studying ways to avert the unwarranted influence that society routinely hands over to concepts like the millennium crisis, the Billy Bass, and the Macarena.

Would you recommend this book to a boy scout? Hell yes. Appendix B of this book contains a contingency-planning document that is vital for anyone who wants to be ready for the millennium recession. Sure, “you will notice that you’re already behind. Don’t despair, just do what you can. Every bit of preparation will make the transition easier”(p.311). No matter how far you've fallen behind, it's never too late to be prepared.

Would you recommend this book to a Mormon? I think so. After spending so much money to fight gay marriage in California only to lose in so many other parts of the country, they need to stop thinking about prophets and start making profits.
The responsibility for directing the nature of our corporate response lies with our religious institutions”(p.329), and those religious institutions need to show us how to kick people while they're down. “If in the process of becoming compliant, you realize that your industry is more exposed than most realize, you might want to start thinking about how you would exploit a competitor’s delivery problems”(p.109). If that's not in the bible, it should be.

What was interesting about this book? John Mauldin. His powerful friends have asked him to spend a lot of time speaking at important events. “I have sat with presidents of banks, both large and small”(p.74), writes Mauldin, and he relays an anecdote that occurred “recently, [while] I was speaking at a Y2K conference for programmers”(p.8). In fact, he says that “In the middle of October 1998, I spoke at the largest hedge-fund conference in the world”(p.129). His travels give him a unique insight into the way that the financial industry is preparing for the Y2K recession, and “while speaking at high-level investment conferences (mostly for hedge funds), I have been exposed to discussions about ‘derivatives’”(p.267). The unique insight provided by these relationships has shown him the severity of our situation because “about two weeks after that near-meltdown [triggered by the collapse of Long Term Capital Management], I was flying to Bermuda to speak at a hedge-fund conference [....] That weekend when I attended the largest hedge-fund conference in the world to talk about Y2K, the number of hedge-fund managers who took the problem seriously was a definite minority”(p.269).

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