In these days of the highest interest rates since the birth of Christ, corporate merger mania, topsy-turvy tax changes and an economy rapidly going nowhere, who can you turn to for investment advice?
Maybe Richard C. Fults in Alexandria, publisher of The Fults Forecast, a newsletter that charts "The Fults Effect" to predict the path of stock prices.
Or John Pugsley, who's threatening to knock Washington author Douglas Casey's "Crisis Investing" off the talk-show circuit with "The Alpha Strategy" of "financial self-defense."
Or perhaps Gordon McLendon, who came through town recently with some surprising advice about his money manual called: "Get REALLY Rich in the Coming Super Metals Boom."
McLendon says something that neither Puglsey, Fults nor most of the rest of the legion of alternative investment advisers will ever suggest: "Ignore my book's advice."
This is not a good time to try to get even moderately (to say nothing of really ) rich investing in metals, he says. Not with 20 percent interest rates, uncertain government policies and crooks whispering, "Hey buddy, wanna make a fast buck on a ton of tantalum?" into the ears of anyone willing to listen.
McLendon can afford to say that because he is certifiably rich. He practically invented Top 40 radio, put up a string of broadcasting towers the way other Texans build oil derricks, and now is into what must be about his sixth successful career as a metals maven.
Anti-Wall Street wonderpersons, counterculture capitalists -- the '70's spawned them and the '80s are building them into a boom.
With the certainty of the cycles of the Fults Forecast, the bust will follow.
Which is about the only thing you could count on if you follow the advice of folks like Fults, who predicts a turning point in the economy will come tomorrow.
"After topping out around Aug. 10, the market will start a long decline lasting several months, with several small rallies. The first such rally will begin around Aug. 21 and end around Aug. 26," he forecast in his latest newsletter.
And what is the secret source of knowledge of Richard Fults, who modestly admits to "forecasting 11 consecutive market turning points weeks in advance to within three days accuracy?"
We're talking sunspots. "The radiation levels over the next several months will be extremely weak," Fults confides. "That translates into negligible psychological stimulation to buy, and thereby into substantially lower prices ahead."
"The only input to this market forecast is my forecasted level of electromagnetic radiation entering our environment," Fults acknowledges.
"That you will find nearly, if not absolutely, impossible to believe, I know."
You're right about that, Richard.
But I'll read at least one more installment of The Fults Forecast just to see the piece promised in the next issue: "Dr. Burr's electromagnetic trees."
Compared to such cosmic material, John Pugsley comes across as down to earth.
Because Casey, one of the most creative crazies of contrarian capitalism, plugs "The Alpha Strategy," I made an appointment to talk to Pugsley. Luckily something came up.
What is there to say to someone who says "the ultimate plan of financial self-defense" is to stockpile a 10-year supply of toothpaste, a lifetime's worth of razor blades, and all the dental floss, fan belts, underwear and hacksaw blades your basement will hold?
He calls this prescription "saving consumables," and argues that the only reason for saving money is to buy things, so why not eliminate the medium of exchange and save the things you buy?
"If it were possible to create a perfect savings account, it would consist of a lifetime supply of every item you'll ever use," Pugsley says. "With such a stockpile, you would have reached financial independence and eliminated forever the risks of external economic forces such as inflation or recession."
Take shampoo. Instead of buying Breck by the pint for $2.50, get a gallon from a beauty supply shop for $8.95.A family of four will need two gallons a year. Buying a 10-year supply will save $250 just from getting the giant size, to say nothing of protecting against the dandruff of inflation.
Practical advice from Pugsley includes charts showing the shelf-life of everything from Chapstick (one year) to toggle bolts (indefinite, if they don't rust), and a guide to how much a cubic foot of consumables is worth ($30.50 for lightbults).
Warnings about the danger of obsolescence take up a page or two. But while Pugsley mentions liquid assets (stashing wine is undoubtedly his best suggestion) he never mentions liquidity. How do you unload 22 gallons of shampoo when your hair falls out? What good is a 10-year supply of spark plugs if everybody is driving diesels? How much can you get for a basement f ull of electrical tape, plastic cups or dried beans?
Pugsley runs smack dab into Gordon McLendon when he suggests stockpiling metals. Along with the wine, he suggests laying down a few bars of cobalt, cadmium, zinc, chromium or other shiny stuff.
A bad idea, says McLendon. The interest on money used to buy metals amounts to 20 percent a year or more, so the value of a metal would have to increase at least that much just to keep even. It's not happening.
Nor can you could on selling small quantities of metals for anything more than scrap prices. Commercial metal users deal in standard quantities and qualities, he explains. They don't want to bother with lesser amounts or unknown grades and will knock down the price accordingly.A ton of copper could be as hard to get your money out of as a lifetime supply of aluminum foil.
Pugsley, Fults, McLendon. Off-the-wall investment advisers are becoming as ubiquitous as diet books, but the contrasts among these three suggest a lesson for adventurous investors: If somebody knows so much about making money, how come all they're doing is writing books?