Don’t blame Fred


The stock market was about to take another dive, and this time I didn’t want to go down with it, but what to do?

At stake was my small retirement fund. I don’t have many more years to work, and I certainly can’t afford to lose any of it. Then again I can’t afford to pull it out in a declining market.

I saw it all coming about four months ago. So, how did I have such clear insight to the impending crash? Why, I just listen to the voice in my head.

I call him Fred.

Fred told me for months to move everything into a fixed account. If I didn’t I would be sorry, and probably never be able to retire. Not really sure what to do, I asked The Wife. She didn’t know who Fred was, but agreed with him nonetheless.

Still conflicted, I talked to the one person who has give me sage advice all of my adult life. Dad’s been retired for as long as I’ve been working. Thirty years ago, he retired and moved to Florida as a gazillionaire. So, when it comes to money, he must know what he’s talking about.

He said to leave everything as is. He explained, yet again, how over the years the market goes up and down. He told me to just ride the wave. Like the good son I am, I followed his advice and let things ride. Then the market crashed … again.

Fred was furious. And The Wife wasn’t too happy either.

This reminded me of a time quite a few years back. Mr. Myers was my ninth-grade math teacher back at Briarwood High School, Home of the Mighty Buccaneers. He tried to teach me two negatives made a positive.

Obviously, I didn’t understand it then either. I thought adding two negatives just made a bigger negative. It made perfectly good sense to me. This understanding is what accounted for the poor test grade on my mid-term. If I’d missed a few more, my grade would have been a negative number. I guarantee when I got home that wouldn’t be a positive thing.

Whether you blame some politician, or blame greedy corporations, or simply blame Fred about our current economic conditions – when it comes to playing the blame game, it really doesn’t work. Even I learned that when I was 7.

Living at 110 Flamingo Street, Dad lined us up countless times and asked for an explanation as to who had made The Sister cry, broke the furniture by playing inside again when it was raining, or caused the huge spill of paint on the living room carpet.

Trust me, when it’s time to take the blame, you don’t want to be at the last person. By the time Dad got to the end of the line all the good excuses had been used. And all you were left with was taking responsibility for what went wrong. Dad, of course, punished that person.

Well, it looks like the people now in charge of running things in Washington must’ve had a teacher similar to Mr. Myers. But, unlike me, they have understood the negative concept extremely well. They think just because we have negative numbers in the nation’s checking account, all they have to do to fix things is spend more money. Somehow by adding negative numbers to negative numbers will give a positive outcome.

Dad used to tell us all the time, “You broke it, you own it. Be a man and take the blame for it.” When it comes to the economy, it’s really broken. And all the good excuses as to why and who broke it have been used up.

There’s really only one person standing at the end of the line this time. There’s only one person who should take the blame. It ain’t Fred.

I think Dad needs to take a trip to Washington and have a little talk with the people in charge.

I learned three important lessons. First, I should listen to Fred. Second, even a gazillionaire can be wrong. Third, and most important, why marry a smart lady if you’re not going to listen and take her advice.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is]