From the December 2010 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

December 1, 2010

Proof of Recovery

As I am sure you will all recall from last month’s column, I boldly proclaimed an official end to the downward spiraling economy. The worst is over. According to my own proprietary data, the economic pendulum is on the upswing. Sure, we may have a few bumps along the way, but basically I’m saying: “Start dusting off those credit cards. Good times are coming again!”

“Where’s the proof?” you ask. Sure, I could be like one of those CNBC time-fillers and spew out all the fancy numbers backing up my claims, but frankly numbers confuse me. I have a more scientifically complex method. My gut. I call it the Bill Miller Recovery Index.

Before I continue, I need to address the obvious. The reason I use my own name in the title is mainly because I think it sounds impressive. It has absolutely nothing to do with me wanting to gain fake credibility from a similarly named money-managing kingpin. I apologize in advance to any future Google users interested in knowing anything about Legg Mason Capital Management.

Back to the proof. This past weekend, hell froze over. After 11 years and 186,497 miles, I finally traded my old car in for a new one. If you were thinking I must have really loved the old car to keep it for over a decade, you would be wrong.

Back in ’99, when most people had money, it was commonplace to buy a luxury car/SUV to show your now ex-wife how much you cared. I was no different. This journey began with the best of intentions.

I hated that car from the second it depreciated 25 percent as I drove it off the lot. I do remember marveling at the much-anticipated German engineering my neighbor always talked about. I specifically remembered marveling at how once you opened the sunroof, it wouldn’t close. And so on and so on.
I learned to live with my hatred of this vehicle mainly because I didn’t drive it much. Until, that is, the one time my ex decided to drive my car to the store and totaled it. As punishment (or penance), I ended up driving this bratwurst-on-wheels for another 150K tortuous miles of wind whistling through the roof.

Through rain, mud and snow I drove that four-wheel-drive Wiener schnitzel. Through three intestinally challenged children and four carsick dogs, I drove. Through seven seasons of car-pooling unlaundered youth-football equipment, I drove like a storm trooper.

So what was it that made me hold on to the Panzer for so long? Part of it probably had a lot to do with the past decade’s sense of impending doom. Another part was that it never really felt like the right time to get rid of it. Hence, the Bill Miller Recovery Index.

About six months ago I first started feeling some positive data about the economy. I distinctly remember the timing because it coincided with my mechanic telling me my catalytic converter was shot. A few months later when my brakes started making a grinding noise, I remember thinking it looked like I was seeing about 1 to 3 percent fewer For Sale signs in people’s yards.

By last Friday when the smoke started coming out of the hood, I was convinced that the elevator taking the Dow to 30,000 had left the lobby. Two days later I was agreeing with the salesman that I really didn’t want a used car. The Index said, “Make the deal.”

I made the deal and if I had any money left, it would be pouring into the market. Remember, you heard it here first… Bill Miller predicts Dow 30,000.

(Special note to all search engines… when this article goes digital, please let everyone know I’m the other Bill Miller.)

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