Do the stock predictors know what they’re doing? Let’s see.

By December 21, 2021, I had invested almost all of my savings into the stock market over the previous 6 months, when the S&P 500 was climbing to record highs. (I believe it increased by at least 28% that year.) In 2021, I began delving into the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early), and I began investing in Index Funds, as most of the sensible financial independence gurus recommend. Of course, if you’ve followed the market over 2022, you know that it took a big dip from its high at the end of 2021, but we are (as of this writing, January 27, 2023) about where we were two years ago, Feb 1, 2021, which was a record high, one of many that were hit during 2021’s extraordinary climb. (Obviously, I, like everyone, wish I’d put everything into the market at the beginning of 2021 and took it out at the end of the year. Alas, no magic crystal ball told me to do so.)

To my point: In December 2021, I began seeing articles about which stock picks would grow in 2022. As an experiment, I thought I would save a couple of those articles to see how they turned out. Here’s an example from

That’s a lot of stocks to track, but let’s list them:

  1. Activision Blizzard, ATVI
  2. T-Mobile, TMUS
  3. Comcast, CMCSA
  4. Discovery, DISCA
  5. Electronic Arts, EA
  6. Penn National Gaming, PENN
  7. Norwegian Cruise Line, NCLH
  8. Gap, GPS
  9. Las Vegas Sands, LVS
  10. Hess, HES
  11. Citigroup, C
  12. Invesco, IVZ
  13. Medtronic, MDT
  14. Zimmer Biomet, ZBH
  15. Biogen, BIIB
  16. Teleflex, TFX
  17. Alaska Air, ALK
  18. Southwest Airlines, LUV
  19. Delta Air Lines, DAL
  20. Generac Holdings, GNRC, 
  21. Global Payments, GPN
  22. Paypal, PYPL
  23. Skyworks Solutions, SWKS
  24. Fidelity National, FIS
  25. Fleetcore Tech, FLT
  26. Qorvo, QRVO
  27. Western Digital, WDC

Some of these companies are familiar to me, and some are not. I can hardly believe what this article is saying is the expected 2022 return on some of these stocks. 42% on Skyworks!? 47% on PayPal? 53% on Global Payments? 49% on Delta? 57% on Alaska Air? 43% on Gap? 56% on Norwegian Cruise Lines? What the hell are these people drinking? How many more cruises do they think people are gonna take!?! And finally, 87% on Penn National Gaming. Wow. But hey, if internet gambling is totally legalized, maybe that one makes sense. You can click on the link to the article to read the other expected 2022 returns

So what really happened? Well, Russian invaded Ukraine, but even before that, the stock market started to dip just a couple of days into 2022. 

I’ll compare the prices from December 28, 2021 to December 28, 2022. I’m not gonna do them all, because it’ll take me forever. 

  1. Activision Blizzard, ATVI
    1. At 66.67 on December 28, 2021, a year later it was at 76.05. That’s an 14% increase in a year that was pretty bad! But ATVI jumped up that first month and slumped a little bit downward for the rest of the year. (I assume that jump was in response to the news that Microsoft was planning to buy it.) Of course, Goldman Sachs projected at 52% return for ATVI in 2022. 
  2. T-Mobile, TMUS
    1. Expected: 41%, Reality: 118.16 to 138.98, for a 17.6% return. Not bad, considering the returns on the indexes.
  3. Comcast, CMCSA
    1. Expected: 32%, Reality: 50.51 to 34.62, for a negative 31.4% return. Yikes. Maybe Goldman forgot to put the minus sign before their projection?
  4. Discovery, DISCA
    1. This was delisted, because it was bought by Warner Brothers? Or bought by AT&T and combined with Warner? I’m not gonna do much research on this, because I’m dumb about this stuff.
  5. Electronic Arts, EA
    1. Expected: 35%, Reality: 133.47 to 119.54, for a negative 10.4% return. 
  6. Penn National Gaming, PENN
    1. Expected: 87%, Reality: 49.34 to 28.31, for a negative 42.6% return. Well that’s quite a bit off. 
  7. Norwegian Cruise Line, NCLH
    1. Expected: 56%, Reality: 21.91 to 12.14, for a negative 44.6% return. There must be some articles out there about how millennials are destroying the cruise industry.
  8. Gap, GPS
    1. Expected: 43%, Reality: 17.41 to 11.29, for a negative 35% return. 
  9. Las Vegas Sands, LVS
    1. Expected: 38%, Reality: 37.65 to 46.18, for a 22.6% return. I guess the house always wins? But over a 10-year period, this stock has some crazy highs and lows. I don’t know how people can stomach trading individual stocks like this. 
  10. Hess, HES
    1. Expected: 42%, Reality: 75.28 to 138.64, for an 84% return! We’ve got a winner! I’m assuming this was a good year for (non-Russian) energy stocks, considering the attempts to get away from buying Russian oil and gas, after the invasion.
  11. Citigroup, C
    1. Expected: 36%, Reality, 60.62 to 44.62, for a negative 26% return. 
  12. Invesco, IVZ, down
  13. Medtronic, MDT, down
  14. Zimmer Biomet, ZBH, same
  15. Biogen, BIIB, up, after a crazy jump in August. I don’t know what that’s about. 
  16. Teleflex, TFX, down
  17. Alaska Air, ALK, down
  18. Southwest Airlines, LUV, down
  19. Delta Air Lines, DAL
    1. Expected: 49%, Reality: 39.63 to 31.99, for a negative 19% return. 
  20. Generac Holdings, GNRC, down a lot
    1. Expected: 48%, Reality: 348 to 96, for a 72% decrease. Whoa. 
  21. Global Payments, GPN, down a good bit
  22. Paypal, PYPL
    1. Expected: 47%, Reality: 190.1 to 67.55, for a negative 64% return. What the hell happened here!? It was at a high of 301.77 in July of 2021! Yikes. 
  23. Skyworks Solutions, SWKS
    1. Expected: 42%, Reality: 155.94 to 86.8, for a negative 44% return. 
  24. Fidelity National, FIS, down by almost half
  25. Fleetcore Tech, FLT, down
  26. Qorvo, QRVO, down by about half 
  27. Western Digital, WDC, down

(I assume I have my math right, but please correct me if I’m wrong.)

So there you have it, folks. What does this tell me? The prognosticators don’t know what the hell they are doing. Crazy stuff happens (like the attempted genocide of the Ukrainian people), and markets will react in a multitude of ways. Needless to say, if you invested in all of these stocks at the beginning of 2022, you would NOT have received a 32% return at all. 

VTSAX was at 116 at the end of 2021, and at the end of 2022, it was at 91.6, for a negative 21% return. I actually don’t think my returns were that bad, but that’s because I didn’t invest it all at the end of 2021. I invested it over the course of the last 6 months of 2021, so I experienced some gains before the downturn.

I’ve been hearing a lot of noise about another downturn or recession in 2023, but I’m skeptical. Who knows what will happen? Hopefully Ukraine will make gains against Russian aggression. Of course, the Republicans in congress will likely provoke a showdown over the debt ceiling. If the US defaulted on its debts, that would likely shake things up. We don’t know what will happen.

I keep saving and investing as much as possible, because I want to reach financial independence as soon as possible, because financial independence equals a certain level of freedom from having to work and live in a particular location. I want the option to move if I want to, wherever I want to, especially after my daughter graduates from high school in 11 years. 

Anyway, this was an exercise I planned to do a couple of weeks ago, and I’m glad I finally sat down to get it done. I hope it’s helpful to whoever might read it. 



The Annual Update

Well, I suppose I’m just posting once a year now, but I keep the domain name in case I want to do something different with this website.

Today, I’m thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and what’s on my to-do list.

What are my main projects for 2023?

  1. Finish the work for my certificate in spiritual direction, from Columbia Theological Seminary.
  2. Read books on death and dying for a Lenten sermon series.
  3. Read books on the Fruit of the Spirit for an Easter series on that topic.
  4. Read some David Bentley Hart theology.
  5. Keep exercising.
  6. Prepare a small group (or one-time presentation) on “The Most Important Contradictions in the Bible,” which would basically serve as an “Intro to the Bible” class or (in the case of a one-time presentation) a summary of my biblical hermeneutic.

This list (mostly about work) may help me focus on my New Year’s Resolutions.

Buckling down and reading is important to me, because even after getting rid of 75% of my books over the past few years, I still have shelves of books that I haven’t read all the way through. I’m developing a new relationship with books: I once wanted them all over the place. Now, they feel like clutter. Perhaps if I didn’t have to move every few years, I’d feel the same as I did a few years ago. But now, I see no point in owning them for over a decade and not finishing them. It’s ridiculous, and morally, it’s even selfish. Someone else could have that book, especially if it’s valuable, which a couple of mine are. Either read them, or get rid of them (either by selling them or giving them away).

This past year, my goals were to teach well, cook more, play guitar more, exercise, travel to see friends, and spend more time outside. I taught two fun small groups (“Spirituality for Atheists and Unrefined Christians” and “Biblical Myths to Live By”), both of which served some non-religious or nominally religious persons, which was my goal. I didn’t cook much more, and I probably played guitar even less! I kept up with my gym membership (a crossfit-style gym with classes, which I attend three times a week), and we traveled to Tennessee, Idaho, and Boston (to see family). Not sure if I really spent more time outside.

I believe I came up with those resolutions by asking myself, “What if 2022 was my last year alive?” My resolutions for 2023 might have a similar origin.

What if 2023 was my last year to live?

Then yes, the books on death and dying seem very appropriate. The Fruit of the Spirit is a wonderful list of character traits, accessible to skeptics and devotees alike. Strangely enough, I’m almost to the point where I could write some sort of pamphlet of my basic life-wisdom (all cribbed from others, of course).

I’m still quite excited about a book series on Christian History, and indeed, I’ve just purchased another old book by Walter Nigg, Warriors of God: The Great Religious Orders and Their Founders, which seems like it could make the perfect backbone of a sermon series. You could tell the stories of Basil, Benedict, Teresa, Francis, et al, and then discern the implications of their community-formation work for today’s churches. That series might not happen until 2024, but it’ll be good to get started on it sometime this year.

So, for 2023, let’s see if we can boil it down to some basics:

  1. First, read the books on death and dying, so that Lenten sermon series can be decent. This means shunning the rest of my reading material. History and theology will have to wait. My Harper’s Magazine subscription is expiring, after more than 16 years of being a subscriber. But I don’t have time to read the articles, and many are of little interest to me these days.
  2. Finish the certificate on spiritual direction, but do a little reading on good listening skills. I’m sure I’ve got some spiritual direction books that would scratch that itch.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Travel with Kathleen and Edith to state parks, campgrounds, national parks, etc. We have such fun in these places together, it’d be silly not to keep doing it.

Changes might be on the horizon for 2023, so there’s more to come, but let’s see if we can start the year off right, focusing on a few important things.

In years past, I was more explicit about my goals of eating right and drinking no alcohol, but now this has become habit (as exercise has). In July, I’ll be four years alcohol free! It has been the best decision I ever made (because it made everything else in my life better, including my spiritual life), and I aim to never drink alcohol again. Just no reason to do it. I’ve reduced my meat and dairy by about 90% since November of 2020, so that’s been nice as well. My bad cholesterol went down about 20 points. I joke that I’m about as good of a vegan as I am a Christian: I want to get better but I’m failing regularly. If I get my death and dying books finished, I’ll read one or two on nutrition and diet.

If you’re still reading this, thanks for listening, and I hope you have a lovely year.



New You, New Year

As always, blogging about blogging, thinking about sharing, sharing about thinking: Another year goes by!

I put a few official dispatches via my church’s monthly newsletters, but of course those words are pastoral in nature. What’s the difference between that and blog thoughts? Hopefully the honesty is the same. But perhaps blogs can be less edited, which is why I think it’s funny that blogs ever became highly-followed… perhaps some people have more coherent thoughts before editing than I do.

Why blog today? I’m thinking about some thoughts that I want to remember, and I thought they might be more fun to put into the digital ether, instead of simply in my journal. After all, I pay about $18 a year for this domain name! Might as well use it. I may convert it to a portal to contact me about spiritual direction, at some point, when I’m officially CERTIFIED.

Best music I enjoyed this year: Cheekface, more Cheekface, Beach Bunny, Bad Bad Hats, Rosie Tucker, Will Beeley, and more Cheekface.

Best book I read this year? Most useful: That preaching book by Andy Stanley. Most spiritual: Soulful Spirituality. Still didn’t get through a novel. Yeesh. (Unless you count comic books.)

Thoughts on pastoring: Glad to have some newish perspectives on pastoring still benefiting my tenure in Cleveland/Boyle: I’m a guest at someone else’s family reunion. I (try to) respond to people like they are children, giving them the grace that I would give kids, explaining things to them in ways that are accessible, relevant, and engaging. I’m cheerful, encouraging, patient, and conscious of how I’m different from them. I tell people what I want from them, and then I release them to do what they want. They certainly do not have to do what I want, but I remain clear about my desires, and they do what they want with that information. This means I need to be in touch with what I want from others: “Is it reasonable? WHY do I want them to do ____?”

I’m also trying to embrace my role as a spiritual direction who is serving as a pastor.

I’m also trying to think of myself as a full-time volunteer at the church. This also helps me maintain a certain emotional distance and a less controlling stance. I’m not responsible for everything. I’m not “in charge.” I’m just a supportive volunteer. Who is in charge? Hopefully Jesus! I’m just his volunteer full-time associate pastor. I’m doing my best, but I’m not responsible for everyone else, because they are adults like me. They aren’t full-time volunteers; they’re part-time, so my expectations should take that into account. It also feels good to think I’m doing this because I want to–out of the goodness of my heart (or the goodness God is doing through me)–not because I have to. Too many pastors complain about their jobs and their parishioners. (I’ve been one of those pastors!) It doesn’t help.

2021 brought lots of fun changes to my life: I joined a Crossfit-style gym called Unrated, in Cleveland, and I’ve gotten stronger. I go to classes three times a week, and now they’ve recently moved even closer to my home. Very convenient.

November 2021 marked a year since I became mostly vegan, especially when I’m choosing/buying my own foods to eat. In 2022, I plan to continue to explore ways I can cultivate a cheap, lazy, low-fat vegan diet, especially when it comes to long-term cooking and meal-planning.

I got into the financial independence / early retirement (FIRE) movement, learning a lot of the basics about financial management, investing wisely, and reducing my tax bill, while living simply and frugally for the sake of achieving financial independence in 12-17 years. Edith will graduate high school is 12.5 years, when I’m 50, and at 55, I should be able to start withdrawing from my 403b. I’d like to be able to visit her as much as possible (not that an adult daughter wants her parents visiting all the time!), but I want the free time to travel with her (and I hope to have the resources to pay her way). With two grandparents who didn’t live past their mid-sixties, I want to use my time wisely.

A plan for financial independence and potential early retirement means making the most of the 12.5 years I’ll continue serving as a full-time pastor, if I cut it that short. It’s nice to imagine that I won’t still be in committee meetings in my sixties! Thankfully, we don’t have a lot of committee meetings at St. Luke or Boyle, and that’s one of the reasons I love pastoring here.

I’ve got more to type, but I’m gonna take a break. If you stumble upon this post, and want to share your own 2021 adventures and 2022 hopes, please comment below.

2021 goals: Run, read 26 books, don’t trifle away time online, eat vegan, no alcohol.

2022 goals: Preach & teach well (try out a new small group); exercise at the gym; play guitar; cook cheap/lazy/low-fat vegan; travel to see friends; spend more time outside.

Peace & Love,