Fribble A Non-Investor's Retirement Guide

By Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff)
September 13, 2000

[This fishy Fribble first ran in the Drip Portfolio on February 1, 2000.]

Do you invest in great companies with a long-term buy-and-hold approach? If so, you needn't read this harsh tutorial on surviving in the future. However, if you're not investing during your most productive years, then you need a backup plan for your retirement years. Today, we have just the thing: a tutorial on spearfishing. During a poorly funded retirement, you still need to eat. So, today we'll teach those who forsake investing how to catch a daily bounty during their inevitably lean retirement years to come.

First, you must live somewhere near the coast. The Florida Keys can work, although shark attacks do occur around the many shipwrecks. The Keys are much more accessible than Bermuda, however, and you're on a tight budget. So, after your retirement party, head to the nearest highway and stick out your thumb. Your retirement adventure has begun!

In this scenario, we'll assume that you eventually arrive on the coral shores of Key Largo (after two weeks of hitchhiking and riding in open cabs of pickup trucks, typically with a pack of dogs).

Once you're situated in your modest Key Largo retirement shack, it's time to think about how you will survive for the rest of your life. Essentially, you need a heavy stick, a thin rope, and access to fire. Got it? Great. Now you need food. Look out your thatch door. See the water? That water holds your future.

Yes, because you didn't invest throughout your life (you traded and blew money gambling instead) you must now depend on the blue water outside your thatch door to sustain you for the rest of your life. And wait. Can you hold your breath for several minutes underwater? You better work on that, because you need that ability for survival, too.

Now, take your stick. Is it sharp? Sharpen it. As sharp as you can. OK, that's good enough. Let's go. Walk to the water. It's not too cold. Start to walk in it. Are you near coral reefs? Make sure you are. Have there been any shark attacks in the area lately? No? You better hope that the area isn't ripe for one. Now keep walking. The water is up to your neck. Keep walking. Now, take a deep breath and go under. Keep your eyes open. It stings, but hey -- you need to eat.

Now, swim with your stick toward a coral reef. Do you see any fish? Keep looking. You're bound to see a school of them. You may not know which are the best eating fish, but you'll learn, eventually. Meanwhile, hopefully you won't spear any poisonous fish. OK, keep swimming. Swim. Swim. Keep holding your breath, too. Now, do you see hundreds of fish drifting around the coral reef? Excellent. And do you see any sharks? Not yet? Great. Then start hunting. Quickly.

You want to go for something red or orange. Generally, red and orange fish are good eating fish, although there are exceptions. A red snapper would be great to spear -- it could feed you for days! However, you don't find red snapper inshore too frequently, unless they're deathly sick, in which case you're not interested. So, forget red snapper. Avoid silver fish, too. They're typically poor meat fish, unless they're something like wahoo or tuna. You need a boat for those, though. You can't afford a boat.

OK. You're above the coral reef now, floating, holding your breath, dreaming of the house you'd live in if you'd bought Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) 25 years ago.

Snap out of it and get back to the task at hand. You must spear fish in order to survive. You want to spear something that won't bleed too much and then you want get the heck out of the water. Plus, you're tired of holding your breath. So hurry up. You don't care what you get. Just spear something. Anything.

You head down, down, down, like a turtle, close to the reef, with your spear at your side. When you're close, pull your spear back and aim for the largest school of fish that you see -- because who are we kidding? You'll only spear something by sheer luck. It's too late to teach you, old dog, how to judge a fish's movement in hopes of a clean, straight kill. So when a school of fish swims in front of you, just chuck your spear at it.

Did you get one?

If you did, pull it toward you on the rope. Try to make it quick. The poor fish is injured, thrashing, and attracting all sorts of fish that you never want to meet. (If you only injured a fish and it swam 10 feet away to sit and bleed, flee.)

Eventually, if you try day after day, you'll spear something edible. If you must resort to killing sleeping manta rays (skate fish can be tasty, I hear) or to eating seaweed, at least you'll survive as long as you live near the water.

A few final warnings as you spear fish: beware of the tides. They change quickly while you're concentrating on your next big catch. Sometimes you'll come up for air and find the shore will be miles from where you thought it was, and you won't know which way is home. That all comes with the territory. So here's to your retirement. Just keep that stick sharp.

(To save yourself from our trademarked "Spearfish Retirement Plan," visit the Fool's Retirement area, which includes three real-money Retiree Portfolios. Also, consider reading our book -- you can get it at the library or buy it online -- Investing Without a Silver Spoon.)

Fish on or Fool on!