The Only Way to Profit From the Recovery

Let's face it: It's been a terrible year to be long stocks for the long term. And since that's predominantly what we practice and preach here at The Motley Fool, by virtue of the transitive property, I can say that it's been a pretty terrible year to be a Fool.

Indeed, we've had longtime members question our mettle, and we've been inundated by requests to offer more guidance on how to play defense. But this article isn't about The Motley Fool. It's about you, and how you can make sure you're in position to make money when this terrible market environment turns around.

The perils of recency
There was and is a reason why we Fools are predominantly long stocks of high-quality businesses for the long term: It's a time-tested strategy that works.

Warren Buffett learned that lesson early in his partnership with Charlie Munger, and it's helped other successful investors, such as Chuck Akre, the team at Dodge & Cox, and Phil Fisher achieve market-beating returns over time.

It may not seem true today, but that's only because your brain has a bias toward recency -- it thinks that whatever has happened most recently will happen next. And in a market like this, that means your brain is busy scaring you into thinking the market can do nothing but drop.

There will definitely be times like these, when stocks drop dramatically and test your mettle. But  if you remain disciplined, practice dollar-cost averaging, and allocate your invested assets between stocks and bonds in a way that respects your time horizon (more on that in a minute), you will succeed over time.

As Warren Buffett has said, "The most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect."

The turnaround you won't see coming
When stocks recover (and they will recover), they will do so dramatically and without warning. For evidence, look at this table of market downturns from Brandes Investment Partners, which was recently reproduced in an outlook from the superior investors at West Coast Asset Management:

Period

Market Decline

DJIA Change 1 Year After Decline

DJIA Change 2 Years After Decline (cumulative)

Dec. 1961 -- June 1962

(27.1%)

32.3%

55.1%

Feb. 1966 -- May 1970

(36.6%)

43.6%

53.9%

Jan. 1973 -- Dec. 1974

(45.1%)

42.2%

66.5%

Sep. 1976 -- Feb. 1978

(26.9%)

9%

15.1%

Aug. 1987 -- Oct. 1987

(36.1%)

22.9%

54.3%

July 1990 -- Oct. 1990

(21.2%)

26.2%

32.6%

Jan. 2000 -- March 2003

(35.8%)

34.6%

43.2%

Average

(32.7%)

29.4%

45.8%

Oct. 2007 -- Dec. 2008

(46.7%)

?

?

Source: West Coast Asset Management.

Will you make back all of the money you've lost this year over the next two? It's unlikely, given that the market would have to nearly double from here to get back to its October 2007 high.

But it is likely that if you pull out of the market, you'll miss out on the recovery. And if that recovery resembles the magnitude of those we've seen before, missing out will add many years to the process of building back your wealth.

That's not all
What's more, as this table of data from the 2000 to 2003 market downturn shows, you can make up ground even more quickly if you own high-quality businesses:

Company

Decline, Jan. 2000 – March 2003

Change 2 Years After Decline

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  )

(74.7%)

488.6%

Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  )

(29.6%)

97.5%

Boeing (NYSE: BA  )

(38.2%)

127.7%

Copart (Nasdaq: CPRT  )

(40.9%)

209.6%

Genentech (NYSE: DNA  )

(48.5%)

223.3%

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  )

(63.5%)

121.6%

T. Rowe Price (Nasdaq: TROW  )

(22.8%)

114.8%

Return data courtesy of Capital IQ.

By simply holding some of these stocks, you could have come out ahead. If you continued to add new money to these stocks while they were down, you would have further accelerated your recovery process, and ended up coming out way ahead.

What's the point?
I've heard from many investors recently who are sick of the market and just want to get out. That's a dangerous move -- because the only way to profit from the recovery is to make sure you still have money in the market.

But it's equally dangerous move to keep all of your money in the market, in the hopes that a recovery is imminent and you'll profit from it. While a recovery is coming, no one knows when it's coming. So make sure you:

  1. Have an emergency fund in place that you keep in a liquid, inflation-protected asset, such as a TIPS ETF.
  2. Make sure your bond exposure is in the proper ballpark. One handy rule of thumb is to make sure the percentage of your portfolio allocated to bonds is the same as your age. For example, if you're 40, you should be 40% in bonds.
  3. After confirming No. 1 and No. 2, continue to dollar-cost average into high-quality companies without trying to time the market.

If you do all three of these things, you'll put your portfolio in a position to profit from the recovery -- and you should be able to sleep at night.

If you'd like some help finding high-quality companies, consider joining Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner at our Motley Fool Stock Advisor investing service. You'll receive two top stock picks each month, as well as market updates and further asset-allocation guidance. Click here for more information.

Tim Hanson does not own shares of any company mentioned. Apple, Best Buy, and Copart are Stock Advisor recommendations. Best Buy is also an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool owns shares of Best Buy and Copart. The Fool's disclosure policy is an ambassador for awesomeness.


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  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2009, at 5:01 PM, Dwdonhoff wrote:

    >>><I><B>Let's face it: It's been a terrible year to be long stocks for the long term. And since that's predominantly what we practice and preach here at The Motley Fool, by virtue of the transitive property, I can say that it's been a pretty terrible year to be a Fool.</B></I>

    Not for the crafty R/E INVESTOR Fools!!!

    http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=27438037

    There are just *massive* levels of opportunity blossoming right now... UNFORTUNATELY, its really particular in terms of who can take advantage of them.

    A) Lifetime (perhaps approaching historic all-time) artificially depressed longterm fixed rate money (mortgage leverage.) The government, spending our unborn grand & great-grandkids' tax money, is stretching beyond any sense of economic sanity to try to buy our way out of the natural market dropping tide... it ultimately won't work, but in the meanwhile a small percentage of truly lucky (and responsible, diligent, etc.) people will be gifted access to as much money as they can qualify for at the lowest real costs of longterm leverage ever.

    B) Direct cashflow/income real estate investment opportunities where the rental markets are poised to begin a raging inflationary climb due to their having been counter-cyclically repressed for over a decade due to easy buying credit... and the simultaneous drop of acquisition costs of rental properties PRECISELY because of the overcompensating reversal of access to easy credit.

    C) Passive secured "safe" yields from private lending... piggy-backing behind the active real estate opportunists... generating 100-300% over institutional "secured" investments like bonds, CDs or annuities.

    Dave Donhoff

    Leverage Planner

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2009, at 10:09 PM, tomd728 wrote:

    The only stocks that will offer a protracted

    gain in these times are those that maintain

    a 4-5 % dividend yield,and throw off cash

    to add for maintenance of dividend and possible

    acquisitions.

    Why ? There's a lot more coming in the form of

    credit card debt,auto loans and most non-dedicated

    REITS (i:e Doctors & Medical Facilities as dedicated.

    If the consumer confidence does not improve (see

    above) too many people will simply not buy product.

    Layoffs ? Think you've seen the worst ? Be patient.

    This Bank plan is a fiasco as are re-negotiated mortgages etc.Geithner has lost an enormous amount of credibility and must get that respect back with clarity,conviction,and results.

    You want GE @ $10 get some, WMT in the 40s get some, and this list could go on to all quality stocks selling at a P:E never seen before.

    You have to find other measures than P:E as when XYZ was @ 12 it is now 6.

    Why is tech busting out ? Cash on balance sheet and Cisco's constant execution for one.

    Me ? I'm 100 % Munis and Ginnies.

    I wish all fools the very best but I truly believe we will see a 6000 Dow and an S & P that starts to break down below 800.

    The wrong guys are driving this train......

    I'm staying off the tracks.

    Peace out,

    Tom

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2009, at 10:55 PM, ifool100 wrote:

    OK, call me a Fool. But it seems to me that the buy and hold plan has met it's match in the market today. If I would have done so, my gains with AAPL would be exactly 0% over the past year and a half. By using tools to get in and out (MA, Stochastic, MACD, RSI) I have preserved all of my capital and 17% of my gain. As the great Buffet has said "Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy. Profit from folly rather than participate in it." Buy great companies on sale. Know and love what you buy. Look for good ROIC and low debt, with predictable earnings. AAPL, DNA, GOOG, ADBE, DLB, etc. (if you love tech for example). But it seems to me that profits are much higher if you know when to get out. Without those tools I feel I'm flying blind, and becoming a victim of the market rather than partnering with it.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2009, at 1:00 AM, elvis9999 wrote:

    You folks are no better than my "financial advisor"! He kept saying, "stay the course", just like you. I bailed out three days before the crash and have not lost 50 percent of my savings, (200k plus). I'm getting 2 percent on my savings at present so, I guess that makes my profit at 52 percent to date. Thank God I didn't listen to you and my "advisor" ay??

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2009, at 1:08 AM, oregonrogue wrote:

    Thanks Tim.

    Good comments from the above as well.

    I think the gist of your message is to hitch up your pants, screw on your hat, lean forward and keep marching into the wind.

    Lets hope this new admin knows what it is doing. They are making some moves that should have been done before the first Great Depression. How it will turn out, we will see.

    For sure we are burdening our grandkids with a crappy mess. I just wish we could show them the pictures of Madoff, Paulson, Greenspan, SEC Execs and many others, all being publicly hanged in Times Square. At least we would not have to apologize for that!

    Thanks for the helpful reassurance, may all FOOLS live to see brighter times instead of a Mad Max scenario.

    Good luck to all!

    Oregonrogue

    Temporarily festering in the sewage of stupidity known as Iraq.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2009, at 1:53 AM, scambo99 wrote:

    Spin masters.

    The fools are good at it. They have 7 funds and six of them are down anywhere from 10.90% to 39.46% but the one that is up is up only 3.16% which is their stock advisor. So what do they do? The add that 3.16% on the upside to the 27.39% that the S&P is down so by doing so they come up with the fact that they are beating the S&P by 30.55%.

    27.39

    _3.16

    30.55%

    One fund is up 3.16% but they think we are such idiots that we will believe they are kicking the market big time.

    They must be in bed with Barney Frank, Harry Reid and Nancy P.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2009, at 5:21 AM, Eiseley wrote:

    reed conclusions between lines

    The Only Way to Profit From the Recovery

    By Tim Hanson

    February 13, 2009

    The Only Way to Profit From the Recovery

    By Tim Hanson

    February 13, 2009 | Comments (6)

    Let's face it: It's been a terrible year to be long stocks for the long term. And since that's predominantly what we practice and preach here at The Motley Fool, by virtue of the transitive property, I can say that it's been a pretty terrible year to be a Fool.

    Indeed, we've had longtime members question our mettle, and we've been inundated by requests to offer more guidance on how to play defense. But this article isn't about The Motley Fool. It's about you, and how you can make sure you're in position to make money when this terrible market environment turns around.

    The perils of recency

    There was and is a reason why we Fools are predominantly long stocks of high-quality businesses for the long term: It's a time-tested strategy that works.

    Warren Buffett learned that lesson early in his partnership with Charlie Munger, and it's helped other successful investors, such as Chuck Akre, the team at Dodge & Cox, and Phil Fisher achieve market-beating returns over time.

    It may not seem true today, but that's only because your brain has a bias toward recency -- it thinks that whatever has happened most recently will happen next. And in a market like this, that means your brain is busy scaring you into thinking the market can do nothing but drop.

    1. AND ONLY

    There will definitely be times like these, when stocks drop dramatically and test your mettle. But if you remain disciplined, practice dollar-cost averaging, and allocate your invested assets between stocks and bonds in a way that respects your time horizon (more on that in a minute), you will succeed over time.

    As Warren Buffett has said, "The most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect."

    BECAUSE:

    The turnaround you won't see coming

    When stocks recover (and they will recover), they will do so dramatically and without warning. For evidence, look at this table of market downturns from Brandes Investment Partners, which was recently reproduced in an outlook from the superior investors at West Coast Asset Management:

    Period Market Decline DJIA Change 1 Year After Decline DJIA Change 2 Years After Decline (cumulative)

    Dec. 1961 – June 1962 (27.1%) 32.3% 55.1%

    Feb. 1966 -- May 1970 (36.6%) 43.6% 53.9%

    Jan. 1973 -- Dec. 1974 (45.1%) 42.2% 66.5%

    Sep. 1976 -- Feb. 1978 (26.9%) 9% 15.1%

    Aug. 1987 -- Oct. 1987 (36.1%) 22.9% 54.3%

    July 1990 -- Oct. 1990 (21.2%) 26.2% 32.6%

    Jan. 2000 -- March 2003 (35.8%) 34.6% 43.2%

    Average (32.7%) 29.4% 45.8%

    Oct. 2007 -- Dec. 2008 (46.7%) ? ?

    Source: West Coast Asset Management.

    Will you make back all of the money you've lost this year over the next two? It's unlikely, given that the market would have to nearly double from here to get back to its October 2007 high.

    SO AT THE END YOU GOT NOTHING

    But it is likely that if you pull out of the market, you'll miss out on the recovery. And if that recovery resembles the magnitude of those we've seen before, missing out will add many years to the process of building back your wealth.

    That's not all

    What's more, as this table of data from the 2000 to 2003 market downturn shows, you can make up ground even more quickly if you own high-quality businesses:

    Company Decline, Jan. 2000 – March 2003 Change 2 Years After Decline

    Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)

    (74.7%) 488.6%

    Best Buy (NYSE: BBY)

    (29.6%) 97.5%

    Boeing (NYSE: BA)

    (38.2%) 127.7%

    Copart (Nasdaq: CPRT)

    (40.9%) 209.6%

    Genentech (NYSE: DNA)

    (48.5%) 223.3%

    McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)

    (63.5%) 121.6%

    T. Rowe Price (Nasdaq: TROW)

    (22.8%) 114.8%

    Return data courtesy of Capital IQ.

    By simply holding some of these stocks, you could have come out ahead. If you continued to add new money to these stocks while they were down, you would have further accelerated your recovery process, and ended up coming out way ahead.

    ALL THIS IS BLA BLA, YOU HAVE TO PULL OUT WITH STOP LOSSES AND GO BACK INN WITH CASH, AND WHO IS GOING TO SAY WHICH ARE THE high-quality businesses ??? AS CITY GROUP, ENRON .…

    What's the point?

    I've heard from many investors recently who are sick of the market and just want to get out. That's a dangerous move -- because the only way to profit from the recovery is to make sure you still have money in the market.

    WITH A LOGICAL TIMING

    But it's equally dangerous move to keep all of your money in the market, in the hopes that a recovery is imminent and you'll profit from it. While a recovery is coming, no one knows when it's coming. So make sure you:

    1. Have an emergency fund in place that you keep in a liquid, inflation-protected asset, such as a TIPS ETF.

    2. Make sure your bond exposure is in the proper ballpark. One handy rule of thumb is to make sure the percentage of your portfolio allocated to bonds is the same as your age. For example, if you're 40, you should be 40% in bonds.

    THE BONDS CRASH DURING RECOVERY

    3. After confirming No. 1 and No. 2, continue to dollar-cost average into high-quality companies without trying to time the market.

    IF YOU CANT LONG TERM TIME THE MARKET BUY A HOUSE A WETHER THE CRISIS

    If you do all three of these things, you'll put your portfolio in a position to profit from the recovery -- and you should be able to sleep at night.

    If you'd like some help finding high-quality companies, consider joining Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner at our Motley Fool Stock Advisor investing service. You'll receive two top stock picks each month, as well as market updates and further asset-allocation guidance. Click here for more information.

    AND LOOSE YOUR SHIRT

    YOUR METHOD HAS PROVEN A CATASTROPHE, I TOLD YOU WHEN YOU STARTED THE MILLION DOLLAR PORTFOLIO, BY THEN IT WAS OBVIOUS WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, YOU WERE BLIND AS BABIES FOOLS, I WAS LUCKY TO SEE BEFORE HAND HOW WITHOUT LUCK A FOOL YOU WERE.

    YOU ARE USEFUL, YES, AFTER TIMING THE MARKET AS ANY EDUCATED PERSON CAN DO FOR THE LONG TRENDS, YOU DID NOT KNOW WE WERE FACING A HOUSE CRISIS AND A FINANCIAL ONE AFTER, UNLUCKY FOOL???

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2009, at 7:02 AM, Xciteddon wrote:

    I think this article hits it on the head! Long term is the way to go! If you are like me you cannot afford to buy a good position in a company all at one time anyway.

    So you purchase stock as you can, which in the long run as it falls levels out your cost per share so you still remain competetive and can still be a profitable investment.

    You have to be smart and watch what is happening with each of your stocks. You cant afford to just put it there and sit.

    The big mistake is not getting in!

    Good Luck!

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2009, at 8:27 AM, fkauz wrote:

    Over the years, I have paid some attention to highly touted stock pickers and analysts. Navalier was one of these who in early 2000 told me that it was the "mother of all buying opportunities". Then there was Ruykheuser (sp?) - stay fully invested, don't try and time the market. What is it about guys named Louis anyway? So now we have the MFs.

    Certainly MF will be right about some things and dead wrong about others. We will only hear about when they turn out to be right and the wrongs will be put in the closet.

    I am reminded of the ancient Hebrew punishment for false prophets. Their tongues were cut out.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2009, at 10:31 AM, PoundMutt wrote:

    "Have an emergency fund in place that you keep in a liquid, inflation-protected asset, such as a TIPS ETF."

    TIP is DOWN along with the MOST of the Bond Funds, if I understand the numbers. How is it protecting my emergency money?

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2009, at 11:26 AM, abientot wrote:

    Anyone who timed his way out of the market at exactly the right time is so good he wouldn't be reading the FOOL, nor commenting here. He would be making the right moves over on the trading floor.

    I am Long in everything I own, I haven't sold anything but FURD (bless their screwy little heads) and I have faith in the recovery process. Some say we are down so far it can't recover ever, or for years and years. I look at historical recovery's after declines and they seem to return regardless of their depth and have done so forever.

    The biggest problem with the economy is our belief we can fund government by lowering taxes. If the SEC had been funded properly Bernie M. would have been caught years ago. We complained about the 'bridge to nowhere' and now we are building bridges?

    Keynsian economics is important because it allows for the industrial age and the machines. For every blacksmith we put out of a job with a machine, we need to find him a job somewhere. Much of that IS in government service. Let's get over a welfare mom and buy some color TV sets for prisoners! At least the guys who make TV sets will have a job. The machines do most of the work in the U.S. while most of the rest of us work in non-existant jobs that don't really do any heavy lifting. We are all important. Paying taxes is part of the economy. The economy is my portfolio. Let's get to work, pay our taxes and stop whining about the government.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2009, at 1:36 PM, freddyv3 wrote:

    Fools! Why post data from bear markets that have nothing to do with THIS bear market?

    This bear market was setup by decades of leverage being built into our economy by "Masters of the Universe" and consumers thinking that debt equals wealth. It will take years and perhaps decades to wring the excess out of our economy, just as it took a decade and a half and a world war 80 years ago.

    Need more? Housing and banks are nowhere near a bottom according to people like Meredith Whitney, who has been right all along on this. Anyone you find who uses real data instead of hope or charts tell you the same thing. Ever heard of Nouriel Roubini?

    The market is still overpriced based on historic averages. The leverage and "wealth" created over the past decades created false wealth that lead to abnormally high P/E ratios that people came to believe were normal. A normal, average P/E ratio is 14 or 15; our current P/E ratio is around 20 or higher. See http://online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3021-peyield.html?mo... at the Wall Street Journal for current P/E ratios for all major indexes.

    And let's remember that stocks don't just fall back to fair value in periods like this, they fall well below fair value and fair value is probably still lower than where we are at now.

    The DJIA will fall to 5,000 before the year is up and will likely fall to 3,000 before it bottoms in several years.

    My name is Fred Voetsch and I wrote this message, stand behind it, and fully approve it. ;-)

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2009, at 1:41 PM, frigger wrote:

    Fools, you are cherry picking your statistics. By hindsight you can see when past markets bottomed and started to turn up after a ten year drop or a three month drop. You start calculating your percentages from that point to the next market top one or two years later and you say, Look, see what you could have made (recovered). This is a perfect example of the statistical big lie. The lie is not the numbers. The lie is the notion that they have any practical meaning. No one knows when the bottom occurs.

    The same can be said about government reports of unemployment claims. A person who loses a white collar job and then flips burgers is counted as having a job and not included on the unemployed list. The statistic not revealed is the diminishment of all classes of earned income in total dollars. Instead,

    we may even see a rise in average salaries (but paid to fewer employees).

    For the stock market a meaningful statistic would be a report of the actual returns investors were able to achieve in the years following market turning points. Most investors wait for confirmation of a rising market until it is too late for a profitable entry point.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2009, at 1:46 PM, Bucks2407 wrote:

    You guys, (Motley Fool) are going down. You have completely lost credibility with 99% of readers on your boards. It is a total joke.

    You preach the same stuff that my now unemployed financial advisor preached. Oh yeah, in July of last year, despite my pleas, convinced me to stay the course. In Dec, he resigned and I'm down 40%. At least I'm in cash, bonds and gold now. The message is, if your gut says get out, get out.

    Great job, yeah, buy and hold.

    I learn more reading reader comments on this board and CBS Marketwatch than I do from you experts.

    Hey

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2009, at 7:11 PM, skat5 wrote:

    This essay might appear a little more even-handed if its tables went back to 1929.

    Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway share price hit a five-year low today, and his past practice in recessions, assuming this is not a depression, has been to get in quite a bit too early.

    This might be the opportunity of a lifetime for a buy and hold strategy to work... for someone in their early 20's. Maybe not so promising for the boomers in their late 50's. The advice about one's percentage in bonds equal to their age was mentioned by Vanguard's founder on cnbc today. Probably worth following, if not exceeding. This advice combined with U.S. demographics does not bode well for equities however, as baby boomers pull money out of equities and into bonds as they approach retirement. TIPS and GLD might help protect some savings from the monetization of debt that is coming.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2009, at 10:56 AM, WBCV25 wrote:

    This posting by Mr. Hanson

    The Only Way to Profit From the Recovery

    By Tim Hanson

    February 13, 2009

    has me thinking about my long term investment strategy, and a flaw that seems to me apparent in most of the rating agencies (S&P, stars, Citigroup, etc.) and now the Motley Fool. Specifically, the "Bias toward recency" that he mentions. I would like help if anyone would care to volunteer. I am new to Motley Fool having recently joined the Income Investors group. My problem is that I recently purchased shares of International Paper which is now down about 40% from where i purchased shares. And now the Income Investor recommends "sell" at about $6 to $7 per share. But back in July 2008 Motley Fool recommended "Buy" for IP when it was at approx $33 per share. For an investor seeking to make money shouldn't these recommendations have been reversed...wouldn't you want to buy at $6 and sell at $33!!! Is this a recency bias, or do things look so bad that having bought at $33 you should be glad to sell at $6.... or is IP a bargain now... Looking at many reports by services posted to my Smith Barney account, I see many of these same kind of recommendations... when things look good its a buy and when the outlook is poor the recommendation is sell... Don't stocks look attractive "after" they have lost 80% of the value they had just last July (there are many examples, and i own some of them)... are they "bargains" or do you want to recommend bailing out before they go to $0..... Help!!!!

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2009, at 3:07 PM, Gurgler wrote:

    A decent enough column. But why add the nonsense about having bonds in your portfolio, as a percentage, equal to your age. That is dumb & dumber ! History shows, and Lord knows it does repeat, that returns above the rate of inflation go to growth assets. That ain't bonds. Shares and property 'tis ! If you're a clever market timer ( I am yet to meet one personally ) bonds can serve a purpose. Simple rule of thumb : have a level of share-holding in your portfolio that allows you to sleep peacefully at night.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2009, at 1:36 AM, AlphaCEO wrote:

    You people are well named: fools. You led the "lemmings" investors right off the cliff with your advice.

    Don't trust fee only or other financial advisors. Trust only "Profit Only Financial Advisors." They get paid IF YOU GET PAID. These people here are just what they say they are: fools.

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