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The Daily Walk of Shame: Bubble Junkies

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This Motley Fool series examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Here's what's got us riled today. If something's bugging you, too -- and we suspect it is -- go ahead and unload in the comments section below.

Today's subject: Bubble junkies. These financial addicts are hooked on overinflated, unsustainable economies -- and they run a huge risk of ruining investing for the rest of us.

Why you should be indignant: Asset bubbles of epic proportions triggered the economic crisis that still plagues us. Federal Reserve monetary policies helped create that frothy situation, and current policies may not do anything to fix it.

Many Wall Street observers are all abuzz about a junk-stock rally. Stocks like AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) -- 80% owned by the government -- and bankrupt companies like Lehman Brothers and "old GM" have enjoyed some crazy runs. But investors shouldn't emulate that mind-set. They should fear it.

A Forbes article (wonderfully titled "Amnesia") recently pointed out that there's also a rally in junk bonds. The Fed's gushing wellsprings of copious cheap money have left some investors desperate to put their money somewhere, anywhere. Look no further than Blockbuster's (NYSE: BBI  ) recent successful sale of its bonds, even though the movie rental chain faces serious operational problems that reach far beyond its competition with the likes of Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) .

An even more astonishing Wall Street Journal article yesterday discussed unemployed executives who have continued living their old, affluent lifestyles on their severance packages. Some have even turned down job offers, disdaining their reduced salaries, and confident that a better gig will still come their way. Never mind that getting a job offer in this economy is probably something to be happy about, and that market realities make lower pay for these laid-off workers almost inevitable.

Each of us is free to make our own choices, including refusing job offers that might not make us happy. However, it's frightening to think that in both their investments and their lifestyles, some folks don't realize the severity of the economic hole we're in, and aren't willing to adjust their expectations to match our uncomfortable new reality.

What now: We shouldn't want to party like it's 1999, and we shouldn't clamor for a return to the delusional expectations that exemplified the bubble era. Alas, I'm afraid too many of us are. Satirical website The Onion might have said it best in July 2008: "Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble to Invest In."

Investors need to stop chasing junk, and try to find businesses built to last. They're hardly in short supply on Wall Street; sound, scrupulous Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) is just one of the many sturdy companies that fits the bill. Being a bubble junkie now only postpones and prolongs our economic pain. A nation full of such addicts to artificial affluence will ultimately get what it deserves -- and it won't be pretty.

Berkshire Hathaway and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick and a Motley Fool holding. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax would rather pop bubbles than inflate them. The Fool's disclosure policy is always frugal.

Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (42)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 1:55 PM, matthewbanis wrote:

    what are you talking about?

    Everything is fine, 80% of economists say we're out of the recession, the same bunch that missed we were going into a recession...and who really cares that we cured the problem with what originally caused the problem - debt.

    come on, crash already - I mean, really.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 4:03 PM, UltraContrarian wrote:

    "they run a huge risk of ruining investing for the rest of us."

    I disagree. Extreme market irrationality is a value investor's best friend.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 4:59 PM, UltraContrarian wrote:

    "they run a huge risk of ruining investing for the rest of us."

    I disagree. Massive mispricing (and the accompanying volatility) is a value investor's best friend.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 5:00 PM, UltraContrarian wrote:

    For the record, that double post was not my fault.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 5:19 PM, wuff3t wrote:

    I read the WSJ article about the redundant executives who refuse to accept "lesser" jobs or even adapt their lifestyle. It was staggering, and I found it difficult to maintain any sense of sympathy for them.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 5:23 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    UltraContrarian, I see the point that massive mispricing and volatility can mean beaten down, high-quality stocks are a great opportunity and I do agree there. But the weird drive to chase junky stuff right now seems to me a very dangerous mindset to have. I guess people can and do make money that way, but it's highly risky and relies on the greater fool theory...

    (And no worries, I've had some problems with double posts too lately.)

    Thanks for the thought there.


  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 5:24 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    wuff3t, yeah, that article was something else. Whew. Yeah I wasn't shedding a tear either, ha.


  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2009, at 10:58 PM, Doccus wrote:

    So it seems, that this is essentially a day traders dream date, and a long haul investors nightmare.. these bubbles essentially penalize the prudent, and reward the gambler.. Bu please don't misunderstand, as i know there's a lot of informed skill involved in succesful daytrades.. but it still contains the elements of games of chance...

    Anyone agree?

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2009, at 11:21 PM, ozzfan1317 wrote:

    Actually if you learn to use the bottom of a bubble as a opportunity then it can be very profitable long term.

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