INVESTING: Memo to Alan Greenspan: You’re retired, so keep quiet

It’s hard to go away. For people in the spotlight and at the top of their fields, retiring can be difficult. Just look at how many times Michael Jordan tried to come back to basketball.

Late last month, we were treated to a visit from someone who many consider one of the greatest financial minds ever-former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Many give him the lion’s share of credit for the greatest stock market run of all time, from 1995 to 2000.

Never mind that he also was in charge during the second-worst stock market meltdown of all time. Greenspan was a rock star when he retired last year. “Big man on campus” doesn’t come close to describing his popularity when he quit. Over a 19-year period, he was possibly the most powerful person alive.

Now that he’s out of office, I am not so sure Greenspan likes it when things are a little quiet around his house. He used to have a thousand reporters hanging on his every word. I’ll bet there have been recent days when it was just he and his cat.

He must have decided to spice things up a little, because last fall he told the media he is not fearful of a housing-induced recession in America, and he was fairly positive that the worst of the housing slump was behind us.

I guess there weren’t enough people listening then, because he has done an about-face on those comments and now is ringing the bell for the downside. He says there is a one-third probability that the United States will enter into a recession, and he puts a fair amount of blame on the slowing of the housing sector.

I remember the last time Greenspan released alarmist comments. It was December 1996, and the Dow was trading around 6,000. He mentioned something about investors behaving in an irrationally exuberant manner. The Dow went on to nearly double before topping.

I also recall a series of not-so-highlighted speeches he gave during the bear market that said everything was fine. I guess you can argue that he was somewhat right in both cases, but his timing was way, way off.

While we’re talking about Greenspan’s odd behavior, I don’t want to forget the essay he wrote in 1967 in which he called for the destruction of the Federal Reserve System and the return to the gold standard.

With a slight twist of historical irony, 20 years after the essay, Greenspan became the chairman of the very organization he wanted to do away with, and his job was to make sure America didn’t have to return to the gold standard!

I actually agree with Greenspan’s sentiments from 40 years ago that we don’t need a central bank. Let the free market deal with interest rates. But that’s a dream of mine that will take decades to realize. In reality, we have Greenspan’s successor, Ben Bernanke, who seems much more willing to allow the market to dictate interest rates, with as little guidance from him as possible.

This is a welcome break from Mr. Greenspan, who treated the rest of us as if we were just in his way.Alan, you retired to what I am sure is a comfortable situation. If you don’t mind, please allow the new guy some room to work. So far, I like what I’m seeing.

Hauke is the CEO of Samex Capital Advisors, a locally based money manager. Views expressed here are the writer’s. Hauke can be reached at 829-5029 or at

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