Choosing Acreage Over Stocks


From an early age, my dad drilled into my head the lessons of compounding interest.

It was quite simple: start investing in stocks early on in life, add just a little each month, wait a while, and watch as your savings grows by leaps and bounds!

Numbers were touted about how the market had averaged 7% interest over any 30-year period in the past century. Nothing could beat such a rate for long-term growth. It was a no-brainer to invest.

So I did that. 401(k), a trading account, Roth IRA, the whole nine yards. I read books about investing and researched the companies and did many DRIPs (dividend reinvestment plans that let you buy a single stock using dollar cost averaging).

And in the past 13 years or so that I have been investing, the market has gone up and down like a sine wave, the S&P essentially remaining flat. Same for my company’s stock as well. Granted, perhaps the next 17 years will give such enormous growth that we’ll hit the 7% average over the whole 30 years, but I’m not holding my breath.

When Facebook went public, I barely even considered buying it. I knew enough to understand that Joe and Jane Smith on Main St. don’t have a chance with such IPOs. They are for the big banks to make money, the founders of the company to get rich, and everyone else to be a sucker. And sadly, that’s exactly what’s happened. Though Facebook stock has rebounded from its catastrophic drop after the IPO, it is still down 30% or more. The IPO game isn’t something little guys can win anymore.

After my enthusiasm for stocks diminished, I heard about real estate as the new hot thing. “Look at these appreciation rates! They’re through the roof.” It was easy: leverage other people’s money by putting little down to buy a house, then rent it out or flip it and Bam! you were getting rich.

So I bought three houses. Yes, that’s right: three. I was a landlord for seven years. And I bought the houses low after the recession of ’02. The houses went up for a time, until the big housing bubble burst several years ago. They dropped big time, but fortunately I had bought them well enough and had enough equity where I got out basically breaking even. Other friends of ours were not so fortunate and hit foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Granted, the real estate people say the same thing as do the stock people: “You gotta stay in the game for 30 years! That’s how to do it; slow and steady now.”

And perhaps that’s accurate, but for my personality and interests, being a landlord to multiple houses for 30 years isn’t how I want to spend my life.

Give me an acre of land anyday

What’s of real value? To my mind now, owning an acre of land where I can grow and raise my own food, harvest wood for heating my home, and other necessities is where real value is found.

Being able to rear my children where they have land to explore, animals to care for, and imagination to engage in is infinitely more valuable than some 401(k) stock number that may at any time plummet and erase all my paper gains.

Now, it’s true that I haven’t liquidated my 401(k), and that money is in equities like stocks, because for such investment vehicles equities are the only game in town, but I no longer put my trust in the stock market to give me a cushy retirement in 25 years. Instead, I would rather have five acres of land, a big garden, animals, a wood-lot and the know-how to take care of it.


About Author

"Devin Rose is a Catholic writer and lay apologist. After his conversion from atheism to Protestant Christianity in college, he set out to discover where the fullness of the truth of Jesus Christ could be found. His search led him to the Catholic Church. He blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard and has released his first book titled “If Protestantism Is True.” He has written articles for Catholic News Agency, Fathers for Good, Called to Communion, and has appeared on EWTN radio.

  • What would stop thugs from stealing your crops and animals? In a society which believes in nothing, there is no morality. You’ll be considered a wealthy old white man who deserves to die. Those seeds of hatred were sown in the last presidential campaign.

    • Sabine, my guns will stop them.

      • Mary Kochan

        And your sons: Psalm 127 3-5 Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

        • goral

          and your sons of a gun, to compound words, if not interest.

          • Mary Kochan

            Good one!!!

      • I am sorry that I was not clear. Here is what I meant: In a society which believes in nothing, there is no morality.

        • Sabine, I understood what you were saying, just making some half-jest in the reply. In seriousness, yes, as our country has cut itself off, more and more, from Christianity and even from the natural law, virtue and morality become passe, and the society degrades.