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The Greatest Investment I Ever Made Returned $0

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted May 20, 2020

The greatest investment I ever made was on Saturday, May 23, 2009.

It happened during one of the worst stock market meltdowns in history. But the investment wasn’t in a stock, bond, precious metal, real estate, or any other asset that’s ever considered an investment.

In fact, this asset doesn’t even trade on an exchange. Prices of it can vary widely depending on the region, time of the year, time of the month, and your persistence.

And check this out: I didn’t even make a dime on it. But it was a textbook example of how to buy an asset well under market value.

It was Memorial Day weekend.

I was enjoying it with my wife and children at our Bethany Beach house on the Delaware shore. My parents were spending the holiday with us, too, as was my sister, her husband, and their children.

There were easily 11 people in the house for the long weekend, with all of the children being under the age of six.

The house was bumping… the liquor flowing… the Tylenol bottle popping.

It was a challenging time. My wife had just given birth to our son on May 9… and the Dow was coming off a bowel-shaking decline of 50% in a year and a half.

In terms of the stock market, it was still uncertain how it would all end.

Legendary Wall Street firms Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers – with a combined 343 years in business – were either on life support or completely gone.

There was a massive run on money market accounts. The Reserve Primary Fund "broke the buck,” something that was thought could never happen. It didn't have enough cash on hand to pay out all the redemptions that were occurring.

The panic spread.

AIG – the world’s largest insurer – was taken over by the Fed. So were mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

American auto manufacturers also needed a federal bailout.

The globe was on the brink of a financial nuclear winter.

Financially, though, I was good. Wealth Daily saw it all coming and was warning our readers of the coming storm at least two years in advance.

In late 2007, I started selling all of my stock positions and went straight into cash.

Better yet, between 2005 and 2008, I built a sizable physical gold and silver position. I bought gold on the dips for those three years, between $450 to $800 an ounce, and silver between $8 and $12 an ounce.  

I still own those positions today.

Maybe more importantly, I was debt-free and sitting on a mountain of cash to deploy.

That’s when I made the purchase of my lifetime.

Looking for any excuse to get out of the house, I decided to visit a nearby Jeep dealership.

But it wasn’t an impromptu decision.

I had always wanted a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. As a teenager, I had an old 1978 CJ-7 that I often off-cambered with on many an off-roading trip.

Though my current life situation made owning a Jeep a bit impractical, I was also already tired of driving a minivan.

I needed a masculine vehicle… a vehicle that just oozed American grit and power.

The Jeep Rubicon would fit the bill.

Chrysler – the owner of the Jeep brand – had just filed for bankruptcy protection a month earlier. With the financial crisis gripping the world and the credit markets frozen, Chrysler was bleeding out cash and circling the drain.

Under the bankruptcy reorganization plan, Chrysler agreed to close 789 dealerships.

It was Memorial Day weekend. Chrysler was in bankruptcy. I’m sure to get a good deal, right?

Well, I got the greatest deal of my lifetime.

I went to the dealership with the intention of making a “stink bid.”

A typical stink bid is when a buyer or investor identifies a company or person that’s in such a financial state of despair, they’re willing to sell their assets at rock-bottom prices. But a real stink bid is different: It comes in lower than the seller’s rock bottom price.

In fact, it’s so much lower and insulting that the seller might take a swing at you.

But I figured that I’m dealing with a car salesman. I’ll take my chances.

With about a dozen Jeep Wranglers on the lot, he identified the very top-shelf model, the Rubicon. It was loaded with all of the trimmings.

The sticker price was $38,000.

After some small talk with the salesman, he told me he could knock $2,000 off the sticker.

Me: “C’mon man. You’re in bankruptcy. Let’s start clearing this lot for a new go-kart course... I’m coming with all cash.”

I countered with my stink bid of $22,000… all cash!!!

He actually hesitated, which surprised me. I was sure he was going to laugh in my face.

But he didn’t.

We went back and forth, counter offer versus counter offer.

He came down a lot to $28,000. Even at that price, it would’ve been a steal, especially for a Rubicon.

I came in with $24,000. “Remember, all cash," I kept reminding him.

In the end, it was the classic “meet me in the middle.” We did. And we agreed on $26,000.

It took all of 15 minutes.

Endorphins flooded my body like an 18-year-old on prom night.

A year later, I checked with CarFax on how much they would buy my Rubicon: around $31,000!

But I didn’t sell. I drove the Jeep for another five years before giving it to my oldest son as a high school graduation present.

By the way, I think you can get the same deal right now at any car dealership in America. Car sales are down 50%. And dealerships are so bloated with inventory, they’re storing their excess vehicles in neighboring vacant shopping mall lots.

These are actual videos of a shopping mall parking lot near my house:

wd cars gif 1

wd cars gif 2

Like I said, I made zero money on the Rubicon, but it was a textbook example of how to make a great investment:

  1.      Identify a quality asset and a seller begging to sell it.
  2.      Buy when there’s blood in the streets.
  3.      Patience.

Next week, my business partner and co-founder of Angel Publishing will explain what he sees going forward. We were both buyers during the market crash in March… and we both have been taking massive profits off the table during this once-in-a-lifetime rebound.

Stay tuned.

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Brian Hicks

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Brian is a founding member and President of Angel Publishing. He writes about general investment strategies for Wealth Daily and Energy & Capital. For more on Brian, take a look at his editor's page.

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