Learning Rough Lessons from Howard Ruff

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

“And I hope when I get old I don’t just sit around thinking about it, but I probably will. Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory days.”
— Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days”

“He was a self-made millionaire. Twice. He lost it all. Twice. He often said he learned more from his mistakes than from his successes.”
— Official Howard Ruff obituary

Howard Ruff, the editor of The Ruff Times and author of “How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years,” died on Nov. 12.

I attended Howard Ruff’s funeral on Monday in American Fork, Utah. I am a firm believer in paying respects to those who influenced our lives. Howard Ruff was one of those individuals. He got me started early in my career as a financial economist by inviting me to speak at his first Ruff National Convention in 1980 at Disneyland. He was always so generous to other people who some would view as competitors.

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Here is a picture with Fran Perry, Howard Ruff’s travel coordinator in the 1980s (she’s still a travel agent in the San Francisco area), and Bob Bishop, who used to be managing editor and writer for The Ruff Times in the 1980s. Bishop then went on to have a successful career as an investor and editor of his own newsletter, Gold Mining Stock Report, and is now retired.

Senator Orrin Hatch also came by to pay his respects… as well as Jeff Carneal, who ran Howard’s PAC, “Free the Eagle.”

Over half of the chapel was filled with Ruff descendants. He and his wife Kay had 14 children, 79 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren. The attendance of friends and subscribers was surprisingly small, but I guess that should be expected given it was on a Monday morning a few days before Thanksgiving, and it had been a couple of decades since Howard Ruff was making waves in the financial markets. Many people forget how prominent he was in his prime.

His first New York Times bestseller, “How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years,” came out in 1979. It was at the height of the inflationary 1970s and he sold 3 million copies. At one point, he had over 175,000 subscribers to his newsletter, The Ruff Times.

After Howard Ruff died, I worked hard to arrange (through Tom Lipscomb, Howard Ruff’s old publisher at Times Books, as well as Jeff Carneal) a story in the New York Times. I felt Ruff deserved a story in the “newspaper of record.” When Richard Russell died a year ago, I was disappointed the Times didn’t run an obituary on him.

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And the New York Times came through with both a print and an online story. You can read it here.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the write-up, although I prefer “maverick” to the term “quirky,” and “financial guru” to “economist.”

Plus, this tribute appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, which tells one of my funny stories about Ruff from the New Orleans conference around the mid-1990s.

Nobody was bigger than Howard Ruff. He reminds me of the classic line, “Go big or go home.” He knew the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Two Ruff Lessons

I learned two important lessons from Howard’s long career:

First, promotion and marketing are an important ingredient if you want to make a difference in life. As he once wrote, “If I could teach my children only one thing, it would be the skill of marketing. For with that skill, they could be successful at anything they chose for the rest of their lives.” These and other quotes can be found on the new website: http://www.howardrufflegacy.com/. Who could forget Howard Ruff’s most famous marketing copy: “Can You Afford to Be Without This Man’s Advice?”

Second, be prudent in your financial affairs. Mostly importantly, in times of uncertainty and crisis, use the good times to prepare for the bad times. That’s what was Howard Ruff’s biggest mistake, and we can all learn from it. He was always too leveraged, and was always living beyond his means. Millions of dollars went through his hands in the 1970s and 1980s, and he couldn’t hold on to it. For Ruff, money was like water in his hands.

May we always live by the trinity of financial virtues pronounced by Ben Franklin: Industry, Thrift and Prudence.

We plan to dedicate a room to Howard Ruff at next year’s FreedomFest. Hope you can make it. It’s going to be YUGE, to quote The Donald. It’s our 10th anniversary — see details below.

Upcoming Conferences


Steve Forbes, Jo Ann and Mark Skousen holding up last year’s issue of Forbes 400 Richest People in America with the President-elect Trump on the cover. Mr. Trump spoke at last year’s FreedomFest.

My wife Jo Ann and I met this week with Steve Forbes (see photo), our conference ambassador, and he is excited about our 10th anniversary. It also happens to be Mr. Forbes’s 70th birthday that week, and we plan to celebrate his life and work, and hope you will join us for this most memorable FreedomFest.

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To sign up, go to www.freedomfest.com. For the fabulous Danube river cruise, go to http://www.globalfinancialsummitcruise.com/?scode=035323.

The Year of the Businessman at FreedomFest 2017

Forbes, Fisher, Karlgaard

O WOW! Forbes Billionaire Ken Fisher and Publisher Rich Karlgaard to address FreedomFest for the first time! Next year will be the 100th anniversary of Forbes magazine, and we’re celebrating “The Year of the Businessman,” especially with Donald Trump becoming president. Come join the festivities! B. C. Forbes, Steve Forbes’s grandfather, started the magazine in 1917. We’re going to have a special session on the impact that Forbes had on business and investing with Steve Forbes and these experts: Ken Fisher holds the record for writing a Forbes column for 33 years, and is now a member of the Forbes 400 Richest List. Rich Karlgaard has been the publisher since 1998. It will be their first time at FreedomFest, and you won’t want to miss meeting them.

Also joining us will be top financial gurus Jim Rogers, Doug Casey, Nicholas Vardy, Adrian Day, Alex Green and many more. Keynote speakers who already have confirmed include William Shatner (Hollywood’s entrepreneur), Robert Frank (New York Times columnist),Deirdre McCloskey (top economist and author), Conrad Black (Canada’s top publisher), Marc Eliot (Hollywood’s biographer) on his latest book, “Charlton Heston,” and of course our co-ambassadors Steve Forbes and John Mackey. Mackey will be speaking on his new book, “The Whole Foods Diet.” His presentation is not to be missed!

Oh, and we’ve just added Kennedy from Fox Business, who will be our judge in the mock trial next year on “Police and Criminal Justice System on Trial.” The mock trial is almost always the most popular event. For more details, go to www.freedomfest.com.

This is going to be our biggest and best FreedomFest ever, so now is the time to plan a trip to Vegas in July. We are expecting a record turnout, so I encourage you to sign up now and take advantage of our “early bird” discount — save $100 per person/$200 per couple over the registration fee — which ends on Jan. 15.

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Our registration page is now up and running, so go to http://freedomfest.com/register-now/. You can also registered by calling our toll-free number 1-855-850-3733, ext. 202, and talk to Jennifer, Amy or Karen. Call today!

You Nailed It! Sharing the Real Story of Thanksgiving

Offering Words of Thanksgiving from Benjamin Franklin (1785)

There is a tradition that in the planting of New England, the first settlers met with many difficulties and hardships, as is generally the case when a civilized people attempt to establish themselves in a wilderness country. Being so piously disposed, they sought relief from heaven by laying their wants and distresses before the Lord in frequent set days of fasting and prayer. Constant meditation and discourse on these subjects kept their minds gloomy and discontented, and like the children of Israel there were many disposed to return to the Egypt which persecution had induced them to abandon. At length, when it was proposed in the Assembly to proclaim another fast, a farmer of plain sense rose and remarked that the inconveniences they suffered and their complaints to heaven were not so great as they might have expected, and were diminishing every day as the colony strengthened; that the earth began to reward their labour and furnish liberally for their subsistence; that their seas and rivers were full of fish, the air sweet, the climate healthy, and above all, they were in the full enjoyment of liberty, civil and religious. He therefore thought that it would be more becoming the gratitude they owed to the divine being, if instead of a fast they should proclaim a thanksgiving. His advice was taken, and from that day to this, they have in every year observed circumstances of public felicity sufficient to furnish employment for a Thanksgiving Day, which is therefore constantly ordered and religiously observed.

Taken from The Compleated Autobiography, by Benjamin Franklin, compiled and edited by Mark & Jo Ann Skousen (Regnery, 2006), pp. 331-32.

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Dr. Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

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