I don’t know if it is just me, or if the activities within our day to day experiences are becoming more complex.
For example, we recently installed a new Cient Relationship Management (CRM) tool at work on our computers, and I have to learn a whole new system for recording my communications with clients. The program overwhelms me with its complexity. I am slowly learning all its functions, but it is a slow process.
Oh, how I long for the simple CRM I used 10 years ago. It was easy, provided all the functions I wanted, and was very intuitive in the way one navigated around the program to utilize all its functions.
But as our company expanded, while at the same time the CRM of 10 years ago updated its software, it became unwieldy, which is why we eventually switched to the complicated new CRM software we are using today.
Or how about trying to sort through a medical or dental insurance bill? Last week I received a summary from my dental carrier about the services it would and wouldn’t cover resulting from a recent checkup. The summary was so darned complicated that I ended up calling the insurance provider for an explanation. Even that process was complicated, as I was led through a maize of automated push-button options in order to (finally!) connect with someone who could answer my questions.
Are our lives becoming easier as a result of technology, or more complex?
I was browsing through an old book of mine by John Main on meditation, which, according to the author, is all about simplicity. A few passages from his book caught my attention in my yearning for a more simple way of doing things amid our complex world.
“The process of meditation is absolute simplicity. In general, we are obsessed with the idea of techniques, methods, methodologies, and so on. . .”
“As a goal simplicity is something very unfamiliar to us. Most of us are carefully trained to see that only complexity is really worthy of respect.”
“In the world we live in we are so used to placing our hope and our faith in complexity. But I think all of us know, at a deeper level of our being, that real peace is to be found in profound simplicity.”
Profound simplicity. Maybe that is one of the reasons why so many Wall Street types despise the simple Coffeehouse Investor approach to building portfolios. Many people in the financial industry spend incredible amounts of time, money, and mental energy to devise complex research and trading methods in order to beat the market. They simply cannot accept the fact that a simple portfolio of 3 to 7 index funds will likely outperform their actively managed accounts.
Ironically, an article by Craig Karmin in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week revealed that sophisticated investing strategies of large endowment funds aren’t all they are cracked up to be. To quote,
The largest college endowments, long the envy of their smaller rivals for their sophisticated and profitable investment strategies, were left behind over the past year by the performance of smaller schools with far simpler approaches.
But forget about Wall Street for a moment. How do you, an investor who is managing your own portfolio to sustain you throughout your retirement years, look at the issue of complexity versus simplicity in building a portfolio? I have met with enough people in my lifetime to know that many can’t handle the wisdom of simplicity in portfolios. For some, it is an ego thing. Others are brainwashed by Wall Street. But whatever the reason, too many investors are too easily impressed with complex formulas that include beta and alpha and standard deviation and co-variance that include sophisticated looking charts and graphs than they are with my simple game of “Outfox the Box.”
For investors who embrace the profound simplicity of the Coffeehouse investing philosophy, the benefits are twofold. First, you maximize your return potential in each asset class. Secondly, and more important, you bring an abundance of simplicity into one component of your life where the experts are telling you that complexity is the answer.
I finish off my book with the following. . . “When we unclutter one part of our life, we enrich another part, and that is what this investment journey is all about. When we simplify investing, we take another step toward discovering our contagious spirit and our unique energy in such a way that we impact our world, making this a better place for everyone.”