Last weekend I saw Woody Allen’s new movie, “Midnight in Paris,” a witty look at a successful screenwriter’s struggle with his first novel, and all the twists in between.
I like Woody Allen’s stuff because so much of his work seems to reflect the human act of “living life.” The dialogue between his characters unfolds as if someone had a hidden video camera strapped to their shoulder and was taping the ordinary exchange of connections.
Sometimes I wish I had a hidden video camera on my shoulder at the exchanges I encounter in my daily life, especially when visiting with people about “money.”
It would be a box-office hit.
For instance, a while back I ran in to an acquaintance who shared with me that her mother had recently died, and with her minimal inheritance, wanted to soon retire, sell her home, and buy a condo in the sunny Southwest. She revealed to me that over the past year she was having fun watching the stocks appreciate on a daily basis, but was wrestling with whether to hold on to her newly acquired companies or sell them now to purchase a condo in 2013.
The way she described it was so comical, not being able to decide whether to give up the fun of watching stocks for the certainty of buying a condo, especially when I reminded her that it’s “always” possible the market might drop 30 percent. This reflection only seemed to heighten her struggle with what to do.
It got me to thinking (yet again) how immersed our society is in following the stock market each day; tuning in to something on an hourly basis while investing in that same asset class for what surely should be a commitment of five years or more. It’s absurd. It’s beyond absurd. And yet it happens.
Tomorrow, another Woody Allen exchange that caused me to roll my eyes.
Two weekend articles caught my attention.
In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Jason Zweig exposes the deception money managers use in comparing returns versus the S&P 500 index. Although it shouldn’t surprise me, it does. Why would these people stoop so low – knowingly cheat on comparing returns, to garner more attention for their funds?
If you are dependent on someone “beating” the market for you to reach your financial goals, you are in a sorry state of mind. Turn away from the stock market and focus on things that are in your control (and actually matter) if you are intent on doing the right thing with your investments.
The second article, by a favorite columnist of mine, Ron Lieber, addresses the excessive and often hidden costs within 401k plans. This is a follow up to an earlier piece he wrote extolling the many benefits of index funds within these plans.
Reading the article got me to thinking about the many challenges Americans face in saving for their retirement years. It is complicated enough as it is. Don’t make it worse by getting caught up in Wall Street’s pursuit of performance above a benchmark.
Take a risk.
Go out on a limb.
Take the plunge.
And boy, wasn’t it fun.
A month ago our crew at Soundmark Wealth Management did the “ropes course” near the local Redhook Brewery in Woodinville. We thought it might be fun to get out and participate in a team building activity.
And so we did.
After harnessing up, we all climbed the rope ladder to get to the 20 foot platform and begin our journey.
You might remember I suffer from acrophobia (a fear of heights), and so when I arrived on the platform, and surveyed the course, not only did my knees weaken, but I actually felt a little anger at the two crew members who set up this adventure. I know others felt the same, like, “What are we doing here?”
I kept on reminding myself that the worst that could happen is that I slip and fall, with the harness catching me.
Other crew members started trekking around the course, and so I, along with everyone else, began a harrowing, 90 minute adventure.
Except that within 15 minutes, the harrowing adventure turned in to a fun and exhilarating experience, as the rush of adrenaline overcame our fear of heights.
As you begin your summer of adventure, both emotionally and physically, here are some thoughts that we learned in our afternoon on the “ropes.”
Commit to your adventure. Write it down on paper, and if you participate in this new adventure with others, you will probably stay committed to it.
Don’t fight the fear, accept it. Recognize that the new adventure might seem a little overwhelming at first. Whether you get involved with a new group, meet new people for the first time, or attempt a physical activity like we did, the anxiousness and adrenaline is a bonus! It means you are alive, and stretching yourself.
Celebrate your success, as well as your failures. That’s right, when you fail, that means you are at least trying, and that’s more than many people do.
Risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. Those who avoid suffering and sorrow simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love . . . Live. Chained by certitudes, they are slaves, they have forfeited freedom. Only a person who risks is free. Anon.
I am blessed with having seven wonderful brothers and sisters scattered across the globe.
Last week all eight of us got on a conference call from all corners of the world (skype is wonderful) to catch up and connect. It was so much fun.
When I wrote The Coffeehouse Investor back in 1998, I did so with my seven brothers and sisters in mind. These are people who are really getting on with their lives, and don’t want to spend one second trying to pick the top stocks and mutual funds for their retirement. It is a total waste of their precious time. They have got a bazillion (I like that word) things to do today, and for them, as with other Coffeehouse Investors, picking stocks is like trying to figure out a way to win at blackjack – a total waste of time.
On top of that, I’m not sure I want to spend much time with someone who is serious about trying to win at blackjack. I’ve been around them (stockpickers). Something about their spirit is so empty. It’s like I want to say, “Get a Life.”
One characteristic that ties my brothers and sisters together is their ambitious, adventurous spirit.
Do you have an adventurous spirit? What would that look like?
What are some activities you could embrace this summer that would accentuate that adventurous spirit of yours?
Take a few moments in the next day to ponder that.
Hey, life is an adventure in itself, so might as well hang on for the ride and make the most of it.
Once in a while something happens in your life and affects you in a profoundly positive way.
You can’t really explain how it happened, it just happened.
Maybe it is fate.
Maybe it is a product of getting out there, embracing the world, and allowing good things to come to you.
I tend to think it is the latter.
When I look back on my life, and all the positive things that have happened, it has usually been a result of putting myself out there, risking failure, and embracing the world.
Sometimes the “positive” doesn’t materialize for a very long time, if at all. Sometimes all you are going to experience is frustration and failure.
I have been writing about this topic a lot lately, choosing to spend time on “getting on with your life” instead of dissecting the 32 different small cap funds you might want to own, because when you get right down to it, most people don’t really care what small cap fund they own, they want to live a rich and full life, but are hesitant to go out and grab it and feel it and live it.
Maybe it has to do with fearing failure or rejection. Maybe the uphill climb is too steep to embark on a new goal.
Whatever the reason might be, it’s time to ignore the naysayers and embrace the possibilities that life presents to you.
It is the season of summer, starting today. So go outside and take a risk, try something you will likely fail at, and feel the energy of your heart thumping away inside your chest.
Tomorrow I am going to offer a few suggestions, so stay tuned . . .
(Oh, and by the way, it doesn’t really matter what small cap fund you own, so quit worrying about it.)