experience teaches

COMPLETELY UNFINISHED

photo shows a desert highway with

Maybe the idea of “the finish line” is overrated. You know about my long-time goal of working until I’m age 92, so this sentiment shouldn’t be a shocker.

But we’re thinking about other ways this idea applies. A lot of investment wisdom suggests finding strategies that work with your current life stage. What milestones are coming up? What are you working toward right now? What can you prepare for? Even in this approach, though, life shouldn’t be treated like a checklist.

It’s definitely a journey—and you can’t plan for all the stops along the way. Our approach has to reflect that reality.

Psychologist Carol Dweck studies motivation and mindset. Her take? If things feel fixed or set in stone, look out: that attitude may be a signal that you’ve shut down in the face of change.

We’re not saying that flip-flopping or changing for its own sake is the way to be, but we can’t grow unless we’re willing to change.

“Opening yourself up to growth makes you more yourself, not less,” Dweck explains in her book Mindset. Dweck encourages us to continue to “learn and help learn,” and that’s an idea we can get behind.

You can be a whole person every day you live, but that doesn’t mean your living is ever finished. That’s how we feel about our work, too: a strong financial advisor isn’t a teacher or guide necessarily. An advisor can be a partner on that path. We can map an approach that is complete, robust, and comprehensive—but you better believe that the plan should be able to grow right along with you.

Clients, write or call when you’d like to talk about this, or anything else.

Classical Language, Mostly Classic Ideas

© Can Stock Photo / franckito

A surprising number of Latin phrases are woven into modern society, considering the language has not been widely used for centuries. From simple truisms like tempus fugit (time flies) to mottos like e pluribus unum (from many, one), the wisdom and ideas of a civilization lost to antiquity survive.

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote “experientia docet,” experience teaches. We must take issue with this one. Investors make a critical mistake in learning from experience, in our view. They often learn the wrong lesson.

People sometimes adopt tactics and strategies that would have worked great in the last cycle. Unfortunately, times change and the outdated strategies usually fail to perform like they did before.

In the year 2000, following the stock market bust stocks fell—but home values rose. This taught people the wrong idea that “you can’t lose money in real estate”, which caused a lot of damage during the 2007 financial crisis. Then, by 2009, lenders learned the wrong lesson again—because auto loans outperformed in the downturn. Today they may be setting up future losses by putting too much money into substandard auto loans.

A related problem is best illustrated by a product pitch we recently received from an investment sponsor. Their latest offering is based on “the top performing asset class of the last decade!”

Clients, you know what our issue is with this. We love to buy bargains. The best performer over the past decade is, by definition, no bargain. Piling in after a big runup may be jumping on the bandwagon right before it goes off a cliff. However, the experience of the last decade evidently taught many that the specific sector was the one to buy now. Wrong lesson, again.

One interesting facet of all this is that experience actually can teach us. We just need to be certain we are learning the right lesson.

There were useful and profitable lessons in the tech wreck of 2000 and the real estate bust that began in 2007. In our view, those lessons are that it is dangerous to invest in over-priced assets—and it doesn’t pay to join a stampede in the market. Those lessons help us live with attractively priced stocks, and avoid the flight to safety that made historically more stable assets overpriced (in our opinion.)

So let us leave you with a little Latin of our own devising: cognitio ad felicitatem. (Knowledge leads to prosperity.) Clients, if you have any questions, comments or insights please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Because of their narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies.