perspective

Go Hard, Breathe Easy

running feet (002)

Being calm seems to come easier to some. Maybe it’s a natural disposition, but for some folks we know, they went hard until they could breathe easy.

Many of our friends and clients have what they have as a result of a lifetime of work and savings. They’ve weathered storms and chose to ignore fads. They decided on some goals and set things to work toward those goals.

Those things didn’t happen all at once. But each of us can choose a little hard now to take it easier, later. The costs of deferring pain are sometimes far too high—and we don’t realize it until it’s too late. It’s credit payments that pile up. It’s deferred maintenance that we wake up one morning to discover is now an emergency. It’s a routine that felt too hard to keep up, and now our wellbeing is anything but well.

Is it possible to buy yourself some calm, even in times of challenge? Those may be the best times to invest in some calm.

Keep your emergency savings at a level that feels right for your family. Keep working your plans; make them automatic where possible.

Know that this challenge will not last forever. (In fact, a new best and a new worst will always await us. Such is life.) We can hope that each new challenge will be more meaningful. We can hope each will make us wiser and will cause less damage.

It won’t just happen that way. Some may be born with more calm, but some of us go hard until things aren’t so hard.

Can you work with something hard today? It may help you breathe easier tomorrow. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

The Book of Life

© Can Stock Photo / photocreo

Books have chapters, each one a thread that is woven together with the other chapters to tell a story. Characters come and go, things happen, the plot advances. When a character’s part is finished, they do not appear in future chapters.

They were there for a reason; we remember them through the rest of the book. I’ve come to see that life is like that, too.

Our lives are a book with different chapters. In the hardest times, it helps to think there are more chapters out there. It will not always be the way it is now. The current chapter is not the whole book.

And in the best times, the same framework reminds us to be grateful for the moment, for what we have.

The way things unfold for some people, it may seem like half or more of their lives are in a single chapter. When the chapter ends, one might wonder if life is ending. But the chapter is not the book. (Or at least it does not have to be.)

C.S. Lewis noted we cannot go back and change the beginning, but we can start now and change the ending. Our sorrow is that we cannot change the prior chapter, but there is joy in being able to change the next chapter. This is why we make plans for the future!

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Can You See the Forest?

© Can Stock Photo / Elnur

The old saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” refers to the difficulty we humans have in maintaining perspective, of keeping the larger context in mind. Our current challenges bring us reminders of this.

Recently we were discussing the prospects for investing in a food processing company. Market disruptions have knocked the cost of $1 of annual earning power down to $10 – an earnings yield of 10%. (Another way to say it: a price-earnings ratio of 10.) If one can purchase durable earning power in an enduring industry at valuations like that, the holding might be owned a very long time.

(No guarantees – there are a lot of assumptions in that last paragraph.)

A colleague asked us whether we were concerned about the impact of processing plant shutdowns. After agreeing that any shutdowns would likely be limited to a matter of weeks, this seemed to be one of those problems of perspective.

For none of the past few decades have the plants been shut down for a virus. Apart from the next few weeks, it seems unlikely that virus-related shutdowns will be much of a factor in the decades ahead.

The forest is that we humans will still need to eat in the future, and there is probably money to be made by meeting that need. The trees are the virus and the shutdowns and the disruptions. One of our key roles is working to see the big picture and striving to act accordingly. We need to be able to see the forest in spite of the trees.

Interestingly, the challenge of maintaining perspective may play a role in creating bargains. Investors who get too wrapped up in transitory effects may push prices to levels that don’t reflect the long term value. When current conditions fade, as they will, that value may become apparent. Again, no guarantees.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, 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.

Setbacks and Setups

© Can Stock Photo / yellowcrest

Time travel is a powerful way to reframe the present. Our collective present is full of challenges and setbacks, but what will this moment mean to you down the road, looking back?

If you’re prone to stay mired in the moment, here’s a game of “I spy” for you: where are the setups among all these setbacks?

You’ve heard it from us before. There’s day-night, day-night. There’s up-down, up-down. Well here’s one for these challenging times: setback and setup.

Some of our acquaintances are facing tradeoffs big and small right now. Less time for work… but more time with the kids. Less time with the gym buddies… but more time out in the sunshine.

In terms of business, our classic principles still apply here. We seek bargains. Economic activity is shifting. Some areas have slammed on the brakes as demand has fallen off; some areas are buzzing in a scramble to keep up with demand.

Just like the setbacks in our individual lives, the business setbacks exist alongside potential setups. Part of our job is to take a good look around to try to spot them. No guarantees, but we wonder what future growth is being watered by the current storm.

We’re not ignoring the storm. This approach, however, helps remind us of the bigger picture. It’s a more complete way to tell the story of a setback.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

The Pain Up Close and the Big Picture

© Can Stock Photo / PongMoji

This is personal.

I was visiting with a client the other day about the inevitable rebound to come in our economy, and the opportunities that are developing now. The conversation turned to concern for those we know who might not survive a COVID-19 episode, and the grim scenes and stories from tragically overburdened hospitals.

It was a reminder, again, of the duality of our existence.

On the big scale, it is almost mundane. Demographers estimate that 108 billion humans have been born in all of history, and 100 billion of us have already died. Death comes to us all. It happens to everyone.

Yet when you get down to cases, what could be more unique or personal than our experience of the loss of a friend, lover, parent, brother, sister?

It may seem impersonal or cold to compare a projected death toll from our current troubles to some past pandemic, to talk about economic recovery and market rebounds. But we have to think about the big picture in order to make plans for living. We need to avoid emotional reactions to issues which would benefit from reasoned consideration.

I am only going to say this once. I feel the pain up close, intensely. Less than a year ago I learned first hand what happens when the ventilator loses the battle to keep a person alive.

I’ll not be apologizing for trying to figure out how to make the most of what we have to work with. Cathy wrote me a note in her last hours. It said “You have a lot of wonderful life left.” That’s the big picture. 330 million of us will survive the virus in this country. We have a lot of wonderful life left.

We need to feel our feelings about the pain up close. But we owe it to each other to think our thinking in the big picture.

If you would like to talk about the big picture or anything else, please email us or call.

First Light

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Each one of us remembers some new beginning. Perhaps your first thought at seeing the phrase might be of a first day of school, or first kiss, first day at a new job, new relationship, life in a new neighborhood, or something else.

Beginnings are all about potential, anticipation and excitement: a journey on roads we’ve not traveled.

I often take walks in the first light of dawn. The quality of the light in that hour can be magical, whether in the village of Louisville or the banks of the Platte River, along San Diego Bay or Michigan Avenue or in Pinellas County, Florida.

But the meaning of first light is more special to me than the beautiful scenes it might envelope. First light is a new day dawning, another step on a path never before taken. It is fraught with potential, anticipation, and excitement. Each day is a beginning.

This perspective may be helpful to move forward from past hard times, or to change things we would like to change. But it can also be useful as we seek to strengthen new habits or build on recent successes. Whether things are going well or poorly, a beginning is a chance to reset.

What new beginning excites you? Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.