Monday, January 5, 2015

Enough!

XII
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!  -Rubiayat Omar Khayyam circa 1120 AD

"Enough" is one of those words that first seems lukewarm, words like "kindness" and "gentleness", words that do not yell for attention.

Those who follow the stock market know that most actors oscillate between fear and greed with nary a pause at "enough".  It is like watching a partial load of bowling balls careen the length of a semi tractor-trailer in city driving.  It may be exciting for the flies on the wall but it smacks the heck out of the less agile speculators on the trailer floor.

I am pretty much a fly-on-the-wall at this stage of the game.  I have some assets but they are tied up in a 401-k and IRA and are out of reach for four-and-a-half more years.  It is not a huge amount of money by US standards but is enough to make a Nigerian scammer salivate.  My goal is not to grow it so much as to retain its purchasing power.

I remember a conversation I had with a member of management in 1999.  He was invested in Fidelity Aggressive Growth mutual fund.  At that snapshot in time it had returned a 12 month rate-of-return of 106%.  He wanted to liquidate his 401-k because there were individual stocks that had done better and he was afraid that he was leaving money on the table.  This is the definition of greed....when doubling one's money in 12 months is "not enough".

Fidelity Aggressive Growth mutual fund bottomed out at $0.14 on the dollar from dot.com highs.  Many of those individual stocks evaporates.  One man told me of investing $98K in three separate "conceptual, ground floor, dot.com opportunity stocks."  Two of the three companies had liquidated.  The third was down to 13% of its peak and still dropping like a rock at the time of his telling.

Rockets up became rockets down. Fear and greed.  Greed and fear.

Sitting next to somebody whose $300K portfolio dwindled down to a $42K portfolio in six months motivates one to find the focal plane that cleaves "enough".  I am still refining that focal plane but I am getting closer.

Candide


Voltaire has Candide's final words be "And now we must tend our own garden."  It is as if Voltaire wanted us to remember one thing.....all things are vanities, except, maybe, tending our garden.

It is telling that the Old Persian root word for "Paradise" is a small, sunken garden; typically irrigated.  Imagine an arid environment with desiccating winds.  The easiest way to create a garden in the desert is to dig down, use the spoils that are excavated to throw a berm around the windward edge and then to irrigate.  Paradise is small, personal and private.

So Joe Dominguez was right, "enough" is "paradise".  And if one is of a ascetic bent, then one might observe that a sunken garden, paradise, could be nothing more than a bomb crater that received some TLC: A bit of song, enough bread and wine for a shared meal and somebody to share it with.

2015 may be a tumultuous year for investments because of financial chicanery, armed conflicts, political gyrations and civil strife.  Be prepared.  Arm yourself with a grasp of "enough".


2 comments:

  1. Enough is right... Get rich quick schemes NEVER work, usually leaving the participant broke!

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  2. Having almost zero investments, I'm probably safe...at least from that sort of thing. I have "enough" money, but that's about all. At least it's enough. I can't complain.

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