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What matters in investing: returns you can eat – enjoyably

investing, returns, financial planningSteak? Salad? Low fat? Low carb? Everyone has their own dietary preferences and beliefs. They enjoy what they enjoy and believe what they believe (no matter how wrong some of them may be!) Investors also have individual preferences. Gamblers love the thrill of investing. They do not enjoy a disciplined, programmatic investment strategy. They might like the results, i.e. the returns, but they wouldn’t enjoy the journey, the process.

My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. They did not take any investment risks the rest of their lives. They could have made more money investing in something other than bank CDs, but they couldn’t stand the thought of losing any money. Most people can’t stay on diets that they don’t enjoy. Most investors can’t stay the course with investment strategies that bore or terrify them.

In general, the only thing that matters in investing are the “returns you can eat.” But, for every individual investor, there is another aspect that is very important – how your investment strategy makes you feel.

Warren Buffett’s great partner Charlie Munger was making this point when he said, “Enjoy the process along with the proceeds, because the process is where you live.”

My friend Dr. Phil taught me this lesson years ago when he said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

I had many sleepless nights in 2008 when the markets were crashing. I was following a very prudent investment strategy, but I felt sick. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig wrote that, for him, following a “buy the dip” strategy in 2008 and 2009, “began to verge on misery.”

So, there is more to investing than just your future returns. How you feel today matters. A lot. Investing should help you enjoy your life, not upset you. If you think about it, investing is postponing current consumption for the benefit of your future self. Do you really want to make yourself bored or sad or miserable for the benefit of your future self? No. The best investment strategy is one that balances how you feel now with how you will feel in the future. If you are like me, you want to enjoy your current life AND enjoy your future life. So, the only things that matter in investing, then, are the healthy returns you can eat (after-fee, after-tax, after-inflation) – enjoyably.

Take some time to let that digest and email me at MichaelC@hh-wm.com if you agree or disagree. If you like this post, send it to a friend, if you hate it, send it to an enemy!

Henry+Horne Wealth Management