You’ve heard this from me before, but it’s always worth repeating: investing, in anything, is first and foremost an act of faith. Yes, there are many other factors that go into a great investment decision. But, whether you’re building a company, investing your hard-earned money in one, committing yourself to a marriage, starting a family, or writing massive checks for your child’s college tuition bills, you must first have a deeply held conviction that it will pay off. Otherwise, you may not have the courage and determination necessary to see it through. You must be convinced that the future will be better because of your efforts and sacrifice. You must believe that you, or someone you care about, will be there to greet that future, and that the actions you take today will have a profound impact on the outcome.
Successful long-term investors, in my experience, almost always display that sense of gritty, determined optimism as a matter of course. They expect setbacks, to be sure, because they know success is rarely easy, but they firmly believe that with patience, discipline and careful navigation they will eventually prevail in the end. They cultivate a strength of will, and in many respects, they thrive on resilience.
Lately, I’ve spoken to plenty of people who feel like their faith in the future is being tested. Whether it’s exhausting political and social vitriol; breath-taking natural disasters like the hurricanes devastating Houston and Puerto Rico, or the wildfires doing the same in California; belligerent strongmen with nuclear weapons blithely threatening annihilation of entire populations; or mass murder and mayhem perpetrated by an evil calculating maniac in Las Vegas, folks feel like external events beyond their control are playing havoc with their confidence and sapping their strength.
I get it. Sometimes I feel the same way. In fact, looking back over all we’ve endured in the 21st century so far, one might agree that it has taken extra resilience and regular inoculations of hard-nosed, long-term economic, social and political perspective not to feel that way. (To see some of my efforts to bolster your perspective and resolve – as well as my own – read through some of my past President’s Messages from all those years. You can find them on our website at https://lsggroup.com/resources/reports/.)
Simply looking backwards for reassurance doesn’t do it, though. Investing requires constantly looking forwards, and sometimes in finding strength, resolve and determination in your obligations. In fact, George Bernard Shaw, the famous Irish playwright, once said: “we are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” I thought, therefore, it might be helpful to share some of the obligations and responsibilities that motivate us, as a team, so you understand why we too keep doing the difficult work of building towards the long-term future.
The median age of our clients right now is 61. In four years those clients will be 65, and applying for Medicare. Five years after that they’ll be 70, and soon obliged to take Required Minimum Distributions from retirement accounts. With those milestones alone, plus plenty of other personal changes, they face many vexing financial, tax and investment planning challenges going forward. And here’s something to ponder: the average 65-year-old couple alive in the United States today has about even odds (49%) that one of them will live to see their 90th birthday. That’s 25 additional years of unknown, uncharted financial, investment and life-planning territory they need to traverse – hopefully with the help of one stable, trustworthy team of advisors, behavioral coaches and investment specialists to help guide the way.
I’m not sure how many of our clients think about this challenge on a regular basis, but we do. I don’t know how many in our profession worry they aren’t doing enough to prepare themselves or their clients for this inevitable progression, but we do. We’re determined to keep investing – in ourselves, in each other, and in the long-term health and sustainability of this team – so our clients can have the confidence and trust that we will be here for them for the long run.
The senior advisors on this team – Glenda, Cass, Mark, Bleckley, Megan and me – have worked together for an average of almost 20 years now. Our senior staff – Ray, Donna and Diane – average more than 11 years on this team. We’re fortunate. We share a deep sense of trust, we work well together, and we each contribute in unique and important ways. Nevertheless, to sustain it in the long run, we have an obligation to keep adding new breadth and depth to this firm – and we are, in every department.
Chris Vasquez, who joined us just 3 ½ years ago, has now successfully completed all his Certified Financial Planning Certificate coursework. He’ll soon sit for the comprehensive exam, and if all goes well he’ll become a Certified Financial Planner before next summer. Preston Neumann, who joined us 2 ½ years ago, recently sat for the CFA Level II exam, and has now begun attending due diligence conferences with money management firms on our behalf. Chaney Barton-Nichols, who also joined us 2 ½ years ago, has been promoted to Marketing Director, and recently attended her second conference sponsored by Junxure, the maker of our client relationship management software system. In the process, she has helped to distinguish this firm as an advanced adopter (imagine that!) of this cloud-based technology, and has proven herself invaluable in teaching us old dogs some new tricks. And six months ago, we welcomed our newest member, Daisy Lopez, to the team. Daisy is mastering our complex portfolio accounting software system, and will soon be taking on additional accounting responsibilities. She also brings valuable bilingual capabilities to our team for the very first time. So, no matter what anyone else says about their generation – our Millennials rock! It’s exciting to witness, and it gives me great confidence for the future of this talented team of people.