I have spent a fair amount of time in the last week or so looking back at where we were a year ago. Anniversaries have a way of provoking such things, and it’s amazing to contemplate just how much has changed since then, and how little of that change any of us could possibly have anticipated.
On a national level, there are plenty of similar musings being published right now, so I promise not to belabor the same points, but a couple of financial statistics just take your breath away. The first has to do with the amount of money we now owe as a nation. The second has to do with the huge cash balances we have now accumulated as individuals and institutions.
According to the US Treasury, the US national debt increased by $4.46 trillion in the year since a national emergency was declared on March 13th of last year, rising from $23.44 trillion to $27.9 trillion. Whoa.
During the same period though, according to the Investment Company Institute, money market fund balances increased by $615 billion, growing at an average rate of $12 billion per week, and standing at $4.39 trillion as of March 12, 2021. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated such things in March of 2020.
On a company level, this last weekend marked the one-year anniversary of our move across the hall from the temporary space we had occupied for five months (complete with rough cement floors and old filing cabinets serving as “room” dividers) to our brand-new permanent space that we’d spent months and plenty of money to build out – only to have had most of the team go home to work remotely the week prior to the move when the national emergency was declared. We have never had the whole team together in person for a full day since. Who could have known?
And we’ve had plenty more disruptions and challenges since then. There will surely be more to come.
What has kept this firm grounded through this strange series of events is an on-going commitment to our core beliefs. They have been and will be our guiding principles as we are inevitably forced to improvise, adapt, and overcome whatever crises we meet going forward too. We carefully decided upon them decades ago, and though they are short and sweet, these tenets have kept us true to our identity and to our mission to help guide our clients in similar fashion.
Teamwork: Working together, sharing the best that each of us has to offer for the success of our clients, each other, and the company as a whole.
Integrity: Having the personal strength to face the brutal facts, tell the truth, and always treat others the way we would wish to be treated.
Balance: Remembering that true wealth comes in many forms; financial, personal, spiritual, family, and social. Real success comes only in achieving a healthy balance between all of them.
Excellence: An unrelenting focus on always getting better at everything we do, and a commitment never to accept good as good enough.
Enjoyment: Recognizing that in order to be the best at what we do we must have a passion for it, and a sense of true fulfillment that goes beyond financial success.
These values show their face in how we do what we do, and also in who we choose to serve.
Successful long-range planning, long-term investing, and stalwartly maintaining patience, discipline and faith in the future require trust. They are not things we can do for you or to you. We can only do it successfully with you. High-trust teamwork is crucial in our client relationships as well.
Things will happen that we can’t anticipate. We cannot foretell the future any better than you can. The one absolute guarantee we can make is that at some point you will experience a significant decline in your investment portfolio. That is the nature of investing. And if you remain our client long enough, you will experience many of those trying times. But we can also promise to be there every step of the way – and to guide you through those challenges. To succeed in the long run, we must have the integrity to declare that truth up front, and our clients must have the integrity to embrace that reality.
We believe there is a great deal more to wealth and well-being than the accumulation of money and tangible possessions. Happiness comes from a sense of successful stewardship – actively wanting and caring for all the precious things you have, not from having everything you want. We do not work well with people who believe otherwise. Balance in your wealth-building philosophy is essential too.
All of us can strive to improve in virtually everything we do. Constantly investing in that improvement process is another key to wellness and well-being, and a central part of being a good steward. We love to work with folks who share that definition of excellence.
And what is the point of all our long-range planning if we can’t find a way to enjoy the unexpected turns in our journey, and to derive a sense of fulfillment from embracing ambiguity, wrestling with adversity, and eventually overcoming the challenges?
Few of the truly valuable things in life come easy. Success is not a passive endeavor. True enjoyment requires purposeful investment.