November 6, 2019 730 PM
In junior high, I wanted to be an English teacher, lawyer or a writer. (It was a given I’d keep up my interest in investing.) The three professions had this in common: the desire to learn and teach. By early 2000, I had completed the first two ambitions – teaching and lawyering – when the opportunity came to put the third (and assumed fourth) into practice.
The rise of the internet and the dot.com bull market in the 1990s led to websites freely providing the stock market information that had previously been expensive, hard to get, and the province of expensive (and therefore exclusive) investment firms and banks such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. With information increasingly everywhere and online discount brokers dropping commissions to the floor, Main Street could now invest alongside the so-called experts. The masses stormed the Wall Street barricades.
The top site for the individual investor was “The Motley Fool,” fool.com, named after Shakespeare’s fools: comedic characters allowed to speak truth to royal power, provided they didn’t push it. The Fool, as we called it, attacked the Wall Street power structure. I was connected to the site as to an IV. Encouraged by my now-husband Vilis, who has always viewed life as an adventure, I took a 50 percent pay cut and left the security of a fascinating public service legal job for the world of financing and investing in the middle of a revolution driven by technological change.
They were heady times. At The Fool, my colleagues and I watched and wrote about that individual investor revolution. But human nature interfered with our teaching. As everything sped up, whether access to company information, free research and analysis, or cheap commissions to buy and sell, more focus shifted to the fast buck. Outside of their retirement plans, investors raced faster and faster.
This did not change an enduring truth: investing is a marathon, not a sprint. I learned this from my father starting in junior high, then through experiencing the great inflation ending in 1982, the long bull market afterwards ending in the 2000-02 dot.com crash, the Great Recession of 2007-2009, and the 10-year bull market since then. It’s simple. People who try to measure returns in a year (or fewer than five or 10 years, at minimum) will be disappointed, usually chasing this or that hot stock or fund after it did well and is about to turn cold. The secret is that long-term thinkers need not care about the temperature of the water today.
Speaking of long term, I’ve spent almost 20 years writing about investing, companies and the markets, from every other week to multiple times a week. A rough guess is: I’ve written over one million words, not including three books (including the just-published How to Retire on Dividends: Earn a Safe 8%, Leave Your Principal Intact, available in hardcover, eBook and audiobook, narrated by…) adding another 200,000 or so, since June 2000.
I feel like John Berendt, who wrote the blockbuster bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, when asked why he was leaving his prestigious job as men’s clothing writer for GQ. He said there was only so much to write about men’s underwear. I get that. With my considerable limitations, there are only so many ways to write “save and invest as early as possible, think long term, and tune out the noise.” These are my underwear! I’ve run out of words (hard as that is to believe). It’s time to recharge, refresh, and rejuvenate.
Thank you for reading and to The Big Bend Sentinel for publishing these modest efforts for almost five years. It’s been a great pleasure.
Tom Jacobs is a partner with Huckleberry Capital Management, a boutique investment advisory firm serving clients in 25 states and 3 foreign countries from offices in Marfa, TX, Silicon Valley, CA, and Asheville, NC. You may contact him at 432-386-0488 and [email protected].