Enough

June 30, 2022

I’m writing this post on June 30, 2022 as stocks are set to end the first half of 2022 with the worst first-half performance since 1970. Think about that – the worst six month start to an investing year in 52 years. Geez, that’s longer than I’ve been alive! Add in high prices in many areas, cancelled flights and upended travel, continued covid cases, historically low consumer sentiment, and countless other negative headlines and it is no wonder why the general world seems stuck in a rut. We’ve gone from a joyous abundance mindset in late 2020/2021 to a striking scarcity mindset in 2022.

With that backdrop, I personally find it more important than ever to look for the light in all the darkness. No, that does not mean I’m turning a blind eye to performance or results or present day market mechanics. Quite the contrary. I am working harder than ever to make sense of everything and find ways to engage in the ongoing compounding of wealth. But a steady dose of perspective and gratitude make all that effort (and life in general) just that much easier.

To help find the light, I’ve been re-reading a favorite book of mine this week. It’s called the Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. It’s a quick read and contains 20 short stories that can be read in any order. They are practical and impactful lessons about money and how we think about it as emotional and meaning-making humans. One of my favorite stories focuses on a word I think we can all keep front of mine these days – ENOUGH

The story that touches on this topic is #3 in the book entitled “Never Enough. When rich people do crazy things”

The chapter begins with this story as once told to the author by Jack Bogle, the Vanguard Founder (quoted here for reference)

As a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have….enough“.

Morgan uses the rest of the chapter to illustrate how some wealthy people – who have more than most of us can even imagine – struggle to ever reach the point of “enough.” They risked what they had for something they didn’t even need (ie: more money). Examples included in the book were Rajat Gupta and Bernie Madoff.

Morgan also provides four things we can all keep in mind in our endless search for “enough”

1.The hardest financial skill is to getting the goalpost to stop moving – This lesson reminds me of the recent writing I did on the work of Arthur Brooks (managing happiness by wanting less vs. having more). Finding enough hinges almost entirely on learning that we don’t need to constantly move the goalposts as we find more success both personally and financially. Sometimes, you can simply enjoy the destination versus endlessly searching for a new one

2. Social comparison is the problem here – Everything seems to be relative when it comes to wealth. Social comparison is such an ingrained part of our society that it has its own well-known catchy slogan “keeping up with the Jones.” The bad news – there will always be someone better off than you if you are looking for that. The good news – that doesn’t matter if you focus inward to find personal satisfaction with your situation on an absolute (NOT relative) basis

3. Enough” is not too little – the word itself makes us think of sacrifice or scarcity. Work to reframe that. How about realizing that finding “enough” will bring you peace and permission to not take undue risk and experience undue pressure any longer? Sounds more like abundance to me

4. There are many things never worth risking, no matter what the potential gain – Reputation. Family. Friends. Health. Happiness. All of these things are invaluable and not worth risking to get more of something like money or higher returns. If you have what you need in those categories, perhaps you will realize your financial status truly is enough

I know it’s been a hard start to the year. I know we’re all tired and worn down after two years of a global pandemic. I know we are all yearning for a return of light and peace at the exact time we are feeling increasingly encompassed in darkness and fear. I realize we may not have all we want right now. But if we are really honest with ourselves, it may just be that we have enough.

Wishing you peace, light, and enough – today and always,

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