Sage Advice from a Former Boss

June 10, 2022

Prior to forming Windermere in 2010, I worked in public accounting. For those not familiar with the industry/career track, it is a very challenging environment. It is a professional services industry, so the client’s timelines and demands rule the day. There is a known pathway to each promotion so performance on every job/task matters. Virtually everyone around you has only worked in this profession so there is a lot of group think and peer pressure to out-work and out-hustle the person sitting next to you at the conference table. It was an intense environment – and there was so much I loved about it.

One of the things I loved the most was the caliber of people I worked with. I was surrounded daily by highly motivated and intellectual individuals. Given that it was a project-based environment, I was able to work for quite a few different bosses and learned so much from each of them. One in particular that stands out was a partner who transferred into the Milwaukee office in the latter years of his career to help the office navigate the merger of Andersen/Deloitte. He was a grizzled Deloitte veteran partner, with over 25 years of wisdom and battle scars. He was always blunt and never sugar coated things – but regardless of the delivery, his advice somehow always seemed to be as accurate as it was jarring.

I’ll never forget one such piece of advice he shared with our team after a particularly challenging day on the job. He surveyed the audit room filed with tired and worn down faces and simply said – “Laughing or crying, it all pays the same” Perhaps HR would have asked him to reword the sentiment slightly, but I instantly understood what he meant and realized he was right. We were all adults and had chosen to be at the firm and in this role. We knew the job and what was required of us and had chosen to stay. We couldn’t control what happened to us but we could control our reaction to it. We could shift our attitude and make the best out of the opportunity. We could believe that better days were coming and that this too would pass.

Since that day (and for as along as I can remember before then too), I have tried very hard to remain an optimist (choosing to “laugh”) versus a pessimist (spending my time “crying”). Regardless of the circumstance, there is usually some level of opportunity to focus on the positive. It doesn’t solve the issue but it sure makes it easier to endure.

Despite my best efforts, being an optimist in today’s world – especially today’s investing world – is no easy feat. Pessimism reigns supreme and it seems I can’t go a day (or even an hour!) without encountering a doomsday scenario or a counter-narrative that encourages some level of crying (literal or figurative, ha!).

Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m not dismissing any of the risks present today or turning a blind eye to the challenges ahead. I am immersed in markets and data constantly and I’m well aware of the reality of today’s circumstances. You name it and I’m thinking about it – changing interest rates, global unrest, energy and food supplies, inventory adjustments, earnings revisions, changes in consumer confidence, any countless others you are all too familiar with.

And yet, similar to that day in the audit room, I understand that I have agency and choice. I am an adult and have chosen to be a participant in markets to compound my wealth over future decades. I understand that investing involves risk and volatility. I know I can’t control the daily movements in markets but I can control how I react. I can shift my attitude and realize investing has always been, and will always be, an opportunity. I can believe that better days are coming and that this too would pass, as it has over and over again for the 25+ years I’ve been on this journey. I’m choosing optimism – and it helps.

As I’ve written about in recent columns (and will likely write about again), if you step back from the past six months – as well as from our worst case projections of the upcoming few), human progress (and markets) have a definite “up and to the right” trendline. Roughly 80-90% of the time, equity markets rise. The optimists have prevailed time and time again. Markets and the process of investing over the long-term have been proven out time and time again. Will this time prove to be different? Is this the time that all ends? No one knows that for sure but the pure math of it resoundingly tells us otherwise. Now is not the time to “cry” and abandon the process. Now is the time to make the changes you can, take the actions that are productive (ie: tax loss harvesting, upgrading positions, making adjustments around target allocations), and keep moving forward.

There is so much we don’t know about what lies in front of us on our financial journey. What I do know for sure is that it will be far more enjoyable and far more productive if we “laugh” along the way. It’s a choice. Let’s make it together.

Your ever enduring optimist,

Note: All commentary above is as of the date of this post and is for education and informational purposes only. Windermere and its principals do not intend for this to serve as investment advice and are not responsible for any actions taken based on this article. Consult your financial advisor before taking any actions as it relates to your own investment portfolio

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