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All About the plan

Westward Yo!

Good news for all of you that have spent sleepless nights worrying about the state of my various vehicles since last month’s installment of “As the Axle Turns”: my Jeeps are both back on the road and consuming enough gasoline to keep the fossil fuel industry solvent (solvent, get it?  I just crack myself up). And no, I am not buying an electric car until I am convinced the battery technology is viable for both long-distance travel and long service life. If you’ve got one already, I salute you; I’m just not ready to jump into those waters yet. But hey, at least I have decided to give up my rotary dial phone before 2023 gets here!

Along that same train of thought, I have an iPhone.

I thought merely having an Apple product to look at instead of my dinner companion made me up-to-date. Not so, it turns out.  My iPhone is an iPhone 7, which apparently renders me as a complete embarrassment to my children and some of my work colleagues.  My friend Keith Albritton was so mortified recently when observing my use of this ancient relic that he insisted he was going to buy a new phone for me.  I am sure he will, but I fear what reprisals may be in store. Such transactions are much like the old Spy vs. Spy bit in Mad Magazine.  It’s a hard way to live, I tell you.

The state of my relationship with car batteries and cell phones is not an anti-technological stance, nor is it because I refuse to reach for my wallet.

It’s more of a case of my suspicions that any “new and improved” anything stands a good chance of not having the bugs worked out.  Way back in the 1980s, my engineering group was under a tight deadline to get a special purpose computer shipped out to McDonnell Douglas. I remember the software lead engineer telling me, “You and I have different philosophies on shipping software. You expect us to ship bug-free software, whereas I believe shipping bug-fee software means never shipping anything.”

That conversation has (obviously) stayed with me until this day.  I still think about it. There is a lot of validity to his statement.  On the one hand, if there are known bugs in the software, why not fix them before sending them to the user?

This is obviously what should be done, except there is not one single software engineer on the face of the earth (and I believe I’ve talked to all of them at one time or another) who, upon modifying their code, can resist adding another “really cool, it’ll be so sweet” feature (or ten) to the existing code, thus introducing numerous “new and improved” bugs into the system.

This situation leads us to the reasonable understanding that if the bug is not “mission critical,” it may be useful to the user to have a ‘beta’ or preliminary version of the software to enable them to proceed with the initial stages of their portion of the task at hand. This is the stuff of the first 20 years of my professional career and the inspiration for the duodenal ulcer that sent me to the hospital in 1983. It is also the reason, perhaps, that my 2022 model pickup truck bought in February of this year has three outstanding recalls on it. So far…

And this, brings us to that point each month when you ask, “What in tarnation, and the cherished name of Yosemite Sam, does this have to do with investing?”

Just this: At the risk of being too egocentric, I want to return to last month’s All About The Plan and remind you of the key phrase from that blog: Patience, time and a little effort.

I have visited with many clients this year, both in person and via telephone.  I had two that decided mid-year to proceed against my advice and directed me to sell their investments to avoid a further drop in account values.  Ironically, both clients sold at or near the lowest price of the year (as of this writing) for their investments.  Sixty-day numbers show this was a terrible financial decision for the investors in question, but perhaps sixty more days will see the markets turn downward again, thus favoring their decisions.  Neither yea-sayers nor doom-sayers should use short-term data to prove a financial point when the numbers favor our arguments, whether they be on the upside or downside.  I firmly believe and preach, however, that selling investments solely because of market downturns is a recipe for long-term failure and not success.

We have all seen the old westerns wherein the wagon train is headed to Oregon, Utah, or Cal-i-forn-i-eh, and there comes the time when the river must be crossed.

It doesn’t matter the movie; you know it’s coming. Somewhere in the middle of the river, someone is going to panic, something is going to go wrong, and ma & grampa and the babies, too, are going to drown in the river. It happens in every ‘westward yo’ movie.  It happens in the investing world too.

Patience, time, and a little effort. Perhaps we will add vigilance to the mix as well. I hate the part of the movie when they drown in the river. I mourn for them. I really do. Don’t drown in the river.

September 2022

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