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  • Writer's pictureRobert Baharian

Don't do Something, Just Stand There

My wife and I stood at the foot of the mountain, faced with several paths to choose from. It wasn’t the pathway that mattered, but the destination. We decided on Passage Peak, a challenging climb with many steps.

It was an overcast day. As we began our ascent, the sun occasionally beamed through the clouds, but eventually, dark clouds took over, and it poured down rain. Despite the weather, the view from Passage Peak was spectacular. I must say, the photo doesn’t do the view justice.

During the climb, we had long, deep discussions about our relationship, our children, our work, our friends, and life in general. On the descent, I realized how similar the climb was to investing. We had a goal, a destination, and we had chosen a pathway. We knew the pathway would be challenging, which is partly why we chose it; we believed the journey and the destination would be worth it. So, we embarked on it, not knowing exactly what it would be like.

Conceptually, we understood there would be challenges. But it wasn’t until we experienced them that we could truly understand and believe—able to feel and know.

We made it to the top—but now what? Is that it? This highlighted for me that we cannot embark on a journey solely for the destination’s sake. We need to embrace the journey itself. I’m not saying ignore the destination; it remains worthy. I’m simply suggesting the journey is equally worthy of our consideration.

The journey was full of ups and downs, rain, sunshine, slippery slopes, rocks, puddles, and an unfamiliar plant called Gympie-Gympie, which is extremely painful if contacted (also known as the 'suicide plant'). We stopped partway to see how far we’d come—to enjoy the progress we’d made.

We looked back on the path we had trekked and looked ahead to where we wanted to go. During the journey, we took a couple of detours to explore new destinations—amazing sights. I think that if we hadn’t had the original destination in mind, we might never have seen or experienced these other spectacular sights.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow) just hit 40,000 for the first time ever. I've plotted the chart below to illustrate its performance and behaviour over the last 22 years or so, since the bottom of the tech-wreck (2002) - excluding dividends. Ironically, only months before I started in the wealth management game.

The Dow is up around 362% during this time, again, excluding dividends. To put this into context, the Nasdaq Composite is up 1,323.64%, the S&P 500 is up 550.50%, and the Australian All Ordinaries Index is up 161.72%, all of which exclude dividends.

During this time, we have seen booms and busts. We witnessed and experienced euphoria and we witnessed and experienced sheer terror. Retirement plans were made and destroyed. We were told over and over again why we should not invest. We were given every reason under the sun why tomorrow was going to be worse than today. There have been hundreds of reasons not to invest. More recently, we experienced a 1 in a 100-year pandemic, a halt in the global economy, generational inflation, two bear markets in two years (2020 and 2022), global conflict, war, the most aggressive Federal Reserve in 40 years, soaring interest rates, yet the Dow went from 20,000 to 40,000 in 4 years. Remember this next time you see a scary headline.

As counter intuitive as it may seem, in investing, generally the less you do, the better your outcome. To quote the great man, Jack Bogle, "Don't get captivated by the emotions of the moment." Here's the founder of Vanguard on indexing and investor behavior.

Just like our climb, our journey to Passage Peak, there will always be obstacles, bad weather, every reason to stop and turn around. It's tiring, it's exhausting, both physically and emotionally. I know it's really hard - I've lived it. I've managed real money for the last 20 years. I've also climbed to the peak, I know how hard it can be, but I also know how amazing the view is from the top.

As simple as it sounds, it'll be one of the hardest yet most satisfying and rewarding things you do. Take the longview.


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