Jan 18

A Guide for Life

As we pass through life we all have, often without knowing it, personal mantras, lessons and or guiding principles that we are able to return to at times of doubt, indecision, fear or stress.

These, let us call them “guides”, have come about as the result of life lessons and hard experiences, or they are a gift from another, someone that loves and cares for us and is therefore concerned about how we are coping, or need to cope, with life issues at any particular time.

I am truly blessed to have a number of friends, who have never been shy to point out where I must moderate or correct my actions, or behaviour, wherever they thought my position was inappropriate. I am thankful to them for those moments because that is what real friends do, they get involved !

In addition I am extremely lucky to be part of a family guided by a man of great character, mental and physical strength, a man who is first to admit that he is not always right, but a man of whom my brother sagely remarks, “He is not often wrong, but he’s right again!”

That man, my father, has taught me many things over the years and thankfully continues to be a “guide” even though we are both clearly well past any recognisable student days.

Investment is an area where we patently need to be “guided” and it is an important part of our normal life. We need to invest to secure a better future and an improved today for our families.

I have always believed that great human guides in the investment world, IFAs and other advisers, have an innate ability to keep their clients grounded in reality. They “guide” their clients through the booms and busts of asset classes and do not make too much of such incidents, as they do not ever overexpose their precious clients to either. Their mantra is simply, “Everything in Moderation”.

My father passed to me, as a young man, a poem and then helped me to commit it to memory. I will never forget him telling me that although it may not be the greatest piece ever written, it had within it infinite advice and “guides” on how to deal with events in my life, whatever they were. Recently I found myself reading a book called Bubbles and How to Survive them, written by a very intelligent and well-respected man, John Calverly, Chief Economist of American Express Bank. It is an interesting and valid work but does become a little dry, especially if like me you were never a student of economics or mathematics.

Consequently, I found myself in the position of explaining the “guides” within this particular book to my father, whom as ex-professional rugby player and Royal Institute Charted Surveyor is also not that au fait with the dark secrets of macro- and micro- economics. This could have deteriorated into one of those typical blind leading the blind discourses until it occurred to me that we had a common denominator that could perfectly communicate the basic guides that the book hoped to impart.

The “guide”, he had given me all those years ago, had within it the ability to translate all I wanted to say. So simply put, I explained it is this, with regards to investment “If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs”, you will remain grounded and able to look at the days most fashionable asset class with crystal clear objectivity.

Without that “guide” you may be convinced by yourself or by others to commit the ultimate investment sin, namely, “risk it (all) on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and (be forced to) start again at your beginnings.” Trust your own judgment, of course, but apply to yourself, as well as others the “guide”, “If all men count with you, but none too much”, then you will seek out the opinion of others before you make your decisions.

Reasonableness in all you do in your life, including your investment decisions will equip you well to “meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same”.

As stock markets or property run, never accept that such events are inevitable and perpetual, remain the reasonable man or woman and realise that all good things must, at some point, come to an end. Just as importantly realise that such an end is in fact healthy for long-term stability.

The worlds best advisers know these facts and many of those people live here in our midst, receive their advice gratefully and therefore remain always grounded. So finally thank you Rudyard Kipling for giving me my own personal cipher on life. I encourage you to read the poem “If”, possibly his most recognisable work and whenever you have a difficult decision to make read it to yourself, slowly. Somewhere in those simple, yet amazing, lines you will find a “guide” to help you through, I can only hope that he took his own advice!

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