Sowing Season

Michael Carrico, CFP®, CRPC®, Wealth Manager

I write these articles once a month and my goal is to keep my readers informed. Those readers are, for the most part, clients, colleagues, and friends. That information is typically about the financial markets, about trends, about how I’m approaching a given topic, and about the big picture of finances. There is often a running theme of examining a claim or ill-defined story driven by headlines or sound bites and digging deeper. The market is an inherently noisy thing. There is always something new to grab our attention, always someone making a claim that this is the thing we really must heed. Really! It is worthwhile to examine those stories and claims and see what we can learn, but it’s also easy to get lost in the noise and become distracted from the places our attention really belongs.

Red Raspberries

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.”
― Age-old wisdom often attributed to John Lennon

Summer feels short in Colorado, although it is arguably longer than summer in Rochester, NY or Boise, ID.  As someone who enjoys gardening, I have lamented many times with other gardening enthusiasts about how short the growing season is in Colorado.  Colorado Springs is in the foreground of Pikes Peak which, fun fact, was the inspiration for the “purple mountains majesty” line in America the Beautiful.  Just do an image search for “Pikes Peak sunset” and you’ll see why.  One talking point we love to mention when discussing the short summer is how it has been known to actively snow on Pikes Peak on July 4 in the past.  There’s a little bit of snow up there as I write this.  We could be wearing shorts and flip-flops or jeans and a sweater at the July 4 cookout and there is always a spare blanket and jacket in the car year-round.  That unpredictability creates challenges for a gardener.  Then there’s the sandy nature of the soil in Colorado Springs, but I digress.  I have yet to properly time the planting of my alpine strawberry seeds.  I have started too early and watched the seedlings get sunbaked in the incubator on the windowsill or found the stems broken after transplanting outdoors because the seedlings were unaccustomed to the harsh wind.  I have started too late and had the weather turn cold before they could get established for the winter.  I never said I was a good gardener…  Part of the problem is poor timing on my part, and another is those pesky distractions I alluded to earlier.

I often find myself thinking there isn’t enough time in the day.  I have been known to keep a densely packed social calendar, to work late at a job I love, and to enjoy so many hobbies that it’s a bit of a joke among those who have known me the longest.  All these things enrich my life, but I leave very little room for surprises.  I am fortunate enough to be able to take vacations, and this summer I was even more fortunate to take an international trip and enjoy a little relaxation with family.  However, upon returning to “normal life” I was greeted by an almost immediate family medical emergency which required my complete attention.  That was followed only a week later by a planned, but significant, medical procedure for another family member.  There’s never a good time for an emergency, but they do seem to have an uncanny knack for arising at the most inconvenient ones, don’t they?  Once again, I can count myself fortunate that everyone is doing well now, and life is returning to a typical pace just in time for the official beginning of summer.  However, it’s moments like these in life that tend to change one’s perspective.  I’m sure you have had many such experiences in which priorities get realigned and it seems that things are suddenly bathed in a new light.  The circumstances that lead to these shifts are different for everyone, but I believe the experience of such a shift is universal.

If you have owned a house, you have probably dreamed up dozens of projects to turn it into a dream house.  If not, maybe you have another hobby or a project that you’re never done improving.  It’s a fun practice to think about all the things you could do and how you could enjoy the results.  Of course, neither money nor time are infinite and most of those projects never get done.  It’s easy to fixate on needing to buy this or do that, but when one of those perspective-shifting events happens, those desires reveal just how fleeting they are.  My fiancée and I sometimes play the “if-I-won-the-lottery” game.  You know, the one where you fantasize with a friend or loved one about the first thing you would do if you had so many resources that you didn’t have to allocate them all that carefully.  It was easy to think of a few things I would upgrade.  There’s always something reaching the end of its useful life or some fancy new gadget that would be fun to have for a while before it settled into the status of “granted.”  However, as the game went on longer, I had to think harder and when I really put some thought into it, I realized I just want to spend time with people.  I went and looked at a spreadsheet of all the projects I once planned at my first house and was surprised how long that list was and how few of those projects I completed.  Thinking back on my years in that house, though, I never lament not tearing down the old pergola and building a nicer one or fixing the terribly spalled driveway.  I think of the cookouts with friends, of the time spent working on projects with friends, and of the first time I met the woman who became my fiancée.  Of course, in the imagined world of near-infinite resources in the “if-I-won-the-lottery” game, I was spending that time in the most luxurious mansion I could find on Airbnb with all my closest friends and family drifting in and out as their lives allowed.  But spending time with friends and family is a possibility right now and would cost substantially less than a month at that mansion, even if some of them live across the country.

You may be asking, “How does this all tie into finance?”  Comparisons can be made.  Both meteorologists and financial analysts can develop a forecast based on data, trends, and analysis.  Yet, the weather forecast may show a 4% chance of rain and you can get soaked to the bone while grilling in shorts and a tank top like I did on the fourth.  Likewise, economists can have a majority consensus call for a recession without one materializing when predicted.  Of course, this is an imperfect analogy.  Weather is known to be unpredictable.  In fact, modern chaos theory was partially born out of meteorologist Edward Lorenz’s work on meteorological models.  However, meteorology is a hard science with models which are far more reliable and accurate than those found in economics and finance.  Economic and financial models do not all consider the same data points and there are an enormous number of variables.  Human psychology is among those variables and that is far more unpredictable than physics.  The unexpected is a given in life, whether it’s the weather or investing.  Planning for the unexpected is just good sense.  Much like a Colorado resident learns to always carry a spare jacket, even if they leave the house in shorts that afternoon, investors learn to plan for the market to defy expectations.

A piece of wisdom that has served me well is to plan, but plan to be surprised.  With gardening, as with finance, it is important to plan lest we miss the moving target which is the proper season.  However, the seasons shift and are somewhat ill-defined.  Sometimes it feels like the fall lasts only a week before winter arrives even though the calendar shows four evenly spaced seasons.  In much the same way, economic and business cycles are observable trends, but they aren’t as predictable as clockwork.  It is still valuable to plant your seeds early in anticipation of the sowing season, but sometimes the last freeze comes late, and you simply must adjust in the moment.

This summer we finally had some success in the garden!  All four of our blackberry and raspberry plants survived the winter and just this week we saw the first tiny raspberries on the happiest of the plants.  Someday I will time it right and get those alpine strawberries established, too and then, for years to come, we will enjoy delicious raspberries, blackberries, and tiny strawberries in late summer.  Until then, I’ll enjoy the learning experiences of each attempt and the simple pleasure of having a hobby in which the fruits of my labor are literally sweet.

The reality is that finances and life are inseparably intertwined.  There is always some financial need begging for our resources.  However, when something momentous happens, suddenly the things that seemed so important moments ago aren’t even worth picking up again when the dust settles.  A lesson I have learned is to enjoy the seasons of life.  I hope you enjoy this season and find some time for your favorite activities and the people who matter most.

Disclosures

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Howe & Rusling. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, investment, tax, or legal advice. Readers should consult with their own financial, investment, tax, or legal advisors before making any decisions. Investing involves risks, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The market is inherently volatile, and economic, political, and market conditions can affect the performance of individual investments. This article may contain forward-looking statements that are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts, and projections. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual outcomes or results to differ materially from those expressed or implied. Howe & Rusling disclaim any obligation to update the information contained in this article to reflect changes in market conditions, new information, or future events. Certain information contained in this article may have been obtained from third-party sources. While we believe these sources to be reliable, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of any third-party information. The anecdotes and personal opinions expressed by the author are their own and should not be considered as endorsements or recommendations by Howe & Rusling. Any references to personal experiences are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute investment advice.

Michael Carrico

Michael Carrico is a Wealth Manager at Howe & Rusling.

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