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Awkward Conversations

From time to time I am speaking to someone with an account at a discount brokerage or leftover from a previous employer plan who seems confident that the account is “Just fine, thank you!” Mostly out of curiosity I sometimes ask “How is it invested?” Their face blushes a little bit as they hesitantly answer “Ummm, I’m not sure.” If I am feeling feisty, I follow up with “OK, but how is it allocated between stocks and bonds?” Now their faces go from dark pink to red as they say “I think it is pretty conservative.” At this point (if someone I like…) from genuine concern I squeeze a little harder with “How do you think your nest egg should be allocated at this point in your life?” They often go silent, with faces either turning crimson from embarrassment…or ashen from concern.

Maybe it is a portfolio of terrific investments, perfectly aligned with the objective by design. Maybe the latter not by design but blind luck. Or maybe it is an important part of a lifetime’s accumulation poised for catastrophe at the next capital market downturn. This reminds me of this story: A little old man picked his buddy up to go to lunch. Soon he ran through a stop sign, which got his friend’s wide-eyed but silent attention. At the next intersection, he ran straight through a red light, at which point his demure friend sat up higher and held on tighter. The third time they blew through an intersection he finally spoke up, “Fred, if you don’t stop running through red lights, you’re gonna kill us!, to which Fred said “Oh, my! Am I driving?”

This is not a solicitation for us to manage your investments but rather an appeal to not mistake merely owning good investments with owning good investments suitable for your circumstances!