A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. -Greek Proverb
Gardening has quickly become one of my newest passions. It allows me to spend more time outdoors, away from screens and Twitter and the Internet. It allows time to reflect on the day and on life in general — a form of meditation if you will.
I recently planted my spring garden and it’s already coming to life — filled with kale, carrots, radish, lettuce, and a host of other delectables. While tending to my garden, I started thinking about how there are many parallels between gardening and investing. Let me expound.
We’ve all started from seed money in some form or another with regards to investing. Maybe you put in your first $1,000 of discretionary money into a brokerage account after paying off your student loan bills. Maybe as an adolescent, you were given some stock in a public company as a birthday present.
This is the initial investment seed that is sown and now it’s your responsibility to take care of it.
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. -Gertrude Jekyll
Now that you’ve sown your seed, you need to nurture your investment. At a minimum, plants have basic primary needs such as food, water, and sunlight and will not survive without them. Secondary factors such as soil pH, plant spacing, USDA plant hardiness zones, etc., come into play but these are not as important as the primary needs.
The primary nurturing needs for your investments should be centered around a registered investment advisor so that you understand the basics of investing. Some will be fine without an advisor but it still requires a ton of time to do your own research and get validation. I self-taught myself the markets (please don’t use the word autodidact) but I still use an advisor.
If you have a good advisor, they will be there to serve you and understand your primary needs. You should have a good relationship with them. These primary needs should be centered around expectations, retirement goals, and portfolio and risk management — something you can’t always ascertain from reading an investment book.
“Treat your relationship as if you are growing the most beautiful sacred flower. Keep watering it, tend to the roots, and always make sure the petals are full of color and are never curling. Once you neglect your plant, it will die, as will your relationship.” -Suzy Kassem
There are risks when planting a garden. You pay money up front for transplants, seeds, soil, and garden tools — so you expect something in return. There are deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds and other animals (filthy bears) that will try to take from you — so you put up fences and nets to protect your investment. There are worms, beetles, aphids, and other critters that will try to take from you — so you try natural sprays and mulch and other tactics to protect your investment.
Just as there are predators in your garden, there are also predators abound in the investment world. Some want to charge you high fees for doing nothing but offering a “proprietary service”. Others want you to buy ETNs that aim to replicate the inverse of the daily performance of the S&P 500 VIX futures—R.I.P.I.P XIV. There are a ton of risks in the market, masked as different beings, but putting protective measures in place can help avoid some of the pitfalls that can destroy your yield.
Go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is. -Jimmy Carter
If you’ve ever talked with someone who is passionate about gardening they probably have similar stories about how last year was a good year for tomatoes or how this year was a terrible year for strawberries. The vegetable yield changes year to year, just as our investment portfolio yield changes — from internal and external factors.
What we should be doing is setting up a garden and investment portfolio that can maximize yields and minimize risk so that we are not in a feast or famine situation, literally and figuratively. We do this by diversifying our plants and investments as well as nurturing them so that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. Planting an entire garden of strawberries that gets ruined by disease would be the equivalent of putting your entire portfolio in Tesla and watching it get destroyed this year. Not very smart.
Your minds may now be likened to a garden, which will, if neglected, yield only weeds and thistles; but, if cultivated, will produce the most beautiful flowers, and the most delicious fruits. -Dorothea Dix
Crop rotation is important in gardening. If you plant your crops in the same position year after year, the disease and pests start to instinctively figure out where the food is going to be so they take advantage of it. Depletion of the nutrients in the soil also occurs if crop rotation is not undertaken.
Crop rotation is equivalent to a portfolio rebalance. Over longer periods of time, as your stocks go up and down, they may become overweight or underweight relative to your overall portfolio. If you leave your portfolio lopsided, you may not get the yields you were expecting and also expose yourself to additional risks.
The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they ever have before. -Vita Sackville-West
The path from seed to yield can be time consuming and arduous. Some people may live in an area where they get abundant rain and sun and they only have to put in a minimum amount of effort to achieve a great yield. Chalk it up to luck. Some aren’t as fortunate and have to work extra hard to maximize yield. Chalk it up to hard work and dedication. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
The path for every gardener and investor is defined by finding your true self. Find things you love and believe in — and whichever path it takes you down, learn from the process and transfer your knowledge to someone else.
Just as all gardeners know better than other gardeners; all investors know better than other investors. -Ramp Capital