Attitude Is Everything

A look at life and markets ten years after the market's low.

I saw a Tweet today that set me off a little bit, not that is made me angry but more like, "dude, really?" It was from a well known blogger whom I believe is younger than 40 lamenting the struggles of getting older. Making an occasional joke at your own expense about getting older can be funny but this is a recurring theme for him such that it seems like it is a source of real angst for him.

Over the years I've mentioned how I came to learn about The Secret (the Rhonda Byrne book about positive thinking). I was having a conversation about life philosophy at a Super Bowl party in 2004 and after describing some of my beliefs my friends assumed I was reciting The Secret but at that point I'd never heard of it. Everyone has their challenges in life and I am no different but a genuinely positive outlook makes everything better, including aging. I put a lot of effort into diet and exercise as I want to have an easier time with aging, I want to increase my healthspan (as opposed to lifespan which I'd obviously like to increase, healthspan is about being able to do what you want for longer). At 52, I have a much easier time with my pack test (the firefighting physical requirement I mentioned the other day) not in terms of doing it faster but not really being sore afterwards. While I admit to having some good genetic luck, I believe I am a young 52 due primarily to behavioral factors like having a genuinely positive attitude about how things will work out, realizing that things will be just fine if the current challenge in front of me (whatever that might be at the time) doesn't go as well as I had hoped. That includes a positive outlook about exercise which leads to feeling better physically, potentially making the aging process easier to endure. To the extent what I have described is behavioral, then anyone can do it.

This gets us to a guest post at Michael Kitces' blog by a 78 year old retired actuary who by all accounts figured out a lot of things related to living a meaningful post-retirement life. She shares her experiences and weaves them into suggestions for how advisors can help their clients with issues we look at here all the time. It is a long read but a couple of things that either were missing or so subtle that I didn't pick up on them related to attitude and the idea that the transition to your retirement lifestyle should probably start long before you actually retire. The author is still connected to her profession via speaking engagements and some consulting work. That is obviously a continuation of a career that started decades before her retirement. She is also an artist of some sort (probably something other than taking pictures of fire apparatus and desert racing trucks) which might be something she picked up long ago. Hopefully you are in a career you enjoy and so retirement could be thought of as an evolutionary step in your interest in that vocation. Something else that deserves more emphasis is the benefits of staying curious. This leads to learning about and then doing new things. Kitces' guest author maybe has been an artist her whole life or maybe she just picked it up, that wasn't clear to me. But finding new interests, new passions is a great way to boost positive attitudes.

Tying in now the ten year anniversary of the Great Financial Crisis low in the stock market, I took a look at my blog posts from back then. If you take a look at those posts I think you'll see a couple of recurring thoughts. I was expecting one more shoe to drop as that low was being made but that the ultimate low was probably close at hand in terms of time. I offered the reminder that the biggest rallies tend to occur during bear markets and I was focused on trying to point that out to readers (and clients) in case there were further declines. Obviously there was no other shoe but emotionally, we were ready if there was. The other recurring thought is that despite how bad it was, there was a constant understanding that at some point the decline would end and things would then get back to normal, the market would make a new high, there was just no way to know when. While that might seem obvious now (hindsight bias) plenty of people though the financial system and capital markets were permanently broken.

This was a challenging time but, with a nod to earlier on in this post, while things didn't work out so well in the very short run, it turned out to be fine in the medium term and very good for asset prices in the longer term.

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