Investment Strategy

“We’re going to die!”

With only six weeks to go until the long summer holiday (in the southern hemisphere), my kids tend to get tired at this time of year. So I usually let them sleep in at the weekends.

While they dozed on Saturday morning I was in the living room, finishing off a book and accompanied by coffee and some light morning music. In order that I didn’t wake anyone, I’d closed the door that divides the apartment between the living area and bedrooms.

After a while, my 10 year old son tried to crash through the door. Clunk!

I called out to him, trying to slow him down. “Wait a minute. You just have to turn the handle properly. Let me show you.”

I wandered over, went through the door, and closed it behind me.

“Dad, it won’t open.”

“Yes it will. Look, watch me. You just have to turn the handle all the…Oh.”

The handle had come off in my hand. It wouldn’t reattach. We had no phone to the outside world, as my cellphone was in the other room and I don’t bother with a landline these days. No tools that side of the door. No one nearby had keys to get into the apartment in any case. The door opens inwards as well, so it couldn’t be kicked or barged open.

“What are we going to do? We’re going to die!”, said my son, rather melodramatically. At which point my 11 year old daughter woke up and sidled over.

“What happened?” she asked, yawning.

“Er, I can’t open the door.”

“We’re going to die!” repeated my son, somewhat unhelpfully.

“Ok, let me think. Why don’t you go to my room and watch TV for a bit while I sort it out.”

My daughter shrugged and did as suggested. My son lamented once more about our imminent demise.

Long story short, I eventually got the door open with the help of some tweezers from the bathroom and a small key. We were free at last. We would live to see another day after all.

It turned out the workmen who put the doors in a few years ago hadn’t done a great job of attaching the door handles. Which, let’s face it, defeats the object. They’d cut corners, left screws untightened, or omitted to use enough screws in the first place.

I didn’t fancy the risk of a repeat performance, not least in the interests of my son’s nerves. Therefore, on Sunday morning, I went through the whole apartment, removed every door handle, and then reattached them properly.

The thing is, I’d sort of known for a while that a couple of the handles were a bit loose. But I hadn’t got around to sorting it out. I’d ignored a risk, and then become a victim of it.

Fortunately, the consequences weren’t too bad. But they could have been worse. You see, I live on the seventh floor. If we hadn’t escaped it would have been a mess trying to shout down to the street (in Spanish)…to explain the situation…to try to get someone to help sort it out…to wait hours for a locksmith.

Meanwhile, we would have been in mortal danger the whole time (according to my son). Or, at the very least, pining for breakfast. Which, as any parent of youngish children knows, means whining for breakfast.

Dealing with risks up front

Risk is a fact of life. You can never eliminate it completely. But my negligence over the doors is a reminder that there are active steps you can take to reduce certain risks. That includes many of the risks in the world of investment.

If you’re not saving and investing enough each month, you’re putting your future financial security at risk. Why not do something about it today, and make sure you’re putting enough away? (See here, and the links within it, for more.)

Even if you’re sitting on plenty of cash, but nothing else, you’re taking a risk. Inflation is chipping away at your money’s purchasing power, year in, year out.

That means you may not have enough to live on in later life. The solution is to build a proper investment portfolio. It can include some cash, but also stocks, (treasury) bonds and gold.

Or perhaps you’re already investing in all those things, but you’re taking big risks with what you own. Not diversified enough? Too many bubbly bonds or stocks, perhaps? Not enough cheap stocks? Not enough gold? Have you been meaning to shift things around? Just make sure you don’t leave it too late.

You can’t eliminate all risks from your investments. But don’t allow yourself to get locked into a risky situation just because you haven’t dealt with controllable risks up front. Instead, do you homework. Make a plan.

If you’re not sure where to start, I suggest you have another look at my recommended portfolio allocations. Or at my “G.I.V. system” for choosing stocks.

Please…take steps today to deal with with the risks you can limit. Before it’s too late.

Stay tuned OfWealthers,

Rob Marstrand

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Rob is the founder of OfWealth, a service that aims to explain to private investors, in simple terms, how to maximise their investment success in world markets. Before that he spent 15 years working for investment bank UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager and stock trader with headquarters in Switzerland. During that time he was based in London, Zurich and Hong Kong and worked in many countries, especially throughout Asia. After that he was Chief Investment Strategist for the Bonner & Partners Family Office for four years, a project set up by Agora founder Bill Bonner that focuses on successful inter-generational wealth transfer and long term investment. Rob has lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the past eight years, which is the perfect place to learn about financial crises.