Investing – The Parent Edition

I’ve found an investment opportunity that I want to share with you.  It’s the surest thing on the market today. This market I’m talking about won’t ever crash. No brokerage fees, no SEC worries, just pure, guaranteed return.  It’s a get-rich quick scheme, but I promise – it works!  AND you’ll find yourself reaping long-term wealth as well.  Ready to write a cheque?

It’s tough to balance our lives sometimes, and often we struggle to find what balance even means within our busy lives.  Part of this balance is financial and to dig down further, part of the financial aspect is investing.  I want to give you some investing advice, from the perspective of a fellow parent.  And in the process, perhaps we might find a parallel or two between the investment world and parenting itself.

Virtually any investing you can do is a gamble – which stocks do you dump money into?  When do you get out?  Which funds do you go with?  Do you go with riskier portfolios or stick with the conservative slow-growth ones?  I don’t have answers for these questions, but I can tell you this – it is no gamble whatsoever to invest your time by spending it with your kids.

When you make investments, you want to see a nice balance between short-term rewards and long-term wealth gain.  Pour the time into your kids and you’ll find both.  Want to talk about short-term gains?  Sure – you won’t have to look far nor wait long.  It starts with the looks on their faces – tell them you’re going for a bike ride with them, or to the Farmers Market, or on a camping trip – even if it’s in the back yard.  If the lit-up faces aren’t a great reward, you should probably have your eyesight checked.  And your pulse.  And on that note, we also know kids that barely acknowledge their parents when they come home.  Why?  Probably because their parents barely acknowledge them.

How about medium-range payouts?  You’ll find them everywhere!  My kids know who I am, they know exactly what I’m about and where they stand with me because I spend time with them.  They come running into my arms each and every day after work, and it’s all I can think of when I’m driving up the driveway.  There are other little dividends you’ll find as well – for example, Abigail, my 7 year-old, keeps a journal at school, writing into it what she feels is important.  Her teacher showed me how often Abigail refers to the time she spends with me.  “I love when my daddy plays hockey with us on the driveway.”  “My favorite thing is reading with my daddy every night before I got to bed.”  “I can’t wait until we go for a family bike ride again.”  If your kid is journaling those things, you can bet they’re important to them.  And guess what – none of these things take a lot of your time.

You want to hear about long-term dividends and growth?  If nothing else, your kids will remember the times you spent with them.  And hopefully they will pass this on their kids.  My dad was my best friend.  Although I lost my daddy 17 years ago, not a single day passes where I don’t think about him.  And I never, ever think anything bad.  My dad was a very busy man, and he made a lot of money.  But I never think about that, or the money.  What I remember is that he always took time for me even on his busiest days – this remains with me to this day. When I think about my role as a dad, I want to be like my dad – and much of that is because of the time he invested in me not because of how much money he made.

I live in an area where the average house size is probably 4000 square feet and we have more Bentleys, Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis than you can shake a gilded stick at.  But let me tell you, friends, being wealthy is not being rich and for the most part, these $400,000 Bentley drivers come home from work at 7:00 PM – I might not have a fancy car, but I see this sad rift between show and what really matters because I’m outside, hanging out with my kids, when all these people come home.  Every single one of them has a nanny, and you can see that their investment strategy is about material goods – so evident at our yearly block party where you can see that these parents barely even know their kids’ names.  But they sure like talking to the adults about their club memberships and their cars and houses.  Though these bank accounts might swell to huge numbers, I see that many of these folks are bankrupt with their own children.

It’s important to many people to leave your children some wealth.  Financial investments can help secure that.  But there are no guarantees here.  People have often lost every dime they’ve invested through bad luck, violent market fluctuations, you name it.  Invest time in your kids, however and it is 100% guaranteed that you’ll be leaving your kids with wealth – a wealth of memories with their parents, and a wealth of role model material to pass on to their kids.

Invest as much as you’re comfortable with – if you have to work two jobs to get by, and can’t spend as much time as you want to with your kids, please don’t see this as criticism. You do what you can.  And your kids know that.  They are much, much more insightful than we ever give them credit for, and it starts much younger than we think.

When it comes to investing, it’s important to contribute regularly.  Sure, if you just won the lottery, it’s easier to come up with a lump-sum to invest somewhere.  But let’s say you’re like the other 6 billion people in the world.  You work, you get by, you do what you can.  In that case, investing and building your wealth is done by contributing to your portfolio on a regular basis in smaller chunks.  Just like kids.  You don’t have to spend every waking minute making quality time and living astounding adventures with your kids.  It’s about balance, and they will appreciate the time you have for them.  Do it often, and in smaller chunks – they’ll appreciate it just as much.

I believe investments should be reviewed quite regularly and you need to make changes as they are needed.  For example, when you have kids, or get a promotion, or you retire, your investment abilities and needs will change – obviously you’ll flex your investment strategy around this to make it work for you.  The same goes for kids.  Review the time you’re spending with them regularly.  I know someone who has been taking his son to tennis lessons for over 10 years.  The son has never enjoyed the lessons – not one single time.  Yet the time with his dad is so important, he chooses not to tell his dad about it and just considers the lessons the price he has to pay to be with his dad.  If his dad would take the time to review this investment and actually ask his kid, he might have found out that it’s not the best way to spend time with him.  Likewise, be willing to change things up.  Your idea of quality time with your kids isn’t always shared by your kids.  The most important thing is not to take that personally, and to remember that the time with you is what’s important – it’s just that they might prefer to do something else – be willing to try different things with your kids.

Markets go up and down.  Heck, other than wives, they might be the most volatile things out there.  (cricket sounds)

Tough crowd, tough crowd.  Soooo, where were we?  Oh right – volatility.  If you are interested in building your wealth, you eventually learn to ignore the market’s day to day, month to month up and down activity.  What you learn is that the markets inevitably come to an even keel and inch upwards over time.  So if something seems to go sideways, don’t ever panic – it could end up costing you more than you think.  Volatility is just as evident in parenting.  And you’ll see it all the time – some days, you might feel as though you’ve seen more volatility than stability – especially if you live in my home.  But that’s my point.  That’s just the kid-market temporarily sorting itself out and finding its way.  It doesn’t stop the growing-up process and it certainly doesn’t change the fact that our kids, just like the market, will soon be “up” – as in grown up.  That’s the mature market you’re headed toward and you just need to weather the occasional storm between now and then.

Finally, investment is often about making sacrifices elsewhere in life to come up with the money to put into something else.  When you invest your time in your kids, you aren’t making any sacrifices at all.  Those shows on your PVR you’re itching to watch?  They’ll be there tomorrow.  That quiet bath you want to take instead?  Take it later, and enjoy it with your partner.  The golf game you wanted to play with your buddies?  You can join that group another time – but your kids will never be this age again.  If you think you are sacrificing a lot to spend time with your kids, consider those couples that would do absolutely anything to have their own child to spend time with, and can’t.  You signed up for this parenting thing – make sure you’re not ripping off the stars of the show in the process.  They need you, and they need your time.

So, as I come to end of this post, I ask you this – was I way off when I said we might discover some parallels between investing and parenting?  I think it’s obvious that I didn’t write this to give investment advice, but here’s the thing – when I sit back and consider my family life, my role as a father (well, and as a husband) and the short amount of time I’ve been given to make a difference in my childrens’ lives, I often consider my time and I hope I’ve invested it wisely.

Do the same, and enjoy a bounty of wealth that no amount of legal tender will ever bring you.  You’ve only got a short amount of time to get in on this deal – shorter than you might think!  Good luck investing, and have fun!

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