The Secret to Eternal Investment Youth
A recent trip to Florida gave me the pleasure of hanging out with two beautiful and vibrant women in their nineties: my mother's sister Doris, 91, and my ex-half-sister-in-law's de facto mother-in-law Liz, 95.
Both are no-nonsense people who do not believe in leading lives half-lived; neither one looks a day over 70, and both taught me valuable lessons about life - some of which, as you'll see, are also applicable to finding good stocks.
In the case of my Aunty Doris, the teachable moment arrived via a kerfuffle over french fries. My 15-year-old son, Lucas, normally a bottomless pit of male adolescent appetite, found himself unable to finish the vast mountain of food that he'd ordered at The Thirsty Marlin, leaving in his wake enough french fries to feed Napoleon's army.
Aunty Doris supervised the packing of the leftovers and insisted that every last fry make it home. My cousin Kathy, arguing that leaving a few fries behind would be good for both waistline and arteries, eventually caved, as resistance, when it comes to Aunty Doris, always proves futile. She has been known to stuff her pockets with french fries rather than leave a restaurant without getting her money's worth.
The lesson from Doris?: Wring out every last bit of value.
In terms of stock picking, that means making the absolute most of every research tool you use. It's easy to fall into a rut of running the same reports over and over, not paying attention to new features your products offer, and not stopping to ask about best practices for using those tools.
Thanks to Doris, I have now pledged to block out time on my calendar for both messing around with old tools and for appointments with our vendors, to learn about features and upgrades I may have missed. No data french fries left behind for me.
In the case of Liz, I discovered that at the age of 72, and after 54 years of marriage, she walked out on her husband when he dumped a bowl of shredded wheat on her head. She has happily lived on her own ever since.
Once a Protestant who converted to Catholicism for her husband's sake, she went to a lecture on Buddhism at a public library out of curiosity. That simple decision to check out something new changed her life. She is now a devout Nichiren Buddhist and part of an extended community that dotes on her, celebrates her zest for life, and never, ever weaponizes cereal.
The lesson from Liz?: Actively seek out new tools.
New research tools and products are rolled out all the time. Not only may your investment life change by checking out something you've never heard of, but - special bonus! - unlike the free investment tools on Yahoo Finance, not everyone and his ex-half-sister-in-law is using these yet, giving you a slight edge.
Plus, vendors of these new tools are eager to have beta sites, and will be very helpful when they are just getting started, and are as lonely as the Maytag repairman.
These last few months I have been happily playing with some shiny new research toys, and it made me realize that there's no better way to keep the investment arteries from hardening than by injecting something new into the screening process. (And no, I'm not going to tell you what I'm playing with. Go find your own toys.)
My time with Doris and Liz last month just may have revealed the secret to eternal investment youth: Stuff every last french fry in your pockets and go listen to someone talk about something that you know nothing about.
I guarantee that your investment process will live a long life, all while looking 20 years younger and keeping all of its marbles.