I am not a professional. I might have professional ethics and attitudes, but those are from my days as an engineer and from my upbringing. As for investing, I am an amateur, experienced, but an amateur. The only way I get paid for my investing is by selling what I’ve bought. If you define a professional as someone that gets paid, then I might be called a professional writer. Let’s not mistake that with being a profitable writer, though I continue hoping. (Remember Dream. Invest. Live.?) I may not a professional money manager, but I do know a few.
This month I earned my big red star. Before I started blogging I was posting to the discussion boards over on The Motley Fool. That was back in the previous millennium. My how time flies. This month I finally posted my 1,000th post. Yeah. Well, it wasn’t exactly a champagne moment. Some folks post so often that they reach 1,000 in a year. I guess either I don’t have as much to say, or only say something when I think there’s something worth saying. My 1,000th post was part of a discussion started by one of my earlier posts; my year end review of the economy and markets. It’s nice to get something started.
I post, not to pontificate, but to initiate. I have my views. I know they aren’t the ultimate and definitive view on any matter, except for what happens within my life. Discussion boards are great sounding boards, places to introduce a topic, concept, or question and possibly get a variety of responses from disparate points of view. There have been plenty of times when, given the same facts, diametrically opposite conclusions have been drawn. That’s what makes the markets work. If everyone agreed investments would barely budge for years.
My semi-annual post about the economy and markets frequently spawns such a debate, sometimes online, sometimes offline. In general I am a long term optimist and a short term realist. Bumps and dips jostle the market and sometimes puncture one of its tires, but the US Constitution and the American business culture haven’t changed dramatically in decades. I’m talking really big picture stuff like representative government and entrepreneurial spirit here, not quarterly Fed policies or greedy corporate governance. (I am amazed that so few managers looked into the assumptions behind aggressive loan bundling.)
But, like I said above, I am not a professional. I am an amateur, or rather, an independent individual investor who is very aware of how I manage my investments, finances, and expenses. I dig deeply enough to satisfy my curiosity and manage my risk, and then go dancing. For more details it makes sense to go to others who dive deeper. Usually that means they aren’t going dancing or that they are professionals.
A couple of my friends are in that professional camp. They can back up their assertions with more data than I am willing to collect, but that’s partly because they are trained and paid to do so. I listen to them. I can’t claim that they are the predominant experts. They probably won’t make that claim either. Humility does exist. Mike Brady from Generosity Wealth Management even starts off his newsletter with; “I start out by talking about what I got right and wrong from my 2010 preview 12 months ago (you mean I’m accountable?)”
So, it seemed like a good idea to reprise my review and add links to their similar reports. In general, I think we are in agreement, and I am sure that if we were sitting at a bar with beers in hand, that we’d have plenty to argue about. Nodding heads saying, “Yes”, “Yes”, “Yes” don’t make for as engaging a conversation as, “What hole did you pull that out of?”, which is usually phrased more Spock-like as, “Fascinating, but illogical.” I’m pretty sure neither of these guys would buy some of the smaller stocks that I own, but they aren’t burying money in Mason jars either.
Brad Hessel through Intelledgement (an investment advisor service company, and no, I don’t know exactly what that means) produces a newsletter that covers what appears to be every conceivable investment from stocks to coal to currencies and weaves amongst them as the data suggests.
Mike Brady’s newsletter is supplemented by weekly videos, a bold move I can’t see myself doing, with an emphasis on generating wealth that is more than financial. There’s wealth in community and charity too.
Part of Brad’s conclusion is that:
“Conclusion: We are in the eye of the storm, and most everyone is sipping the QE2 (quantitative easing) Kool-Aid and singing Kum-Ba-Ya. Accordingly, it is time to make love, not war…but we remain prepared for both.”,
which doesn’t cover everything he says, but does point out that financial newsletters don’t have to be dull.
I find Mike engaging because, like Brad and I, he is willing to be open about what went right and what went wrong.
A month’s gone by since my end-of-year posts, and while my portfolio seems frozen, which can drag down my emotions, I also know that almost every company in my portfolio had good news. Short term reality = a painful experience selling stocks in good companies to pay bills. Long term optimism = more than enough shares across a diversified portfolio and a frugal enough lifestyle to allow for a generously wealthy future. How will it turn out? I don’t know. Even the pros don’t know the future. But the more we talk about it, the better we are at guessing, or at least having something to talk about over a beer.