Patience is a…Virtue?

In Investment Management, Retirement Thinking, The Insider by Adam Cufr

Given the natural break that a new decade provides, we’ve been looking back over the last ten years to see where we’ve come from and where we may be headed next. In doing so, Steve Hanley, our resident investment strategist, made it a study to see what economic experts had said ten years ago about what the next decade will bring and what investors should do to benefit most from what was coming. Well, most were predictably wrong, and some laughably so. As we’ve discussed before, predicting the future is really hard so it’s best to not try, at least not publicly.

In looking back with 2020 hindsight (see what I did there?) the place we find ourselves can seem almost self-evident in retrospect. But if we were to drill down on any given crisis of the last decade, in the moment, it may have seemed impossible to pull out of it successfully. But in those moments, we were forced to decide: to stay or to go? To persist or to pull back?

As I was pondering this decade-long series of dilemmas with which we were faced with, the expression came rushing into mind: patience is a virtue. And while it’s tempting to simply let those words wash over us and move on, I thought, “What does that even really mean?” And thanks to Google, I wasn’t far from the answer. But before I regurgitate my findings, I’ll admit that I simply thought it meant that patience is good and will be rewarded. But in the first example I read, there was a bit of an additive to the expression that caught me off guard.

‘Patience Is A Virtue’ Definition: The ability to wait for something without frustration; a useful skill and a good aspect of one’s personality.

Do you see what I saw? “…without frustration…” Um, what? I’m not sure I’ve ever been patient without frustration. How about you? And it was this twist to the ‘patience is a virtue’ expression that I wanted to highlight. Because while being a successful investor requires sometimes superhero amounts of patience, I think it’s important to point out that it’s not always a frustration-free process.

We’re all tempted to look at someone else’s success and think that it was easier to accomplish than it actually was. I’ve heard it described as ‘comparing your backstage to their front stage’. That is, we see the final result of someone else’s journey and compare it to the current struggle we feel in our own journey and make wild assumptions about what it took for them to produce what you see on the stage. “Oh, that couple with the millions of dollars have it easy.” My guess is that if you asked them to share their story with you, 9 times out of 10, it includes moments of painful heartbreak, years of hard work, and yes, immense frustration. Their patience was tested many, many times on the journey to it becoming a virtue they now own.

We’ve had some really solid years of investment and economic growth over the last decade. And while I have no idea whether that will continue uninterrupted for another week, year, or decade, I can say that behind the scenes, we’re all going to be frustrated at times with the patience required of us to stay the course and see it through to the end. All I can ask is that we’re open with each other about our frustrations and remain willing to work together to stay focused on our long-term goals in our collective and respective journey.

I hope and pray that this next decade brings you the life and successes you desire. And while I can also hope that it’s without frustration, I think that’s too much to ask. I don’t think it works that way. For if patience is a virtue to be pursued, it must mean that we’re not granted with it when we leave the factory as new. Here’s to the 2020s and a more patient and virtuous you!

All the best,

Adam Cufr, RICP®