Once a year, we take a fishing trip to the greater expanses of the northern Canadian wilderness. A 24-hour drive northwest from Cleveland, this middle-of-a-nowhere of trees and lakes is accessible only by an old de Havilland Otter pontoon plane, and a hundred miles or so from the nearest city.
“TREES & LAKES AS FAR AS THE EYES CAN SEE”
“THE OLD DE HAVILLAND OTTER PONTOON PLANE” (FYI: MOST OF THE GAUGES DO NOT WORK!)
Once our group is dropped off at camp, we are totally cut off from the modern world—no cell phones, no internet, no nothing. Just us, the wilderness, and some of the best walleye and northern pike fishing imaginable. As an outdoorsperson, this is a truly great experience.
Except when something bad happens.
We have encountered several sketchy situations in the past, and we’ve always had a plan to handle them. Bad weather? Bundle up. Insects? Bug spray and mosquito nets. Bears? Wave your hands in the air, yell really loudly at them, and they will go away (at least black bears do!). Low on beer? Well it IS the end of the world; however, you just deal with it as best you can by rationing.
But nothing will focus the mind more than the fear of an out-of-control forest fire like the one we faced this trip. You can see and smell the smoke in the air. You can figure out the direction it is coming from given the wind pattern. But you don't know how close it is—and that is where the fear comes from.
“SMOKE ON THE WATER” (FYI: THAT LAYER OF HAZE IS NOT A CLOUD!)
We read somewhere that fear is an emotional response caused by a threat - real or imaginary. This perceived threat triggers a change in brain and organ function, as well as in behavior (fear can make you do goofy things at times). When the fear set in, we experienced this response firsthand.
While the threat of fire remained for the rest of the trip, the fear was only temporary. How did we banish our fear? We made a contingency plan for the worst outcome: scout out an alternative camp site on an island in the middle of the lake, keep a spare boat loaded with essentials ready to go, and keep watch on the western front where the smoke was coming from.
This episode is analogous to investing and the long-term wealth planning process.
The "forest fire" threat is inevitable. Markets will go down and stay there for an extended amount of time; there is no question about that. Today, we are at the tail end of a very long business cycle expansion. We have no idea when it will end, but when recession hits, an equity bear market generally follows shortly thereafter.
You may feel fear when this happens.
How long that fear lasts, and how it affects your financial and investing experience, is all up to you. If you have a thoughtful financial plan, and a properly diversified portfolio that suits your unique situation AND incorporates these real and perceived threats, your fear will be temporary—just like our fear of the fire. Sure, we were upset that we had to take time away from fishing to make and prep a contingency plan, but removing the fear was the key to getting back to the fun! We were able to fish without fear, knowing that we had the plan in place.
“THE FUN OF FISHING WITHOUT FEAR”
When the investing forest fire hits, you may be angry that your account value is lower than previous points, but fear will not be driving your decision-making—your financial plan will.
Contact Russell Moenich to learn more about this topic.
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