The stock market is soaring, or at least is was when writing this blog. Everyone is sharing stock tips. 401Ks are growing in value. Everyone is happy. Investing sounds much better than spending. In fact, our leaders now call government spending investment. “We’re investing in the future,” they say.
Did you ever notice how some people, no matter how much they have, complain about needing more? And others, appearing to be in great need, seem satisfied? Too often we allow wanted items to migrate to the want list. Satisfaction is more easily found by those who know the difference between need and want.
Back to investing; what is the best investment you’ve ever made? I’ll tell you a story and give you a moment to think. I once considered joining an investment club and attended one of their monthly meetings. My host marched me around a smoke-filled room and introduced me to the regulars. After each introduction I had to endure their perspective on the most popular prospective. I’d never appreciated the minutia offered in that fine printed regulatory requirement until that meeting. The appreciation was short lived.
After everyone had a chance to boast privately of their recent gains the meeting was called to order. For a moment I was momentarily given to the notion that I was in a room full of investment geniuses. Nobody had mentioned having chosen a loser. Surely they had.
Several people stood and shared their best investment story; again, no losing stories. At that time I had invested in one company, International Harvester, they’d recently introduced a new diesel engine. I bought it at $4 and sold at $8, I’d doubled my money. The problem was I’d only bought 200 shares. I’d sent the proverbial boy to do a man’s job. But the boy made money, enough to take his family to Florida for Christmas. (and stay with in-laws)
Eventually, I was asked if I had an investment story to share. It felt like I was being evaluated and my invitation to join the erudite group depended on the investment experience I might bring to the group. The combination of olfactory offensive cigarette smoke and my recent experience with International Harvester combined to provoke my memory.
My grandfather had started an International Harvester dealership in the 1940s. It was while working there that I heard of IH’s new diesel engine. And the cigarette smoke reminded me of an investment my grandfather had made. One day after I’d followed in his footsteps while he tilled the garden we were sitting together on his cistern. He pulled out a can of Prince Albert and meticulously rolled a cigarette, lit it, leaned back against the cistern pump, and took a long drag that clearly brought him great pleasure. After letting him know that I looked forward to the day when I could do the same, he tendered a challenge.
He said this, “I’ll give you $100 if you don’t smoke until you’re eighteen.” The year was 1959, to a boy getting fifteen cents per week for allowance; $100 was a gold mine. I agreed. He subsequently made the same offer to all of his grandkids. Fourteen years later I collected. To my recollection, none of his grandkids ever smoked. I wasn’t asked to join the prestigious group; I wouldn’t have joined anyway. The group’s lack of appreciation for my best investment story told me volumes about their character.
Now that you’ve had a moment to think, what’s your best investment story?