Photo: Olivier Labbe. Source: Pixabay
The experience is singular. Each day is unique, but along the way they merge into one another. You lose our modern sense of time and develop a daily rhythm: dawn, morning fog, daylight, evening. Sometimes the scenery opens up, and you get views of the hills and landmarks around, but more often your vision is confined by the banks and the shore. You get to know your paddling partner’s habits and stroke patterns pretty well.
After a few hours on a turning, twisting river, it’s easy to become disoriented, especially when it’s cloudy. You may think you’re still headed south, but your guide insists that the direction has changed, and your campsite is still several hours downstream. This matters, because you might not have time to dawdle over lunch today, depending on how early you got going this morning.
It‘s hard to tell which direction the river is flowing when you’re down on the water, navigating the riffles and shoals right in front of you. If you had the perspective (and eyesight) of that hawk circling overhead, you could see the bigger picture: how much progress you made, where the watercourse starts to narrow and speed up, how much carrying the portage ahead requires.
Photo: Bill Raften. Source: Pixnio
Seen from above, though, the general direction is clear. Despite the twists and turns along the way, a river follows the course of least resistance: higher elevations to lower, eventually opening out to the sea.
It’s like this with markets. They make their twists and turns, and when we’re navigating the current riffles or rapids it’s easy to be caught up in the moment. In fact, it’s good to focus on what’s happening now, to avoid getting overturned or hung up on a projection. But the larger direction doesn’t change just because things get a little rough. The most critical part of investing happens before you allocate a penny, in the planning: what you want your money to do, how much volatility you can handle, what limitations you face: legal, financial, personal, psychological. Planning our finances – like planning a canoe trip – doesn’t happen by itself.
In The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graham says there is nothing half so much worth doing as messing about in boats. Because if you know the river, the current eventually takes you where you need to go.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”