SOMETIMES, IT IS ALL WORTH IT!
The Wonderful Reward of Younger Generations’ Loyalty and Gratitude
In past writings, I have occasionally been critical of family scions of the third generation, often calling them the “cursed generation” and implying that they are the ones most likely to waste or lose the fortunes accumulated and preserved by their ancestors. This is not specific to my clientele or to any culture: the equivalent of the American saying “From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” exists in practically every language and country, as I pointed out in my book Luck Is Not Enough.
This is why (without naming names) I cannot resist reproducing the following letter from a young(er) man, which makes all efforts on behalf of our client families worthwhile. Of course, my partner Patsy Jaganath, who operates as our family office (modeled after the 19th-century concept of the homme d’affaires) receives compliments and heartfelt thanks regularly. But this letter addressed to me is particularly thoughtful and shows the kind of gratitude that we strive to inspire.
I read your book this weekend, and I wanted to congratulate you.
Amongst many great takeaways, your last paragraph struck out at me, as I am sure that there are plenty of our family members who would consider that you have influenced their lives in a very positive light. This would also be true for Régine [my wife], as I am sure there are plenty who will recognise that the influence that both of you have had in different areas of one’s life to be extremely positive. I know that I count myself among them.
All that to say, thank you both for the influence that you have had on my life. Although I am firmly in my doing years and would be considered past the learning stage, I look forward to continuing to learn from you and the rest of the Sicart Family and selfishly taking advantage of your teaching years.”
INSECURITY and COMPETITION vs. COMPOUNDING
Albert Einstein reportedly said that “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it, he who doesn’t pays it.”
There are some character faults which, in my view, tend to distract investors from what should be their primary goal: accumulating a fortune in the long run by letting it compound over time. Modern-day media has increasingly been reporting investment performance in the same sensational way that it reports sport competitions. This constantly pits more cautious investors against highly-publicized recent winners, who have made more money or made it strikingly fast. This emphasis on quick or spectacular success tends to increase the viewer’s or reader’s insecurity and sense of inadequacy in an endeavor that is characterized by uncertainty — like the stock market, for example.
That insecurity has two manifestations:
- It generates envy, in a sort of “keeping up with the Jones” syndrome: With so many apparently instant billionaires, it’s easy to feel left behind.
- It may also lead some investors to question their ability or their judgment in choosing an advisor, thus creating or reinforcing a feeling of inadequacy. That may in turn, manifest itself in hyperactivity. But, as Ernest Hemingway is reported to have said, “one should not mistake motion for action”.
Focusing on the most recent, spectacular gains of others also makes one forget the difference between being right (a short-term, superficial satisfaction) and the ultimate goal of accumulating a patrimony, which has much to do with one’s time horizon and thus requires patience and consistency.
Warren Buffett is a fantastic writer, as demonstrated in his books and his annual letters to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, his investment company. In my mind, he will be remembered more for his witty and perceptive observations about the challenges of investing than for the fortune he has accumulated over the years — although, of course, the fortune gives them credibility.
For me, one of his most memorable statements is: “Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ … what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.”
Temperament, or character, takes longer to forge than skills. But some clients – of any generation –manage to build it over time, by striving to know themselves and learning from their own mistakes. The letter from our young client, above, certainly makes me hopeful that success is possible.
François Sicart – April 13, 2022
The information provided in this article represents the opinions of Sicart Associates, LLC (“Sicart”) and is expressed as of the date hereof and is subject to change. Sicart assumes no obligation to update or otherwise revise our opinions or this article. The observations and views expressed herein may be changed by Sicart at any time without notice.
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