Investment Lessons From Thirty Years of Marriage

Bill Parrott |

My wife and I recently celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, thirty years of marital bliss. We were young and naïve at first, but we've navigated our journey well, and so far, so good. We started in California, traveled through Connecticut, and landed in Texas. We've touched three coasts; who knows where our travels will take us next.

Like a strong marriage, investing requires a firm commitment and covenant. Entering a marriage without committing to your spouse is doomed to failure. The same is true with investing. It requires a strong commitment. We built our marriage on a solid foundation of faith. It hasn't been easy, but we always reach the peak after walking through the valley. A successful marriage is not linear but full of twists and turns, ups and downs. As Jimmy Dugan said, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." As for us, the good times far outweigh the bad ones.

What can thirty years of marriage teach us about investing? Let's walk down the aisle and take a look.

  • Patience. A successful investment plan requires patience. You won't get rich overnight, and few shotgun marriages last long.
  • Planning. My wife and I plan for major expenses, vacations, serving opportunities, and life events that might impact our future. Our planning gives us a range of outcomes, allowing us to proceed confidently. A financial plan is necessary if you want to flourish as an investor. Do not rely on luck as a planning tool to reach your financial goals.
  • Flexibility. I was born and raised in Southern California and thought I'd live there forever. However, my wife accepted a faculty position at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut not long after we were married, and it is about the farthest place you can get from the shores of California. We loved living in New England and its proximity to New York. Also, our daughter was born in the Nutmeg State. Flexibility is essential for successful investors. Markets are often in flux, never constant, continually moving. Last year, stocks fell 18%; this year, they're up 20%. The one-month US T-Bill yielded 0.00% during COVID; today, it pays 5.46%, an increase of 18,100%! To be a profitable investor, you must adapt to changing conditions.
  • Fearless. Marriage is not for the faint of heart. A few trips to the ER, calls at midnight, unexpected expenses, crazy pets, etc., are unsettling. Being fearless during frightening moments or scary times makes a marriage stronger. Owning stocks is challenging, especially when they crash, like last year. Holding stocks through the Great Financial Crisis, Tech Wreck, or the Crash of 1987 requires nerves of steel. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 508 points, or 22%, on October 19, 1987 – Black Monday, one of the worst days ever on Wall Street, but if you did not sell or panic, you'd be up 3,238% today, averaging 10.3% per year. A $1 investment is now worth $33.38. Despite the crash, the Dow finished 1987 up 5.43%. Do not let fear drive your investment decisions.
  • Celebrate. Marriage is pure joy and worthy of celebration. We love being together, enjoy our time, and celebrate often. No victory is too small. If you made money trading or your accounts are doing well, take some profits and celebrate with your loved ones.
  • Time. We don't let many things trouble us today because we're older and wiser. Significant issues in 1993 do not bother us now because we can look backward and learn from our experiences. An investor in 1929 had little information about the history of stocks, but today, we have access to millions of data points to make better decisions. We have the luxury of time and history.
  • Save. We save and invest regularly, sometimes sacrificing a night out or an extended trip. During our lean years, we'd walk to a local Mexican restaurant, split a taco plate, and gorge on chips. But we can now retire on our terms because we saved and sacrificed. If you want to retire tomorrow, you must save money today.
  • Spend. We are diligent savers and planners. After saving our money and investing in our retirement accounts, we'd spend freely (sort of). We never went crazy with our spending, but we didn't worry much because of our commitment to our financial plan and investment strategy. If you save, invest, and plan, spending a few dollars now and then is okay, especially on experiences.
  • Diversification. Over the past three decades, we've owned dogs, cats, horses, hamsters, goldfish, beta fish, and hermit crabs. Each animal has brought us joy and angst, but I can't imagine a home without pets. A diversified investment portfolio can grow and survive in most market conditions. Large, medium, and small-cap stocks mixed with bonds and international holdings will expose you to several global asset classes.
  • Giving. We were reluctant and stingy givers during our youth, but we now tithe and give to those in need. In addition to our personal giving, we tithe from our business income. I was worried we'd run out of money if we donated to charities or gave money to our church, but the opposite has happened. We've been blessed beyond measure and have enjoyed great joy from our giving. Incorporating giving into your investment strategy can yield much fruit and tax benefits. If you are waiting to give your money away after you die, you're missing the point because the person who benefits the most from giving is the giver.

My wife and I look forward to our next chapter, a life full of serving, volunteering, traveling, hiking, fishing, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Our journey continues.

The days are long, but the years are short. ~ Gretchen Rubin

July 27, 2023

Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level. PWM's custodian is TD Ameritrade, and our annual fee starts at .5% of your assets and drops depending on your asset level.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ from those posted in this blog. PWM is not a tax advisor, nor do we give tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for items that are specific to your situation. Options involve risk and aren't suitable for every investor. Prices and yields are for today only and are subject to change without notice.