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Running (And Investing) In The Rain

My friend Jamey is putting on a race next month, and he thought it’d be a good idea to get some families together to do some training for the race.  We gathered on Saturday morning with 21 kids and a handful of parents to run a couple of miles.  I was a bit skeptical of how far my 3 kids would make it.  I was even more skeptical when we got in the car to head down to the course and it started to rain on us.  When we got there, both the rain and wind had picked up and it had transformed from a strangely pleasant January morning to one ripe for complaining.

I didn’t want to seem like the wimpy dad, so I kept my reservations about this whole ordeal to myself, waiting for someone else to call it off.  But since Jamey is a 22-time Ironman, that was apparently not going to happen.  So we started off through the rain and two things happened.  First, everyone was rather enjoying the chaos of the weather and the fellowship of running in the rain and wind.  Secondly, instead of getting worse, both the rain and the wind died down after a few minutes and we spent the next hour or so running, talking, throwing the football and laughing.

The stock market can be a lot like the weather – unpredictable at best.  When I look at different weather apps on my phone, they sometimes call for completely different weather forecasts.  Or sometimes all the meteorologists are all wrong at the same time.  Similarly, many prognosticators call for a very different view of what lies ahead for the markets in 2020.  And it can change in an instant – it might be bright and sunny one moment with flash floods the next, or vice versa.  Both weather and market predictions are based on mounds of data, and while the data might be 100% correct, our interpretation of the data might be way off.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. – Ecclesiastes 11:4

Dads who wait for perfect weather never start their run.  Investors who wait for the perfect opportunity never invest a dime.

So is it a good time to invest extra cash?  Yes, but only if you don’t need it right now.  You see, we could have started the run and it turned into a complete downpour.  A farmer can plant his crops and then lose it all.  And investors can invest their money only to lose some of it in a market downturn.  But one thing is certain, and that is if you’re waiting for the perfect, risk-free environment before you do something, you’ll be waiting forever.  Because it simply doesn’t exist.  So it might be the right time to sow your seed, knowing that if you give yourself enough time, the markets have always gone up.

Conversely, don’t let the market highs lure you with the fear of missing out.  The S&P 500 was up over 31% last year, and it’s tempting to feel like there are easy returns to be had out there.  The markets could have just as easily lost 31% last year, and none of the “meteorologists” predicted those kind of returns.

So tune out the noise, and stop watching every cloud.  If you don’t, not only will you not plant your seed, but you’ll never harvest anything either.  There’s never a perfect time to invest, it will always be a chaotic time, just like our run in the rain.  While we got a little soaked, we made it through in one piece, and my kids (and their dad) realized they’re a little more resilient than they all thought.