The Bull who Cried Bear!
This isn’t really the story of a bear and a bull, despite how it starts and its title. It’s about the things that will happen in front of you that can distract you from what really matters, and how you can stay on track despite them.
Long before I joined the business, Michael D. Kresh, CFP® received stock market themed bookends that were prominently displayed over the years through multiple market cycles. One, the bull, represented a rising market. The other, the bear, represented a falling market. Though they are symbols of the stock market, bears and bulls are violent, fear-inducing animals, that remind us of the short-term volatility that needs to be endured rather than the power of small changes over time[ii].
Over the years they had seen their fair share of bear markets and bull markets. They saw Black Monday in 1987, and the bull run in tech leading to the dot com bubble. They watched the housing bubble lead to the financial crisis, they were even in their own COVID bubble together during the pandemic just to keep the books standing.
But they felt out of place, they felt like they belonged in a wire house broker’s fever dream about how good the 80s was.
They stood there, year after year hearing Michael, and eventually me, ironically explaining time and again how important it was to keep a long-term perspective. They were symbols of false idols, they figuratively represented things you should mostly ignore literally. We probably should have swapped them out, but inertia kept them there, until suddenly; it didn’t.
One day, for no apparent reason, the bear slid from its place, fell to the floor, and shattered. The bull watched in horror as the books cascaded away from him toward where the bear had been just moments ago. What was the bull to do? Without the bear it couldn’t hold up the books[iii][iv].
He needed time to think, to come up with a plan. It had never occurred to him that something could happen to the bear, and he had no idea where to begin. While lost in thought, he was swiftly scooped up, and tossed into a drawer to be forgotten.
You see, at Creative Wealth Management, LLC planning is what we do. So, the bear breaking had no impact whatsoever (aside from the one with the floor.) There's more uncertainty than most of us like to admit, but that's exactly why you plan. Things will break, sometimes for no apparent reason.
Proper planning helps minimize, reinforce, or backup any single points of failure rather than pretending they don't exist. We had another set of bookends just in case. The new bookends have nothing to do with the stock market but a lot to do with building wealth.
The new bookends are geodes, which are beautiful combinations of crystal and rock formed over thousands of years. Geodes can teach us so much more than bulls or bears. Geodes are patient and a little lucky; if there’s a water source with just the right mineral content just close enough to some porous rocks with holes, they know they can grow beautiful crystals given enough time. Perhaps the most interesting thing about geodes though is that their beauty is only revealed when they break, to the outside observer geodes are boring rocks for thousands of years while slowly things crystalize.
Unassuming and plain on the outside, but beautiful and precious on the inside, geodes remind you that “wealth is what you don’t see”.
[i] From “The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth,Greed and Happiness” Fantastic book, you should read it! Morgan Housel’s follow up “Same as Ever” is also a great read, published earlier this month.
[ii] There’s plenty of BS to deal with already when we’re not thinking about what bears do in the woods. There’s no definitive consensus on where terms came from, but the common explanation is that a bull attacks upward and a bear attack downward. Which is to say they’re symbolic of short bursts of violence instead of the bigger picture.
[iii] I wanted to put in a pun about it becoming unBEARable, I couldn’t completely stop myself, but at least I relegated it to an end note.