Hello and welcome to this week’s Lund Loop, a newsletter by me, Brian Lund, about the intersection of markets, trading, and life.
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Today’s post marks the 140th edition of this newsletter since launching in August of 2018, which is an extension of the Lund Loop blog that went live in October of 2007.
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This week I spoke with a couple of friends of mine, each of whom has a completely different approach to the market
One only invests for the long-term and went to all cash in March near the bottom, about the same time the other got interested in day trading.
But since then neither of them has done anything.
They say they’re not ready. They’re waiting.
My buy-and-hold friend isn’t ready to put his cash back to work because he’s waiting for the market to crash.
My day-trading friend has been killing it in his simulated account but is waiting to go live until he feels more comfortable risking real money.
I have a feeling that they will both be waiting for quite some time.
Waiting is a human condition.
I know a woman who waited for the “right time” to break up with her boyfriend. She’s still waiting but now it’s for a divorce.
I once knew a guy who was going to wait to settle down until after he “had his fun.” Last I heard he’s a 55-year-old single guy living in a studio apartment with a hot plate.
Sounds like a lot of fun.
I know couples right now pushing the backend of their 30s who want to wait on having kids until they are financially ready.
Here’s a newsflash. They’ll never be ready.
Their parents weren’t ready to have them. Their parent’s parents weren’t ready to have them. And for sure, their parent’s parent’s parents weren’t ready to have them.
Nobody is ever ready.
Patience is a virtue when it’s the underlying motivation to wait. But more often than not it’s fear that makes us delay.
So I’ve got two friends afraid to put their money to work - one who’s worried that the moment he does the market will crash and the other that he’ll suddenly find out he has no idea what he’s doing.
But they’re both still doing better than my third friend.
This friend also started getting interested in the stock market in March but can’t seem to settle on a coherent investing framework.
One day he says he’s buying a stock for the “long haul,” then a few weeks later it drops and he tells me he’s selling it.
And he’s getting wiped out in the process.
What my confused and conflicted friend is illustrating is that there is no such thing as intermediate-term investing.
In the quest to save investors from their greatest foe, themselves, the only chance is to focus on the “now” and the “forever” — everything in between is death.
Hot black death.
A middling vortex of bad decisions and negative returns that very few investors ever come back from.
You don’t want to go there.
It’s the Jan Brady of investing.
The truth is, the closer you are to a day trader or Warren Buffett, the better your chances are.
Contrary to popular opinion, the short-term trader has time on their side.
It’s a style that’s transcendent and objective.
The minute, hour, day, or week — if obeyed — tells them when to stop. When the game is over. And when to start it back up again.
Time works for long-term investors in a different way. It relieves themselves of the burden of themselves.
All they need is a drawer to put their stocks in and they are good to go.
The rub is that humans don’t naturally work well in either of these time frames.
We are drawn impulsively and inextricably to the intermediate-term.
The time frame between “it needs some time to work out, I’m holding” and “it will never come back, I’m selling.”
I saw how this time frame works up close and personal early in my investing career, thanks to my great-aunt.
Geneva was the oldest of the Kelly girls.
The Kelly girls from Fillmore, Utah.
Yes, those Kelly girls.
A fiery redhead, she had a passion for life as intense as the color of her hair.
Though not a woman of means, a series of familial bequests had snowballed in her favor, leaving her in possession of a decent-sized portfolio of common stocks.
With no children of her own, she decided to leave the stocks to my sister and I once she passed.
But before that could happen my father got extremely ill, and knowing our whole family would need financial help, she changed her will and left everything to him.
Shortly after her death he took possession of my former stocks and walked straight into the crash of 87’, selling them all not too far from the bottom.
I remember those stocks well.
There was Bank of America, Ford, CSX, General Motors, and a host of other blue-chip names.
I can only imagine what that portfolio would be worth today if she had given it to me instead of my father.
Imagine I say because as a naive 20-year-old I would have sold them just as quickly as he did.
Maybe even quicker.
Day trading is one of the toughest things you can do.
Swing trading is only easier by comparison.
And the long-term approach requires investors to maintain a state of active ignorance.
Which is why none of these time frames feels natural.
That’s how the intermediate-term gets you; it feels so right, and the alternatives feel so wrong.
And it’s always lurking out there, ready to waylay the most disciplined investor.
In early 2000 I read an article about the “Dellionaires,” men and women, well, mostly men, who bought Dell stock when it IPO’d, held on to it, and became millionaires, some many times over.
This meant holding the stock for over 12 years.
But sometimes I wonder about the ultimate fate of those Dellionaires.
Did the long-term suddenly become the intermediate-term when less than a year after that article was published the market crashed?
Did they sell?
Or were they able to hold the stock for another 12 years until Michael Dell made their choice for them by taking the company private?
I don’t know what’s worse, being a short-term trader who won’t trade, a long-term investor who won’t invest, or trying to be both at the same time.
“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint."
― Frida Kahlo
“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”
― Benjamin Franklin
I spent this past weekend repainting my master bedroom, a project, once completed, that left me with quite a sense of pride.
But upon relaying this story to a particularly lovely but annoying friend, my accomplishment felt somewhat overlooked when she informed me that I used a term in error.
She explained to me that, according to the Houston Association of Realtors, “Master Bedroom” carries with it racist and sexist undertones and has been replaced with the term “Primary Bedroom.”
What a brave stand.
Removing a term that - if anyone had bothered Googling it - has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with marketing, all the while ignoring decades of systematic housing and lending discrimination among minorities.
It’s a triumph of symbolism over substance and a window into the feel-good, do-nothing mindset that passes for change in our world today.
There’s also symbolism in a new coat of paint.
It signifies a rebirth. A fresh start.
But not unlike NAR’s ham-handed gesture, it can’t wipe away the past.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried.
When I first got on to social media I was a lightweight.
I didn’t like anything about the concept and was certain that at most I’d never be more than a lurker.
Then one day I woke up to find that - though far from being a power user - I was consuming much more than was good for me.
I decided it was best if I cut back some and started by categorizing my three main outlets – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – by relationship.
On Facebook, I edited down my “Friends” to only those whom I’d met in real life and had some sort of continuing relationship.
For Instagram, I began with the same criteria and broadened it to include people I’d never met in person but felt I had become online friends with.
Twitter of course became my wild west, where I interact with anyone as long as they are interesting and have a sense of humor.
This structure informed how I acted on each platform.
On Facebook, I had to remember that my mom, my aunts, and uncles, my grandmother for Christ's sake, were roaming through the feeds and that familiarity often caused me to refrain from posting something or even to delete a post upon further reflection.
In the early days of Twitter, I had the opposite problem.
The relative anonymity its scale provides caused me to say too many things that I should have thought through better.
Then, as my profile got (slightly) higher and I came out from behind a generic avatar and screen name, I began to regularly delete tweets and eventually heavily self-edited before the fact.
But Instagram was different.
Its image-centric, mobile-based approach both downplayed the importance of text and made it functionally difficult to produce.
That provided a natural governor for someone like me whose ADHD thoughts regularly roll off the tongue or fly from the fingertips before my brain can weigh their consequences.
And so for years, it existed as my only true “no-brainer” platform, where I posted semi-regularly without much thought and never a deletion.
Seafoam Green seemed like the right color to wipe away the memories of a dysfunctional relationship.
The moment I finished dragging the last of Martha’s belongings outside I headed straight over to the paint department at Home Depot.
We’d arranged for her to pick up her stuff between 3:00-4:00 pm so I needed an excuse to get out of the apartment anyway.
She told me to box it up and leave it on the porch. I put it in garbage bags and left it at the curb. It seemed more appropriate.
But I’m not bitter.
“Which type do want?” said the paint guy. “Matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss?”
“Which is best for covering up memories of a fucked up relationship?” I mumbled.
“Pardon?” he said.
“Uh, eggshell. Definitely eggshell.”
By the time I bought my business partner out a few years later, I knew a bit more about painting.
Ours was a contentious relationship, the last five years of which were spent alternatively yelling at or ignoring each other, in an office too small to hold both our outsized egos.
I needed a serious paint job to clear the cache.
From my experience in trying to erase Martha from my life, I’d learned that eggshell wasn’t too good for hiding flaws.
Nail holes, cracks, and drywall imperfections looked hidden when wet, but once the paint dried they again rose to the surface.
“Semi-gloss is what I need,” I boldly announced to the same, now somewhat older looking Home Depot paint guy.
“What color?” he said.
“Synchronicity Grey,” I replied.
Within an hour of finalizing the deal with my ex-partner/friend, I’d covered the walls of my, now, own office with two coats of paint.
It was 5 O’clock on Christmas Eve 1999, apropos as any time for a celebration, so I retrieved a bottle of Delirium Noël - a strong Belgium ale a client had gifted me - from the breakroom fridge.
I cracked it open, took a full swig, then leaned far back in my chair and took a deep breath.
The noxious paint fumes tore through my nostrils and into sinuses, causing an intense burning pain.
It smelled like victory.
After my social media activity fell into a regular cadence it never occurred to me that one day I might be called to account by one of my own.
I mean, I assumed the day would come when the acorn would occupy the same digital space as the oak, but it wouldn’t be on Facebook – too Boomer – and it wouldn’t be on Twitter – too Millennial.
And I was safe on Instagram because all I did there is post the occasional photo and innocuous caption.
So when my daughter finally asked last week, “dad, can I get an Instagram account,” I said “sure” without much thought.
The only rule, I told her, was that she had to allow me and my wife to follow her.
“Of course,” she said. “And I’ll follow you guys.”
“Great,” I said, as a sudden douche’ chill ran through me.
“Maybe I should take a look at my IG photos to see if there’s anything I don’t want her to see?” I said to myself.
I sat down at the kitchen table for what I thought would be a quick 5 to 10-minute exercise.
Almost two hours later I was still at it.
The review started off much as I suspected it would, full of somewhat repetitive pictures of family, hiking trails, sunsets, drums, and bowls of Vietnamese soup.
“Not much to see here,” I thought with pride.
Then the exercise suddenly turned into an audit, the occasion of which was a photo of a cigar.
A Cohiba to be more exact, deliciously perched on the edge of a crystal ashtray next to a caramel-colored tumbler of Macallan 12 – neat, always neat.
Regular readers know that I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life but that once or twice a year I’ll indulge in a fine stogie.
(And of course, if my insurance actuary is reading this, it’s all just poetic license. 😉)
But as far as my kids know, the demon leaf has never touched my lips.
It’s one of those “white lies” that grows larger through childhood via omission.
“Daddy, Santa Claus is real, isn’t he,” says the six-year-old.
“Yes,” you say. “If you believe in him in your heart, he is real.”
Six-year-old translation = Santa is real.
“Daddy, you’ve never smoked, have you? People that smoke are Nazis who get cancer immediately and deserve to die, right?”
“No sweetie, I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.”
Six-year-old translation = Daddy has never smoked, is not a Nazi, and won’t get cancer.
Needless to say, once you’ve given fuel to the lie for a decade or more, it’s hard to pull a 180 truth reveal as there’s little to no upside in it.
So the photos of cigars went away.
But that wasn’t really the problem.
As I dug further back into my Instagram archive I began to come across a surprisingly large number of similar photos.
At the time I took them, I thought they were artistic, constructed in almost a still life vein.
However, looking at them now, they smack of fetishism, even idolatry in their composition.
I’m of course referring to the demon hops.
Images of cans, bottles, and glasses of beer – pretty as they are – were regularly sown throughout my 8-year history on IG.
“What message does this convey to my kids?” I thought.
“What does this say about me?”
What nobody tells you about paint is that even though you think it covers things up permanently, smudges, stains, oils, and imperfections will eventually bleed through.
And it doesn’t cover up any better in the real world.
After Martha picked up her bags and moved on we still spent another six months flogging the dead horse that was once our relationship.
Walking out of my office on Christmas Eve 1999 with a nice buzz and seared nasal passages, I couldn’t anticipate the nightmare of discovering unpaid bills and embezzled funds that led to a two-year legal battle with my former partner.
The secret to a fresh start is that you have to do the hard work before you do the cover-up.
You’ve got to degrease those stains, sand out the imperfections, and put on primer before the first coat of paint goes up.
You’ve got to confront the demons and exercise them before you can go forward.
I’ve got a lot of plans for 2021.
I always have a lot of plans for the New Year.
But my resolutions are usually just symbolic.
A fresh coat of paint without addressing the underlying issues.
I want to write every day.
I want to read every day.
I want to hike every day.
I want to meditate every day.
I want to play the drums every day.
I want to love every day.
Live every day.
Give every day.
I want more.
While I can still get it.
When I first started drinking in high school I was a lightweight.
I didn’t like anything about it and was certain that at most I’d never be more than a casual drinker.
Then one day I woke up to find that - though far from being a power drinker - I was consuming much more than was good for me.
And now it’s standing in the way of my plans.
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P.S. It should go without saying - but I’ll say it anyway - all opinions expressed in The Lund Loop are my own personal opinions and don’t reflect the views of my employer, any associated entities, or other organizations I’m associated with.
Nothing written, expressed, or implied here should be looked at as investment advice or an admonition to buy, sell, or trade any security or financial instrument. As always, do your own diligence.