I was being entertained one day watching my daughter’s dog “Drax” play fetch with a grandchild. He was repeatedly retrieving a red ball until one toss bounced it straight into the swimming pool. Without hesitation, Drax leapt into the pool as he often does, although this time he was confused by a complication. Unlike the tennis balls he normally chases, this particular hard rubber ball quickly sank to the bottom of the deep end. Drax is a great swimmer, but he has no ability to dive. From my window I watched as he circled the ball over and over, putting his head under water fruitlessly trying to reach it. Occasionally he would exit the pool, shake off, then jump back in and return to his circling. In time, the child found another ball and the game continued back on the lawn.
I went on with my work and a couple hours later happened to look out the window and was surprised to see Drax back in the pool circling the ball 10 feet below him. He continued to put his head underwater as if he was going to dive for it, but as before, he was unable to submerge himself. I am sure Drax did not understand that performing the same task over and over again was not going to change the outcome. He did not succeed in getting the ball back until the pool cleaner arrived and retrieved it for him.
I have met many individuals in my financial career that find themselves in a situation much like Drax. They set worthy goals for themselves such as to setup and follow a good investment plan, get out of debt, live within a budget, and others. Perhaps as a result of inadequate financial education, poor self-discipline or bad advice, they fail to achieve their goals. Like Drax, they find themselves circling the pool trying again and again, but each time seeing the same disappointing results.
Just this week a stranger stopped in the office looking for advice, telling my son Jared he hadn’t made money on his investments in many years. Jared’s short reply was, “Step One – Quit doing whatever you are doing.”
In the financial world the old adage applies, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.” It’s amazing that people can complain about some undesirable circumstance but then continue doing the same thing that got them there. They seem to think that one day the same behavior will magically result in a different outcome. In life and in investing, that is not likely to be the case.
If you are unhappy with your investments, if the advice you are receiving is not helping, if you struggle endlessly with debt, if you worry continually about your financial situation, stop whatever you are doing and make a change. If you want a different result you must decide upon a different course of action. Otherwise, you may spend your whole life circling the pool with the prize always in sight but forever out of your reach.
Dan Wyson, CFP® is a long running national financial columnist, author of several books and Founder/CEO of Wyson Financial/Wealth Management 375 E. Riverside Dr. St. George, UT 84790 – 435-986-9525 Securities and Advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment advisor.