Don’t be greedy with investments: Appreciate what you have

“Knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and is thus a source of civilized delight.” –William Safire

‘BULLS MAKE MONEY, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.’ No investment goes up in a straight line forever. Appreciate how well your portfolio has done over the last few years, and don’t become a pig. (photo credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
‘BULLS MAKE MONEY, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.’ No investment goes up in a straight line forever. Appreciate how well your portfolio has done over the last few years, and don’t become a pig.
(photo credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
 In this week’s Torah portion we read about the sin of the Golden Calf, and Moses breaking the tablets of the 10 commandments. When first describing the Tablets it says they were written by the finger of the Lord, and that’s it. No more details. Later on, just before Moses breaks them all of a sudden we get a much more detailed description. We learn that they were readable from both sides, even though the letters penetrated the entire width of the stone. The Torah describes the tablets as “the tablets were God’s handiwork, and the script was the script of God, engraved on the tablets.”
It would seem that we should’ve received the more detailed version of the tablets as Moses received them, why wait until just before they are broken? Rabbi Yissocher Frand gives an answer. “I saw an observation from the Shemen HaTov. Perhaps the Torah is teaching us a lesson that not only applies to the Tablets, but also applies to life in general. The lesson is that whenever we possess something for a long, almost indefinite time, we fail to appreciate what we have. It is only when one is on the verge of losing that which he possesses, that he first begins to realize its magnificence and beauty. When we love and are close to people and we think that we will have them indefinitely, human nature is to take the people for granted. However, when we are faced with the specter of losing somebody, and we know that our time with him or her is limited, then we suddenly begin to realize the preciousness of what we have and of every moment with that person. Our attitude then totally changes.
“Perhaps the verse is trying to emphasize this lesson. When Moshe descended from the mountain with the Tablets, and was about to break them, then we suddenly pause. For the first time, we consider the uniqueness and the magnificence of those tablets.”
I think this lesson has been driven home over the last year of Corona. It’s a topic that many including myself have written about. The need to appreciate what we have, get back to basics, and look inwards. Something that society had forgotten pre-COVID. I always laughed when I got the “Rak Briyut” (Only health) standard goodbye from older Israeli women. Who would have guessed that they knew something and that in the last year good health has truly been a blessing!
I bring this up because in the world of investing I’m seeing a lack of appreciation of what people have and I’m starting to see greed take on a major role. Clients who had 12-20% portfolio returns in 2020 suddenly think they can make a lot more money doing it on their own. They are losing sight of the fact that they have certain short- and medium-term needs, like marrying off and helping newlyweds get started, or buying an apartment as examples, and that if they mess up they are up the creek. When they tell me it’s so easy to make money, all you need to do is buy the hottest tech stocks, I start to get worried. I try and urge caution, reminding them that we’ve been through this type of market in the past and it doesn’t end well. Then I hear that “this time is different.” I know that it falls on deaf ears but I answer that “It’s never different.”
Even the hottest investment guru currently – Cathie Wood, the founder and CEO of tech-focused firm ARK Invest – is starting to sound the alarm on certain types of tech stocks. She said: “At either end of the spectrum, I would be careful. I would look at the names that are 40 to 70 times sales and say, ‘Okay, they’re probably going to spend the next few years growing in to that valuation, so I don’t think they’ll be the most productive growth stocks out there.’” What she is saying is that those tech stocks that have moved up 300-500% in the last 12 months have gotten way ahead of themselves and investors should be cautious.
No investment goes up in a straight line forever. Not stocks and not Israeli real estate, but that’s for another column. There is an old investing adage: “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.”
Appreciate how well your portfolio has done over the last few years, and don’t become a pig. And as always, make sure your investments are in line with your goals and needs.
Rak Briyut!
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.

Aaron Katsman is the author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing. www.gpsinvestor.com; aaron@lighthousecapital.co.il