The Best Of Times

by: Russ Thornton

A couple of weeks ago, Elizabeth, Gracie and I were out on Lake Sinclair in the boat.

About two weeks earlier, Elizabeth and I made the heart-wrenching decision to put our sweet little Abby to sleep as she was having more bad days than good related to her long-standing health issues.

So it was strange to be out on the boat without one of our “crew” members.

It was late Saturday afternoon and the sky was clear and the sun was blazing. So we pulled into the cooling shade of Goat Island, turned off the engine and just listened to radio and enjoyed a couple of cold beverages.

We can only get clear reception on the boat radio for a single station in the area – 97 Big FM. This station plays a lot of classic rock which I enjoy listening to any time.

There we were drifting in the boat, listening to the radio, feeling more than a little sad and missing our Abby. And “The Best of Times” by Styx comes on the radio.

Now this isn’t my favorite band or even my favorite Styx song. I much prefer “Too Much Time on my Hands.”

But I was in a somewhat pensive mood as it played and I found it particularly bittersweet to hear this song in the wake of Abby’s passing.

And in a much broader sense, I began considering the here and now and wondering, “are these really the best of times?”

My conclusion . . . absolutely. Yes.

Sure there is always stress, anxiety, uncertainty and fear in our personal lives. This can stem from personal, professional or other matters.

Then there’s the current US Presidential election circus going on.

There are those in the world who want nothing more than to kill other people.

There is the ever-present uncertainty of the investment markets.

What will happen with the price of oil? And how will that impact our wallets the next time we need to fill up our vehicle at the pump?

Most of these are situations and scenarios that are largely out of our control. And what’s the use worrying about something we can’t really do anything about?

As I’ve said before and will undoubtedly say again, always remember to focus on the things within your direct influence and control -- whether in your financial planning or other aspects of your life.

But don’t discount the value of optimism either.

Think of all the great things we have access to, and perhaps take for granted, today.

And I’m not talking about things like 24-hour fast food or Botox injections.

Instead, consider the incredible advances we’ve made with healthcare. People are living longer, healthier lives.

And what about technological innovations?

I think it’s pretty amazing that I can open an app on my phone and request a private car on-demand with Uber. Or I can rent a private home or apartment across town or across the world with AirBnB.

I can use Google to quickly and easily find out more about virtually anything.

And YouTube is great for funny cat videos. But it also hosts some great how-to videos that I’ve used to diagnose and fix problems around our house like a broken clothes dryer and some minor plumbing repairs.

The fact that most of us are carrying a computer (smartphone) around in our pockets is pretty amazing. This is something I often take for granted. Maybe you do to.

For some context, watch this short video. And consider that everything that has moved to the laptop over the years is also now available on our smartphones. In our pockets. And it also takes pictures, among other things.

But don’t just take it from me.

Read this recent article from Morgan Housel: What A Time To Be Alive

Or check out this 16 minute TED Talk video from Peter Diamandis: Abundance Is Our Future

And I’m also reminded of this great quote from Nick Murray,

“Optimism is the only realism.”

From an investing perspective, simply consider history. We’ve been through a Great Depression, a Great Recession, World Wars, Cold Wars, and much, much more. Yet the market has not only survived . . . it has, over long-periods of time, thrived.

Where will the market go from here?

I don’t know. Short-term, the market is risky.

But over long periods of time (think decades), I believe it’s riskier not to own a broadly diversified portfolio of stocks.

However, I’m not writing today to make a point about investing.

Considering how far we’ve come and where we might go in the future; consider how that might impact your life for the better.

What if in retirement, you no longer need to own a car because you can access one on-demand and only pay for your actual usage.

What if you’re able to live a healthy, productive life into your 90s or early 100s? How would that impact your career choices? Your financial planning?

I could pose other interesting questions and thought exercises around these concepts, but for now, I’d like you to seriously consider one thing . . .

Despite all that’s wrong with the world and in our lives, don’t lose sight of all the wonderful things we can now do and experience that just 10 or 20 years ago would have been considered out of the question.

I don’t know about you, but I choose optimism.

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