I was sitting in my office on Monday, January 15, engaged in a videoconference conversation with a client when I got distracted.
I go to great lengths to avoid distractions during client video conference conversations. I set my desk phone to Do Not Disturb. I close my office door. I put my cell phone upside down on my desk. But I do not put down my blinds, and something caught my eye.
I saw something land on a tree branch just above the top of my computer screen. It was entirely out of place. Precisely halfway through our meteorological winter sat an American Robin with its orange chest fluffed to stay warm while temperatures hover near zero.
My immediate reaction was to question this bird’s decision-making.
Given the extremely mild winter we have had up to last week, I could see how it may have stuck around to avoid that whole migratory inconvenience. Or maybe it had just packed up and was belatedly on its way to the Gulf Coast from northern Wisconsin.
If it is the first robin of spring, kudos for braving the elements and taking the “early bird gets the [frozen] worm” axiom to a whole new level.
In either event, one could certainly argue it had made a mistake. It should have left sooner or arrived later to avoid this sincere cold snap.
Timing the stock market is even harder than timing a cold snap. Migrating into and out of the stock market is much more random than the weather. At least the weather has meteorological seasons, identifiable frontal systems, and real-time data from abundant weather stations.
Trying to accurately time the ever-mercurial emotions of millions of traders around the world will inevitably lead to being too early or too late very consistently. Being consistently wrong under the delusion of one’s powerful fortune-telling skills can be costly.
Perhaps this particular robin found both a viable home and a reliable food source and simply opted to stick around through winter. While there are definitely occasional regrets for this decision, it could be toughing it out knowing that the sun is coming up earlier and setting later every day.
If this is the case, this robin’s approach is a model for long-term investors instead of the poor decision-making to which I initially ascribed it.
When the markets slap you in the face with adversity, stay the course and know that in due time warmer weather is bound to return.
We will never know precisely what decisions this robin made to lead it to the tree branch outside of my window during a mid-winter cold snap.
You can do much better than random migrations by having a well-crafted financial plan that tells you where you are in your journey and what steps you need to take to reach your destination.
Quote of the week: Joshua M. Brown: “Markets are biological rather than mechanical in nature and, as such, precision in timing is nowhere to be found.”
Photo Credit: Zach Zimet iStock 1388009944