This episode of MarketFoolery is a little unusual -- no earnings, just a few investing lessons. From Podcast Movement 2018 in Philadelphia, host Chris Hill shares two investing thoughts from his recent vacation.
You're always taking on some risk in the market, but there comes a point when the risks from this or that company are so clear, and the potential danger so huge, that it's probably better to stay away altogether.
On the other, brighter side of investing: Just like a tree planted some 30-odd years ago, our growth surprises us most when we're not micro-managing it every day, week, or month.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on July 24, 2018.
Chris Hill: It's Tuesday, July 24th. Welcome to Market Foolery! I'm Chris Hill, coming to you solo from Philadelphia. I'm here for Podcast Movement 2018, which I believe is the biggest podcast conference here in the United States of America. It's just me today. I know what you're thinking, it's earnings. We have Alphabet and 3M and Verizon and Harley-Davidson, and they're all reporting earnings. Today, just going to take a break from Earningspalooza.
Fear not, this weekend on Motley Fool Money, it's going to be an all-earnings show. We're going to hit more than our usual share of company-focused stories, no guests. Tons of earnings on Motley Fool Money this weekend. Check it out!
As you can probably tell from the ambient noise, including the strings behind me, I'm basically in the open pavilion here at the Convention Center in Philadelphia. I just wanted to share a couple of investing takeaways from my vacation. By the way, it's just me today. Feel free to skip this episode if you're like, "No, I want the earnings." That's fine. By all means, drop off.
If you've listened for a while, you know that when one of the analysts at The Motley Fool comes back from a trip, whether it's a business trip or a vacation, I usually ask them if they have any investing takeaways from their trip. When you're an investor, the investing part of your brain never really shuts off completely. That was the case with me. I wanted to share a couple of investing-related thoughts I had during my time away from Fool HQ.
But, very quickly, Philadelphia is such a great city. I've been here a few times for work and for getaways. It's such a great city with a lot going on. I got up this morning, I went for a run. This conference is smack in the middle of downtown Philadelphia, and my hotel is a few blocks away from the conference. This morning, I got up, I went for a run down toward the Schuylkill River. Went by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is probably best-known not for the actual art inside the museum, it's best-known for the steps leading up to the museum, known casually as the Rocky Steps. If you've ever seen the movie Rocky, or Rocky 2, or a couple of the other Rocky movies, these are the steps that Rocky runs up when he's training. Did I run up the Rocky Steps? Of course I did! You don't go for a run in the City of Brotherly Love and get anywhere near the Museum of Art and not run up the Rocky Steps, come on.
I mentioned on yesterday's show that I unplugged during my vacation. I stayed off email, I stayed off Slack. But I did notice the price of gasoline, as we talked about, and a couple of the stories here and there about the rising price of gas. Today, I wanted to share two experiences I had on my vacation that relate to investing.
The first is when I was on Cape Cod. The family rented a house in the town of Eastham, which is pretty far out on the cape. It's where the Cape starts to get thin. When you're going to the beach, it's a short distance to the Bayside of Cape Cod. It's an equally short difference to the Atlantic Ocean side of Cape Cod. We spent time on beaches on both sides.
Something happened that was a first for me in my beach-going life. We went to the Atlantic Ocean Side of the cape. Beautiful, sunny day. Good breeze going. I look up at the lifeguard chair, and there were two flags that were flying. One was the flag that indicates rough surf. I've seen that flag plenty of times. The other flag I had never seen in my life -- it was the shark flag. When the shark flag is flying, that means exactly what you think it does. It means, "Hey, we looked out in the water and we saw some sharks." There's actually a pretty big population of seals along Cape Cod, and where there are seals, there are sharks. And on this day, the shark flag was flying.
I saw that, and I thought, "This makes the decision to go swimming incredibly easy. I'm not going swimming. I'll get in the water up to my knees, but I'm not going to go out and body surf, as I would otherwise." There were people who were doing that, but not me.
I know all the stats. I was talking with -- I'm not going to say who, but, it was one of the hosts of Industry Focus who was like, "Come on, it's only a few people a year who are ever killed by sharks. Compare that to the tens of thousands of people who are injured or killed in auto accidents." I get it. I understand the math. The difference is the flag.
I know I could have gone swimming with no problems. But on the tiny chance that it went bad and a shark got a hold of me and that was the end, what would the story be, when this gets reported to the media? It would not be, "Area Man Killed by Shark." The story would be, "Area Man Ignores Obvious Warning Sign, Gets What's Coming to Him." So, I didn't go swimming. I sat in a chair, read my book, I went for a walk.
At some point, I started thinking about the shark flag in investing. I was trying to think if there was an analogy to investing in the stock market. What I mean by that is, is there a warning sign that obvious? When it comes to the stock market in general, I don't know that there is.
I do think there are those warning signs for companies, for individual businesses. Sometimes it's the CEO. Sometimes it's a warning sign in the S-1 filing, before they go public. I think back to 2011, when Groupon went public. In their S-1 filing, they had that metric that they made up, adjusted consolidated segment operating income, which was essentially Groupon's way of saying, "Here's the money we make, but if you back out our marketing costs, we're making so much more money than is showing up on the bottom line!" It's like, you're a marketing company. Why would any investor back out your marketing costs when trying to evaluate your business?
The shark flag of investing shows up here and there. When it does, I think that's when we as investors make the decision, "I'm not going to do that. It's cut and dried, not with my money." That's the difference. It's the whole, what did you expect? A guy went swimming in the ocean when the shark flag was flying? Of course that was going to happen!
And I'm not talking about investing in general. Although we're celebrating our 25th anniversary at The Motley Fool, that powerful myth still exists today -- the whole, "The stock market is too difficult to understand and it's too risky." It's actually neither of those things. I'm not talking about investing in the market in general. The shark flag of investing is when you invest in something, it goes south, and other stock investors say, "What did you expect? You invested in penny stocks? Of course you were going to lose your money."
Drop us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, with something you think is an investing version of the shark flag.
This past weekend, I went to Maine for a reunion at the summer camp I went to when I was a kid. From age 10 to 18, I was a camper, and then I was a counselor. The family that owns this summer camp bought it in 1968, so it was this 50th year celebration. I saw guys I went to camp with. I hadn't seen them in so long. It was fantastic.
The couple that bought the camp, Albert and Evelyn Lerman, they're still alive. They're 92 and 90 years old, and they look great. Their son, Bill, took over the camp to run it with his wife, Martha, and now their daughter, Lori, is running it with her husband, Alex. I'm not going to go into all the details of the reunion, because that would be boring and relatively meaningless. Suffice to say, it was great for the same reason that it's great when any one of us reconnects with a group of people with whom we have a shared experience, whether it's summer camp, or being on a sports team with someone, or going to school -- particularly when that shared experience is from your childhood. Reminiscing about those things that you did together, there's just nothing like it.
The camp I went to is down a dirt road. When you drive there, you turn off a winding country road, but it's paved. You turn onto this dirt road that winds through the woods. When my friends and I were at camp, that road seemed so long. Every once in a while, you'd hear about a counselor who went running and they ran the Camp Road. We would just think, "Oh my God, they ran the camp road?" That really just meant, they ran from the camp out this winding dirt road to the main road, and then they ran back. Again, when we were kids, that seemed crazy. "Oh my God, how long is that?" It turns out, it's a mile. But, when you're a kid, it seems really far.
When you first turn onto this road, on the left-hand side, there's this wonderful grove of pine trees. When I was there at camp in the 1970s and 1980s, those pine trees were probably six feet tall. Just standing on the side of the road, we could see over the tops of them, easily. This past Saturday, when my friend Jeff and I drove to camp, we turned onto the camp road. The trees are now 50-60 feet tall. In that split-second, the thought that went through my head was, "Hey, they got new trees!" Then I came to my senses and thought, "No, they didn't get new trees. Those are the same trees. They've just grown over time."
We get to camp, we go down to the waterfront, got out, did some stand-up paddle boarding, had some fun. Then I thought, "I'm going to run the camp road, because I'm an adult now and it's no longer enormous and scary to me." When I got to the end of the camp road, I just looked at those trees, and that's when it hit me -- this is just like investing.
If I had gone back to camp every year, yeah, maybe I would have noticed the trees in the same way, in the same way that we look at our money and our stocks in our portfolio every day. We don't notice the growth. The growth doesn't hit us on a visceral level like it does if we look at it every five years, or ten years, or 20 years. That's when the growth is noticeable.
Particularly if you're just starting out investing, and you're thinking to yourself -- again, going back to the myth that's still so pervasive, "It's so hard to do, it's risky." Particularity when you're just starting out, you're like, "I don't have that much money. I only have $100 or $500 or $1,000. It's not that much money." That's OK! If you're ever thinking to yourself, or you're ever talking to a friend or someone in your family, and they say something along the lines of, "Well, I only have this much money, I only have this small amount of money," that's just like saying, "Well, I only have these seeds. I don't have trees, I just have these seeds." Plant them in a good place, watch over them, and they're going to grow. Over time, as is the case with the pine grove at the edge of my summer camp, they'll grow 10X.
One more quick thanks Steve Stewart from TalkShoe. TalkShoe is a podcasting platform that actually provided the equipment and this forum, not just for me but for other people who are attending Podcast Movement. I just want to give them a quick shout-out to thank them for helping out people who are podcasting here at Podcast Movement 2018.
If you're still listening, as always, thanks for listening. I never, ever take for granted that you have a lot of things you can listen to. Like all of us, you have only so much time in the day. The fact that you choose to spend it with Market Foolery or Rule Breaker Investing, Motley Fool Answers, Industry Focus, or Motley Fool Money, we never take that for granted.
Didn't really talk about stocks, so maybe I don't have to do the usual disclaimer. But, it's the usual, we have formal recommendations, don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. But, investing in stocks, that's generally a good idea. It tends to work out over time. That's going to do it for this edition of Market Foolery. The show is mixed by the incredibly trusting Dan Boyd, who's not here with me. I think this is the first time I've taped remotely without Dan. Thank you to Dan! I'm Chris Hill. Thanks for listening! We'll see you tomorrow!
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Chris Hill has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GOOGL and Alphabet GOOG. The Motley Fool recommends MMM. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.