Happy New Year from everyone at Luck& Gravity! We (that’s me) wish you a joyful and prosperous 2015. And what better way to signal a year of plenty than this charming photo of a happy, wealthy couple: Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd at La Fiorentina in Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat.
Some years ago when I was making yet another heartfelt attempt to learn French, I went to a school on the Cote D’Azur. (Bien sûr.) Villefranche-sur-Mer is a low-key little town compared to its flashier neighbors Monaco and Nice. Yet, in its day, it had seen plenty of shambolic goings-on, courtesy of rock stars like Keith Richards, who recorded Exile on Main Street here, as well as from the Euro trash that flock to the Cote D’Azur like crows to leftover canapés.
On week-ends, I took jaunts to nearby towns including the Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat. Here were palatial villas set behind lush tropical gardens. They could only be glimpsed by pressing oneself against the imposing iron gates—or not at all if the guard dogs were on-patrol. Occupants included newly-minted Russians and, before the great crash of ’08, the lucky Irish. Each week-end I set out for Cap-Ferrat in search of the Queen of the Villas: La Fiorentina.
In 1967 Taylor and Todd rented La Fiorentina for the summer. Every morning Taylor, born under the water sign Pisces, swam lengths in the long pool that overlooked the shimmering Mediterranean. The photo above shows Todd surprising Taylor with a suite of diamond-and-ruby jewelry after one of her swims. I think it was Tuesday. Ain’t love grand?
In astrology, the water sign Pisces is not renowned for financial acumen. (Long story so the short version: Pisces is associated with the 12th house of dissolution and endings, thus is not considered auspicious for wealth accumulation. In Vedic astrology Taylor was an Aquarius, a whole other kettle of fish. But not here.) Yet, there is also wisdom in water as it can be used as a metaphor for navigating through life —and investing.
The following is the New Year’s message from of Ven. Samu Sunim, the founder of the Zen Buddhist Temple. (The italics are mine.)
Water always flows downhill. “Learn humility”.
A common mistake investors make is believing their gains are based more on skill than luck. Learning humility allows us to ask for help when we need it, and be willing to change our habits when they no longer serve us well.
Water always meanders around obstacles. “Learn wisdom.”
Flexibility is necessary to invest well. For example, blindly following a buy-and-hold strategy could cost us greatly if we disregard changes in sector dominance.
Water does not refuse dirty water. “Learn inclusivity.”
Investment wisdom is everywhere—and so is dross, unfortunately. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open to great investing ideas. They can and do come from anywhere.
Water adapts itself to any situation. “Learn adaptability.”
Good times/Bad Times. Always try to keep at least one-and-half years of expense money in a money market fund. This way market gyrations or unexpected setbacks will have less of an effect on your state of mind. If you are retired, this amount should be adjusted upwards to at least 3 years.
Water is patient and endures.”Learn perseverance.”
Once you have made an investment, it rarely pays to get twitchy. Unless there has been a negative material change, you must stick with your plan for several years to benefit. Do not become a victim of volatility. In an accumulating portfolio, use it to your advantage. In a distribution portfolio, see previous note.
Water is not afraid of throwing itself off a cliff. “Learn grit and courage.”
Investing always involves some risk. If all your money is under the mattress, that is a different kind of risk. What is the optimum level of risk/reward? When you’re taking risks with your money, ensure that the risk premium is appropriate. In other words, don’t overpay.
Water travels ceaselessly to reach the ocean where it becomes one with the ocean. “Learn the way of the Budhha in ocean Samadhi.”
Money is a manifestation of energy. Like knowledge, it loses its value when hoarded. Use the energy of money wisely to lift yourself and others up. Spend your wealth for good.
P.S. I did eventually find the sign pointing me in the direction of La Fiorentina but the dense foliage around it foiled me from seeing it. (For more photos and a short history of the property, click here.)