I didn’t know or care much about the S&P 500 Index in my late teens and early twenties. The first time I heard about a stock market crash was as an avid Alabama country music fan as I sang along to those formidable lyrics, “Somebody told us Wall Street fell, we were so poor we couldn’t tell.” I resembled those lyrics. In those days, I was saving up every penny I made to buy Kimberly an engagement ring.
The next time I heard about a stock market crash was in October 1987, when it really did happen. For market historians, that single day drop was in the magnitude of the 20% range. These days, a 2% drop in one day puts the media in an almost Armageddon-like hysteria. Ford had made its debut to the index that same year and apparently, people were buying the heck out their cars. It would be years later before I owned my own Taurus…complete with a spoiler to impress my new wife Kimberly.
When I went to work for a prestigious Wall Street firm in 1991, names like Phillip Morris, Walmart, Merck, and Coke were now making the list of the top ten S&P 500 Index stocks. Our first son, Peyton was also born in 1991. Making his debut at 11 pounds 3 ounces, he continued to grow rapidly, as did the S&P 500 Index. Our other son, Bowen, was born in 1993. Another double-digit arrival at 10 pounds 12 ounces. He missed the biggest baby award by a few ounces. That same year GE took over the top spot from Exxon. Twenty-five years later, Bowen is doing great; GE isn’t doing as well.
In 1999, I left my Wall Street firm and went independent and joined an entity that aligned with my philosophy to put client’s interests first. When I was striking out on my own as an independent advisor, being a fiduciary wasn’t a requirement and Y2K was on the horizon.
After stockpiling countless gallons of kerosene in preparation for years without electricity, we managed to survive Y2K. Unfortunately, many investors didn’t fare as well when the internet bubble burst in 2000. Ten tremendous years of growth became speculative and ushered in a recession that didn’t bounce back until 2003. I have noticed people have short memories when it comes to investing. Lessons are not learned nearly as much as the opportunities to learn present themselves.
Speaking of another time of devastation, 2005, when Katrina wiped out the MS Gulf Coast. There are a few rare times in my life that work gets put on the back burner, and this was one of those times. I was a kid during The Great Jackson Easter Flood of 1979 and I saw adults who selflessly helped their neighbors rebuild their lives, and that made a mark on me. When Katrina came calling, I too, was called. I cherish those months of helping Katrina victims. IBM was wiped off the index in 2005, but returned in 2009, as did the MS Gulf Coast.
One of the most significant marks on my life was made by watching my grandmother Dee live hers. Home Depot stock was her favorite, though she didn’t know the first thing about P/E ratios, she did know that a couple of her grandsons had worked there, so in her opinion it had to be the best stock on planet Earth. Naturally, she bought some. When she passed away, that stock was split five ways between her grandsons. I took my stock and sold it to make copies of the book that I had written as a tribute to her, Chasing Solomon. In my opinion, that was the wisest investment I have ever made. It allows me to share her legacy, and part of myself gets to unite with her as I have proud opportunities to share that book with others.
I don’t know what would have happened if I had hung on to that Home Depot stock. Maybe it would be worth a fortune now, or maybe it would have outperformed the S&P 500 Index. But, it doesn’t matter to me. In my humble opinion, there are much more important things than measuring your life against the S&P 500 Index.