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The Days Are Long, The Years Are Short

I remember coming home after work to a house of chaos. Lego all over the floor, washing still sitting in the basket, dishes piled up in the kitchen. The early days with kids for me was really hard. I can only now image how hard it was for my wife back then, I had so many expectations. I was selfish and self centred with absolutely no self awareness at all - not that I think I'm perfect now, far from it.

I feel quite emotional writing this note - my two boys are the most important thing in my life. I would do anything for them, yet a lot of the time I feel like I don't do enough. Not that I have to prove this to anyone, but I know I am a very different person today than I was even 5 years ago. It's taken me a lot to realise how quickly my boys are growing up. Everyone tells you this, everyone shares their words of wisdom, "spend time with them, they grow up so quickly". Sure, we know this, consciously. But, how well did I know it? Not well enough. I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way, but man, kids are hard - like really hard - especially in the early days.

They're 9 and 7 years of age now, I have no idea where the time went. It feels like it was yesterday I was holding Julius in my arms after birth, all wrapped up, watching the 2014 world cup in the middle of the night because I was the only one that he would settle with. It's funny, Saxon too was the only one that would settle to my voice while being treated with phototherapy. I felt wanted, I felt needed, I felt as though I had a real purpose.

The sleepless nights, the screaming, the crying, the tantrums, the chaos, the clutter, the noise, the mess. Was it all real, or merely a reflection of my inner world? Sometimes I wish I could go back and be different, act different, think different, treat them different. But I can't. I only have now. Maybe my experiences have shaped me to who I am today, or is that just an excuse to make me feel better about the situation? Nonetheless, I still feel so much emotion. Google reminds me of all the time we spent together, all the experiences we have shared, we'll never forget them.

In that moment, it was hard. I'd never done it before. You can read all the books you want but until you experience it, you feel like it's never going to end. They say we're here to teach our kids, but I think we've got it all wrong. I think my boys are here to teach me. They're my toughest teachers, but I am learning - a slow student, but I am learning, and they are very patient with me. They're my best friends. They empower me, and they make me feel as though I can do anything.

I look back now and reflect on how fast time has gone by. Moments watching them crawl, their first smile, their first word, their first day at school, to "no daddy, I can do it", the years are speeding by. And one day, which is not that far away, the house will be quiet again, clean again, clutterless again, no more lego, no more stones, bark, or sticks in the most random places, no more soccer boots to wash, no more bedtime stories to tell, no more school drop off, and lots of no mores that I am yet to experience. And it's for these reasons I drop them off to school, I pick them up from school, I'm at every athletics day, every cross country carnival, every swimming carnival, every soccer training, every game, every damn thing I can get to. It's why my days are far less structured than they used to be. It's why I'm up until all hours of the night. I'll make my money tomorrow, but today, I want something money can't buy.

While I wipe the tears from my eyes, let me tell you how this relates to investing. Just like my experience with my two boys, I understand that every day can feel hard. It's chaotic, it's a mess, sometimes there's smiles, sometimes there's tears, and the bad days just feel like they're never going to end, and you just want out. You're so emotional that you can't see the forest for the trees.

The table below shows the performance of the U.S. stock market over different rolling time horizons using annualized returns.

Using just one-year intervals of time, the market can be a roll of the dice. Unfortunately, if you were to just choose a one-year period at random, there would be a significant chance of losing money. In fact, the chance of a positive return in any given day is just 53.4%. However, as the timeframes get longer – the animation goes to 5-year, 10-year, and then 20-year rolling periods – the frequency of losses rapidly decreases. By the time you get to the 20-year windows, there isn’t a single instance in which the market had a negative return.

After you've played the game for long enough, you work it out. If you're conscious and aware, you work it out sooner. Others go on for years without a clue. Yet everyone, at some point in time wishes - wishes that you could go back. Wishes that you had thought differently, acted differently, invested more, invested more frequently.

Depending on how soon you crack the game will dictate how you experience your moments ahead. The probability of positive returns over 1 month increases from 53.4% (daily) to 63%, 3 months - 69.5%, 1 year - 77.5%, 3 years - 87.3%, 5 years - 92.6%, and 10 years - 97.3%. The days will go by and soon the days will become years, and the sooner you understand and realise this, it will make a world of a difference for you and your family. The longer you leave it, or the longer it takes you, it will be harder, much harder.

I've been investing personally for over 20 years, I've made and lost money through the commodity boom and bust, the GFC, the European Debt Crisis, Brexit, Covid, the recovery, and everything in between. And I've been investing right through it all. In the moment, it's hard. The headlines, the volatility, the fear mongering, the noise - it feels as though it's never going to end. And just like that, I look back at how quickly that 20 years has gone by and how much markets have evolved. Below, the US stock market is up +571% during this time.

Enjoy it. It's not as bad as it seems. It will be over. Your emotions are probably making the situation far worse than it actually is. It's the tough moments that make or break you. Tough times never last, but tough people do.

The days are long, but the years are short.


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