I just finished watching my son's 5th soccer game in 3 days. His team, the Mavericks, took 2nd at the Danville Stampede Invitational Soccer Tournament. In the final match, his team was facing a team they had beaten earlier in the tournament. The Mavericks went down 1-0 in the first 20 minutes and never recovered their winning momentum. They ended up losing 3-0, as their heads bobbed lower and lower.
I had never before seen my son so inconsolable. He fell into tears at the end of the game and no amount of "terrific teamwork, guys" from the coaches, or "that was a tough loss" from the other parents, or "great game, Eli" from his teammates would bring him out of his black hole. He sat silently in the grass as I helped him take off his cleats and shin guards. He walked silently to the car. And he remained silent in the back seat all the way home. He still wouldn't talk about the game a few hours later. Not even promises of his favorite "Ici" ice cream lightened his dark mood.
By morning, he was his usual buoyant self, looking forward to his next soccer practice. We talked about learning to lose with grace and the fact that nothing is more important than bringing your very best to the game, since that's the only thing that's 100 percent in your control. Ninety-nine percent of the time, everyone that gets to that final match deserves to be on the playing field and has a chance to win. But there are too many moving parts to really understand why a match might go one way or the other on any given day. Winning isn't pure chance, but chance plays a critical role alongside natural ability, discipline, practice and sheer force of will. In the end, we all win some and lose some, but you need to keep putting on your cleats if you want to come out ahead.
This is how it works in personal finance, as well. So why is winning in the investment game usually defined by the financial press as outperforming the market? According to their rules, you don't just need to earn enough money to realize your financial goals in order to win. You need to beat the markets. Every quarter. That's a feat not even the Warren Buffets of the world can pull off! Given all the variables that exist in personal finance, some time periods you will outperform the markets, and some you won't. But play your best game for enough seasons, and the final score will likely be in your favor.
Like I told my son, after you lose a championship game, the next season starts the very next day. The same principal applies to the stock market. When you experience a setback in your personal finances one quarter, don't let "underperforming" in the short-term cast you into the depths of despair. Put your cleats back on, and continue working towards your financial goals during the next quarter, and all the quarters that follow. Underperforming over a few months or a few years is not the equivalent of losing the financial game for life. No matter how dire things seem in the moment, there will be plenty of time to turn things around before the referee blows the final whistle -- so get back out on the field and play to succeed. Winning, like outperformance, is overrated.
Jonathan K. DeYoe, AIF and CPWA, is the founder and president of DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley, California, and blogs at the Happiness Dividend Blog. Financial planning and investment advisory services offered through DeYoe Wealth Management, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations to any individual. For your individual planning and investing needs, please see your investment professional.