My Dad was born during the First World War. When he was not quite 8 years old his father took off, leaving Dad and his now single Mum to negotiate the Depression by themselves. Dad got a job when he was 16, and stayed in that job for the next 43 years, interrupted only by another World War and a tour of duty overseas.
As a vocation it was far from Dad’s first preference. But it was secure, meant he could provide for his family, and offered advancement prospects if he was prepared to put in, and do things like extra study. Which he did. He retired as the CEO of the Melbourne division of the company, a director of the parent company and a life member of Melbourne Rotary.
I had a bit to do with his investment portfolio in his later years. Not that I did any investing, he was on top of all that. But I wrote him a simple piece of software for his new-fangled desktop PC, to help with the record-keeping.
None of this points to a man prone to big risk-taking. So, what did the portfolio look like?
It was nearly all shares. Australian listed companies, chosen primarily for their good dividend prospects. Sprinkled in amongst them were some fixed-interest investments backed by solid companies.
In some sections of today’s finance industry this would be regarded as a high-risk portfolio. Not to Dad. He understood how business works, he knew not to put too much in any one stock. He cared about the dividends, and never showed any hint of concern about fluctuating share prices. To him it was just common sense, based on principles that have stood the test of time.
This was before the days of managed funds and the like, with their attraction of professional input to investment selection. I know of at least one managed fund today that owes a debt to Dad’s philosophy.
He and Mum lived comfortably in their retirement. I think the only thing that caused him any stress about his investments was trying to navigate the quirks of his admin system, without upsetting the programmer.
There’s a lesson there somewhere. Maybe a few.