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Less Is More

Jiab Wasserman, 3:17 am ET

I RECENTLY INJURED my lower back playing tennis. I rested for a day and then decided I was well enough to resume my usual activities. But my haste worsened the pain, extending my recuperation to more than a week. Every move—even sneezing—hurt. Putting on my pants was a major struggle. I was forced to do nothing except rest.

Doing nothing was the one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Ironically, at the time of my injury, I was working with Jim on writing a book on Daoism, and I happened to be focusing on the idea of wu wei or “nonaction.” The notion: We shouldn’t act unnecessarily and instead do so only when we absolutely have to.

In the Dao De Ching, Lao Tzu cautions against interfering with the state of things. He sees the world as one of precious balance, where an action that isn’t carefully considered might easily lead to an avalanche of unwanted effects before balance is eventually restored.

This got me thinking about the financial world—and about how much better off we’d be if we adopted this kind of cautionary thinking by investing in index funds, keeping costs low and interfering with our portfolio’s natural growth as little as possible. History has shown it’s extremely difficult to beat the market averages year in and year out.

Sometimes, a rush to action hurts us. As Warren Buffett once observed, “The stock market is a device to transfer money from the impatient to the patient.”

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Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
4 months ago

This post reminds me of the Fidelity study which found their most successful clients, from the perspective of their personal returns, had one thing in common. They were all dead (and therefore could not fiddle with their investments.) Once you have a good plan, I think it’s best just to let your portfolio ride. Rebalance now and then as necessary to maintain your risk profile, and that’s it.

Good luck with your back, I hope it improves fast.

Last edited 4 months ago by Roboticus Aquarius
Jiab Wasserman
Jiab Wasserman
4 months ago

Thanks. My back has improved and I am back on the tennis court!

rgscl
rgscl
4 months ago

As someone who has hurt his back more than once, I am fully empathize. Feel better and I like the Buffet quote 🙂

Jiab Wasserman
Jiab Wasserman
4 months ago
Reply to  rgscl

Thank you and my back is much better:)

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
4 months ago

Yes, good luck with your back. My wife and I have likewise been there and it’s a special hell.

As for investments and inaction, I’m reminded of the indexer’s credo: “Don’t just do something….sit there!”

Jiab Wasserman
Jiab Wasserman
4 months ago

lol.. so true. It is so hard to just sit there. Thanks for your well wishes. I feel much better.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
4 months ago

Jiab, I hope you feel better soon. I’ve had lower back issues and they are no fun.

Jiab Wasserman
Jiab Wasserman
4 months ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Thanks. It was the worst back pain I have ever have. I am much better now.

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