All About the Quest

Richard Quinn

OUR ANNUAL INTEREST and dividend income in 2024 will exceed my inflation-adjusted pay as a mailroom boy in 1961. Of course, back then, I earned a bit over minimum wage. It’s been a long journey.

Below are the daily net portfolio gains and losses for the third and fourth weeks of last month. These figures reflect our cash account, index and actively managed stock funds, corporate and municipal bond funds, two utility stocks and two variable annuities. The two annuities date from my 40s, when I was more vulnerable to sales pitches.

March’s third week: Monday +$8,661, Tuesday +$7,373, Wednesday +$10,850, Thursday +$2,796, Friday +$9,161. Overall, we were up $38,841 for the week.

March’s fourth week: Monday -$2,440, Tuesday -$2,777, Wednesday +$17,514, Thursday -$477. On Friday, the markets were closed. For the week, we ended up $11,820.

During the first week, every day was positive. Still, we didn’t do nearly as well as the S&P 500, but we shouldn’t expect to, given our investment mix. Interestingly, the majority of the gain on the Friday was from our two individual stocks.

I didn’t do as well the second week. On the Monday, our two individual stocks again gained, limiting our portfolio’s loss. Is this the power of diversification?

What does it all mean? Not much. You shouldn’t read too much into a portfolio’s daily performance, but it’s fun to see how far out of sync you may be with the markets.

In the first quarter, our total portfolio—including reinvestment of dividends and interest—increased 15%, while the S&P 500’s total return was almost 11%. Don’t get me wrong, no bragging here. I have no grand strategy. I didnt do anything to earn that money.

Instead, the magic of the markets did all the work. Passive investing, they call it. In my case, its more like unconscious investing. I dont analyze each piece of the pie. I just want the pie to grow.

Perhaps we did do something to earn this money or, at least, to amass our portfolio. The less visible part of the story is 62 years of investing, reinvesting and compounding interest. I can trace it all to 1961’s payroll deductions of $25 a month to buy savings bonds and $5 a week for the employee stock purchase plan.

From the first day I started investing, I sought to become a millionaire. It seemed to be the traditional goal. Adjusted for inflation, I haven’t come close. Yes, I know accumulating money isn’t what life is all about. Instead, for me, the quest is the thing. If I knew how to use a spreadsheet, I’d generate a graph showing a steady increase in our net worth over many decades. I suspect the great majority of HumbleDollar readers could do the same.

I’m content to think of myself as an example of what’s possible with steady saving and investing over many years. If I can do it, just about anyone with patience can.

While I feel optimistic about our portfolio at the moment, I’ve been around long enough to know this is a rollercoaster and the next downward part of the ride is always coming. I just hope it’s a kiddie ride and diversification does its job.

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