The Accidental Investor: Getting Old, Staying Bold

Despite killer hurricanes, getting older and facing all sorts of financial turmoil, there is always a case for staying the course…

I was standing in a queue at a supermarket yesterday, pouring through a copy of You Magazine. It was a long slow-moving queue, okay? There was a lot to enjoy – especially if you are a fan of the British Royal family, (apparently the red haired prince is about to propose to a what looks like a clone of the dark-haired princess who married his older brother.) But somewhere near the back of the magazine there was a double page spread on how Hollywood had banded together at a telethon to help raise funds for the victims of the recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

This caught my eye and bestirred my mind in ways that I could not instantly fathom. As a writer and all round observer of human behaviour, this was too fascinating to resist. What could I, and others, learn here?

There were photographs and names of people like Bruce Willis and Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney and Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks and Richard Gere and Daniel Craig and Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx and they all had lollipop signs reading, ‘call me’.

Three things struck me about this article on reflection – firstly, that celebrities can have more active empathy than a federal government, secondly that every one of the stars was smiling and laughing and looking as though they were having the best time, and thirdly that they all looked so old.

I decided to tackle these observations one at a time and see where they led me.

To the first point I decided that – even if you take a sourly cynical standpoint as I often do – it’s still got to be a good thing that busy human beings of whatever occupation can make the time to get together and entice over $44m of aid relief from their fans and followers.

To the second point, I recognised the fact that it feels good to be doing good, and so it’s understandable that these multimillionaire stars of the silver screen can be caught on camera smiling and laughing and generally goofing off as they go about their charity work. [Apart from Daniel Craig, who looked particularly sour, and who seemed to take to the task with the grim determination of a hit man on holiday.]

And to the third point – I remembered that it takes time to generate gravitas – to earn the kind of influence, credibility and sheer phone-call pulling power of an entertainment icon – or an icon of any industry for that matter.

(This last recognition will be of particular solace to those of us that take briefs from and have to revert to clients that are only slightly older than our own children, but who lack all of the respect and caution that we have managed to instil in them since we started wiping their bottoms and eventually paying their university fees.)

Added to these generally satisfying observations was the fact that last week my stage adaptation of The Old Man and the Sea opened at the Theatre on the Square in Sandton.

Featuring a very different kind of aged celebrity – a humble out-of-luck fisherman in a nondescript Cuban village in the 1950’s – the play tells the story of how an iron will to fight can be so much more powerful than a desperate desire to quit. How the wisdom acquired with age can be used to compensate for a loss of physical strength. And how a caring community of impoverished human beings can come together to protect and preserve the least useful and most needy among them.

For local investors who are facing their own type of political and economic hurricane with all sorts of forecasts of devastation, perhaps the lesson is to draw on our own wisdom – and the wisdom of others – to remain calm, steady and determined. While this may mean sticking to your original plan or making slight changes, the key is to stay the course and believe in your initial plan. In the midst of a storm, it is usually wisdom, patience and empathy that wins out…