Things That I’m Thankful For

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Thanksgiving. While seemingly every other holiday has been commercialized and distorted, Thanksgiving remains the simple gathering of friends, family and neighbors to enjoy good food and each other’s company. (I will admit to enjoying some people’s company over others, but even those occasional uncomfortable outbursts are part of the memories.)

So, in honor of the holiday, here are some of the things in that my life for which I’m thankful.

My Family

I suppose this isn’t exactly shocking, but it deserves to be said. Granted, I’m your classic – quite boring – family man. I coach my kid’s soccer team – despite having never played soccer – play board games with the family and have neighborhood barbeques. It’s a simple life in many ways, but one I feel fortunate to have.

Besides, whose heart wouldn’t go out to these two girls?


My Health

I’ve been very fortunate in my life. Outside of some pulled muscles playing golf, I’ve never had any health issues. Come to think about it, my brother and sister have never had any issues beyond the occasional sprained ankle either. Therefore, I suppose that I should give thanks to my parents for giving us pretty good genes. (Actually, my 69-year-old mother still unloads hay bales, rides horses daily and plays volleyball, so here are some additional thanks to her in advance.)

My Clients

Ok, ok, I realize that this sounds a bit like I’m sucking up. But I do mean it, and here’s why: I talk with other advisors fairly often. Other advisors biggest complaint is dealing with their clients; indeed, I’d say that for more than a few, they’d love to avoid meeting with their clients at all. When I think of my biggest complaint, it’s the forty hours of continuing education credits I need to get each year, especially since reading books doesn’t count.

My clients have taken the time to understand what we’re doing and why. (Now, I can hope that I’ve had some part in that through my efforts to educate my clients, but as they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.) I can’t overemphasize the importance of that understanding for achieving a success relationship and for making my job dramatically more enjoyable. My clients truly are my partners.

The Stock Market

Wait a minute. Isn’t the stock market evil? Doesn’t it cause people to lose half their money on a regular basis? Doesn’t it cause massive stress?

Well, yes. The stock market can be evil (really, it seems to have a mind of its own at times). The stock market routinely drops by 50% or more. And, yes, the stock market definitely causes people to lose sleep and pop Rolaids like potato chips at times.

However, the stock market also offers regular, middle-class people their best hope at amassing wealth and reaching their financial goals, such as retiring and paying for college. Since 1970, a reasonably diversified stock portfolio has earned 13.3% a year. An initial investment of $10,000 would have grown to $2.36 million. Did that growth come without pain? Absolutely not. From oil embargos to rampant inflation to one day drops of 22% to terrorist attacks to a near Depression, investors endured a seemingly endless barrage of difficulties over that period.

Let’s face it. Investing in stocks – even when done right – is scary. Through proper diversification, we can eliminate some risks and mitigate others, but, at the end the day, risk – big risk – will always be a part of investing in stocks. And thank heavens for that. For it is that risk that we get paid to bear. Without that risk, we would be relegated to investing completely in safe bonds, which barely earn more than inflation. That same $10,000 investment in Treasury bonds would have grown to only $256,000 since 1970. Not bad, but certainly not enough to fund a retirement.

By being able to cheaply invest in the stock market, we are afforded an opportunity that until very recently was the domain of only a sliver of society – the 1% percent, if you will. We can become business owners – albeit in a small way – more easily and more safely that our grandparents could have ever dreamed. And like all business owners, we face many ups and downs, but like all business owners, we have the chance to improve our lives and the lives of our families.

And for that, I’m thankful – at least until the next big drop in the stock market.

About Mark Helm, CFP, EA

Mark Helm is a Certified Financial Planner and Enrolled Agent. He is the founder of Helm Financial Advisors, LLC, a fee-only financial planning firm dedicated to helping people reach their life goals.
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