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Power of Humility
‘What the world needs is more geniuses with humility; there are so few of us left.’
American humorist/composer circa 1970 Oscar Levant (1)
I like to start off almost anything I write with a quote, above is my favourite on this topic.
What does humility really mean in this context? For the practical purpose of improving decision-making in both the practices of investing and medicine, I consider humility as being akin to intellectual honesty, or as a propensity to change one’s mind when presented with disconfirming information. In other words, a humble person may be very bright and talented (and realize this), yet fully ‘own’ their mistakes. This is not to be confused with modesty or self-deprecation.
Why even bother trying to be humble? Overconfidence, anchoring biases and cognitive dissonance all contribute to costly mistakes. Although we will all err and will continue to do so in the future, I believe you are more likely to make the same or similar mistakes repeatedly if you are not humble. With humility, you are less likely to take uncompensated risks.
How do I try to embrace humility? (Note: I wrote ‘try’...)
I’d like to finish up this blog post with a few random comments about 3P (4), The Osler Fund and the nascent New Year.
After several years of planning, negotiation and deal-making--while encountering many dead ends along the way-- we built a functioning turnkey solution specifically designed to help highly time-constrained professionals struggling to save enough for retirement. In other words, people just like us. Making the process user-friendly and yet still flexible enough were pain points we aimed to solve and have become our raison d'être.
When we started on this path, we knew that it wouldn’t be easy. In November 2018, I met a value investment guru I had been hoping to talk to for years: Tim McElvaine. I managed to persuade him to partner with him for our nascent value fund, The Osler Fund. David and I both deeply appreciate Tim’s 30 years of professional value investing experience; we are grateful to have his guidance.
We were fortunate enough to eventually find a compatible team behind a robo-advisor with an uber slick graphic user interface called Wealthbar, out of Vancouver. They have been great to work with and offer an attractive value for their service, particularly compared to the mega-bank/brokers we have been accustomed to (don’t get me started on that topic!). Even more, as we grow, the value added and costs are expected to become more attractive. It’s so nice to be able to deal with all the paperwork without picking up a pen or dealing with a post office, not to mention the real-time chat function that gets you dealing with a real person in seconds if there are any glitches.
On a personal note...2019 has been a long, tough year for my family. We have lost 2 family members and a close family friend, amongst other tragedies. To add to this grief, in my medical practice, I believe I saw more young people die or become neurologically devastated by the twin “F” plagues (‘flu and fentanyl) last year than the 10 years combined prior. Being a critical care physician tends to make you pretty tough, but this was still very difficult. This experience has reinforced the message from the ancient Persian proverb:
“This too, shall pass.”
In my interpretation, the proverb indicates that during hardship, loyalty and persistence will prevail. During the best of times, one must savour the moments, as they are ephemeral.
In stark contrast, I believe 2020 looks good for us. Our platform is working well and we have most of the bugs worked out in the pension onboarding process. The Osler Fund portfolio, in our opinion, is well prepared to exploit potential upside and limit downside in either a nasty correction/recession or an ongoing bull market. More on that in another, future blog post.
Remember to top up your TFSA to the new $6000/annum maximum (up from $5000 in 2019). That portion of your savings will be a boon later in life when tax deductions fall off! We offer TFSAs, RESPs, RRSPs, corporate accounts, personal cash accounts and pension accounts. I encourage you to sign up here:
You can easily transfer part or all your account from another institution or just put in some new money. The minimum is $1000. We appreciate your trust: please realize that every dollar you put in the account is invested alongside my own lifetime savings (including my wife’s) and I pay all the same fees that you do. I sleep well at night because I have faith in TOF’s risk-averse investment process, along with the fact that Wealthbar is backed by the giant institution CI Financial and the CIPF (5).
Finally, our survey results indicated that you wanted more commentaries and investment details. We are somewhat constrained by the securities regulations in what we can publish; however, starting next month I’m going to periodically send out a “Stock Focus” blog that uses one of our portfolio holdings as an example. David and I will send out other investing/personal finance oriented blog posts more frequently as well.
We wish you and your family the best of health and prosperity for 2020!
1. (yes, he’s joking…)
2. One can invert a thesis by asking oneself: “Why is this idea wrong?” Essentially, the same principle as a hypothesis.
3. This fascinating and probably underused tool can be explored further here: https://hbr.org/2007/09/performing-a-project-premortem
4. 3P Financial is a division of McElvaine Investment Management Ltd.
5. To read more about the protection of your hard-earned assets see: https://www.wealthbar.com/security
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