Saturday 15 June 2024

Finance Investment Movement 46

A colleague, S, left the office to become a stay home mum. For months, S had struggled to make this decision. There's three mouths to feed and they're less than ten years old. Despite her husband being a geospatial engineer and drawing a good salary, cost of living pressures meant that her income was critical to maintain living standards. Yet, it was he who encouraged her to quit. Other colleagues mentioned that they had been having conflicts at home. For a period of time, their children took turns to fall sick and both had to take leave often which caused disharmony at work. In the end, S chose family. I enquired the opinions of her supervisor and heads of other departments. Everyone acknowledged her hardworking attitude and friendly disposition. However, S had probably hit the ceiling in her role as sales manager. Her numbers had not improved for months (maybe even years), there was no drive to meet clients or chase new projects. Over time, she had become more of an administrator and deviated from a senior role model. S was deemed to have stagnated and occupied an awkward position. The company could not reassign nor demote her. Such actions meant a big salary drop. On the day of departure, it was an emotional and tearful one.

Investing is tough work. When do you take profit or cut loss? How much faith to hold onto a position or idea? I thought the working life of S is a great example of a financial journey. It is full of ups and downs. It needs careful nurturing. When a person puts money into an investment eg stock, there's a conviction and commitment. It takes time to prove the worthiness of this initiation. Just like S who first joined the company and grew from a rookie salesperson into her managerial role. For the first ten years, things turned out great as she progressed smoothly with ease. A stock may also be a winner during this period and churn out dividends along with capital gains as a company excelled. Both of these situations met expectations. There's nothing much else to do, right?

S started well and settled comfortably. Too comfortable in fact. That's a mistake. It was in difficult times such as financial crisis and Covid that her sales figures were closely scrutinized, much like how a stock slowly drifts downwards during business downcycle. The realization of this decline caused a dilemma. Is it better to cash out and perhaps take a small loss? Should it allow time to recover? After all, S had been with the company for so long. She basically stopped growing in the last ten years and chose to cruise along. In my opinion, the killer blow occurred when S was somehow unmotivated to reset her thoughts and try new sales approach. Her burden increased with each new kid while she remained in situ. I liken this to a stock with no catalyst when the business environment was unfavorable and expenses continued to increase. Her career was like a tree that decomposed from within. The eventual outcome was predictable.

If a person (or a stock) does not have good foundation and seek improvement, a weak hand will sooner or later be exposed. S had planted firm roots in the beginning but forgot to add some fertilizers along the way. She was clearly lagging, disrupted by work and personal issues, then got squeezed out of the last tiny wiggle room she thought she had. The company witnessed her youth formation, marriage and motherhood but couldn't save her job. Still, she left a sweet encouragement note with a dose of gratitude. I asked her on the next steps. She said to take a temporary break, go for retraining and find a new job that suits her lifestyle. Probed further on the interest areas or preferred jobs, S shrugged and just smiled. In investing, it's important to identify one's risk appetite, goal, product preference and act to achieve it. Then it's about making small changes and adapt accordingly. Otherwise, as the story of S had shown, time could also be an Achilles heel.

Tip: Pastourelle Clerc Milon 2021, fresh violet, inviting and appetizing, light touch on the palate

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