Warm rays of sun seep through every available sliver of open space, but the dense canopy of fruit trees around you absorbs almost every ounce of sunlight. Welcome to a beautiful paradise of possibilities. These heavy-laden trees are bending gently under the weight of so much fruit, so grab a basket, sun hat, and let’s get to work. Because there is so much opportunity, it won’t be possible for us to harvest everything in sight. Therefore we must, from the start, exercise wisdom. Perhaps a company would harvest all the produce and separate it later, but no individual person has the time or energy to proceed in that way, so our harvesting must be very intentional. You must look circumspectly at the fruit you are picking, as the basket is only so big and gets heavier to manage as the day’s work progresses. Everything is going to plan, our baskets are looking full and promising. We may even start to dream of all we can make with this fruit: jams aplenty, pies to the sky, canning jars to fill our pantries for a great length of time. Abundance. It’s a great feeling.
But suddenly, the fast-moving clouds above us turn from a pristine white to a sullen gray. The calm in the orchard is replaced with an unsettling wind that grows ever firmer as it presses into our now edgy desire to find a quick exit. Unexpectedly, we see a new arrival of fruit harvesters. It would seem the perfect time to leave the orchard and head home. Why are these harvesters making their appearance now, at this late hour? The winds pick up to an even greater forcefulness, shaking the trees, scattering ripe fruit far and near. Our own arms begin to falter and we desperately watch the spillage of a great quantity of our lovely fruit, fruit that we worked so hard to judge and gather earlier in the day. Much to our dismay, the new batch of fruit pickers is right there to snatch our losses, along with all the fruit the wind has knocked asunder. Why did we work so hard all day to have it culminate this way and will there be anything left by the time this rough shaking is over?
Gradually the winds relent and the late-in-time harvesters make their joyful departure, taking with them a vast volume of fruit collected with relative ease. We are left with a fraction of our original bounty and will have to begin anew to fill our baskets. There is not nearly the same alacrity available with which to retrace our steps and the work is much more tedious and tense than before.
And now the parable unfolded. The fruit trees are the investments a person might choose, examples of which could be individual stocks, index funds, real estate ventures, bonds, or any other income-producing asset. The basket represents the available resources a person has. Each person’s resources are finite, therefore limiting what choices each person can make in their investing. This process of choosing investments requires great wisdom and discernment as rotten “fruit” (or bad investments) will hamper your ability to stockpile for the future. Aim to fully understand, to capture the essence of what you invest in. Don’t leave it to a hireling to make these choices for you. Blind investing is like blind fruit picking. The wind represents forces outside of the investors control, be they global fears, disease, unstable governments, wars, or any such thing that might shake investor confidence. When these winds unleash their exceptional power, many harvesters (investors) fail to maintain their position. When they do this, there are those investors waiting at the outskirts of the orchard, perfectly timing their entrance to extract maximum value with minimum expenditure. The lesson of the parable, if not abundantly clear already, is to expect the winds to blow. They always have and they always will. Expect that if you are not solidly maintaining your position when that day comes, others will be there, ready to profit from your toxic cocktail: a lack of resolve, a lack of a sound investing philosophy, and no true understanding of what you were invested in or why. Stand fast! Know the value of your investments and then prove it by being unshakable. If you chose with your eyes open, then remember your fruit is just as lovely while being pounded with gale force winds as it was in the peaceful, steady sunshine. If you smell rotten fruit among your investments, let today be the day you divest yourself of such things. If you feel unsure of what sort of fruit/investments you are holding, I recommend JL Collins’ The Simple Path to Wealth and also Jack Bogle’s Little Book of Commonsense Investing as a helpful starting place.
Here’s to a happy, well-honed harvest. Invest wisely, steady and ready yourself for a variety of market conditions, and know that your longterm vision and resolution will ensure a stockpile of fruitful abundance.