Ya’ Can’t Lose ‘em All

I don’t know when I first heard that expression, but it was pretty early on. For me, its strength comes from three of the five words.

The first is obvious. Substituting “lose” for the far better known “win” signals that something worth listening to – or at least unusual — is afoot.

The next two might be a little less obvious. Try replacing “Ya’” with “you” and “‘em” with “them” and see whether soul crushing despair sets in. The expression proceeds directly from “what did he say?” to “so what.”

My father, known for his belief in the importance of both winning and scorekeeping, was the source of “ya’ can’t lose ‘em all.” He used it mostly for an unusual or unexpected turn of events that led to a better than expected outcome.

It could have been anything from a win over a better opponent to an easy road trip when traffic was expected.

There is more than a hint of passivity to the phrase implying that the participant did little to achieve the outcome. It should not be used when an athlete has fought heroically to victory, but that is not to say that it wasn’t.

It came to mind yesterday when I departed briefly from Haven 6.0 (blogger) and returned to Haven 5.0 (investment manager). Every quarter I check in with Sanford Bernstein (I still call it that, but they have gone to something trendier) to see how things went over the last 90 days. At the January meeting, I get to focus on an entire year.

I might as well be checking my tire pressure for all the impact I have on the process.

I no longer worry about beating the market; my only thought is to avoid losing too much when things go south as, inevitably, they will. The market has always returned north, and my job is to return north with it. Should it ever not return north, I doubt I will be any worse off than everyone else.

Nor do I check on it every day — let alone every minute of every day — as some clients did when I was looking after them. I have a general sense of when things are going well or badly, but it comes into sharper focus at my quarterly sessions.

Whatever your thoughts on the events of 2019, it was a heck of a year for the stock market. That is good news for later-in-life writers, whose skills are decreasingly valued in the commercial marketplace.

Great years happen some of the time but not all of the time, a little like having your favorite team win a championship. Even though you might have had nothing to do with it, there is no harm in enjoying it.

Pleasant though it was to see the graphs moving gleefully up and to the right (the happy place for financial advisers who spend their lives talking to skeptical clients), that might not have been the best part of the day.

When I laid down my money earning sword, I chose a near contemporary to be “my man” at my old firm. Now, he too is phasing out and our meeting included the first appearance of his replacement.

I have known the successor for years. I might even have interviewed him when he first appeared for an entry-level job fresh out of college. We overlapped for about a decade as his responsibilities increased, but that overlap ended eight years ago when I moved to writing.

I was quite struck by how deftly he handled himself and how insightful he was.

Not every meeting will go as well as yesterday’s, but it is useful to remember that “ya’ can’t lose ‘em all” and to enjoy the ones that do go well even if you had nothing to do with it.

Despite the relentless barrage of bad news to which we are all exposed, it is useful to keep in mind that far more things tend to go well then badly.


6 Responses to “Ya’ Can’t Lose ‘em All”

GARRARD GLENN, January 18, 2020 at 12:23 pm said:

If the markets continue their heady rise, and ultimately go parabolic. you can bet your bottom dollar the ensuing downer will be a lollapalooza. All post-parabolic markets are.

Learn to buy 2X or 3X short market ETFs. When the big one arrives, you’ll make a lot as everything else goes down.
Of course, you have to recognize when the Big One is at hand. Most people aren’t very good at that.

Ask a guru. They’re not too good either.

Good luck! That’s the key.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2020 at 12:32 pm said:

will I be able to do that with my tire pressure gauge?


Peter W Bragdon, January 18, 2020 at 1:22 pm said:

Two days ago I took out a large sum from my TIAA account — banking the fires against the coming downturn. I must add that I know absolutely nothing about playing the market — the Eeyor in me determined this move. Good luck to those who know how to maneuver investments!


Haven Pell, January 18, 2020 at 1:32 pm said:

Taking out all of the money you plan to spend this year is actually quite a good plan. Nobody knows what will happen in the short term and a year is definitely short term. You are bringing me back to Haven 5.0.


Richard Meyer, January 18, 2020 at 1:33 pm said:

I know far too many who panicked during the Great Recession and pulled all or much of their money from the market. I did not, and am better for it.
As Keynes said, in the long run we’ll all be dead.


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