As a child I grew up thinking that I would one day run the Comrades marathon. I read somewhere older athletes were better suited to the long distance, which was the excuse a clung to until the dream faded into middle age. I remember fondly waking up to the sound of the TV as the leaders passed through Polly Shortts on the Durban to Pietermaritzburg route.
Polly Shortts is a steep uphill stretch approximately 2km long and only 8km from the end of the 90km race, very few runners other than the top guys make it up Polly without having to walk. This provides the opportunity for the commentator to interview the runners who are all smiles knowing full well that with only had 10 km to go they will surely make it. Of course, this was not my favourite stage of the race, which was reserved for the final minute of the race.
Just imagine you’ve trained a lifetime for the race, which started at 5h30 and now 17h29 you are 100 metres away from the finish line with a minute to go; you can see the starter gun raised in the air and your legs just quit. Does one give-up? Hell no, you start to crawl.
You’re operating instinctively, your rational brain switched off hours ago. Someone makes a hopeless attempt of taking you under the arm only to drop you as dead weight as they dash for the line. You try stand but crumble to ground as both your legs give way simultaneously, your race is run, you hear the agonising crack of the gun and see the smoke drift into the air. All that is left is to lie there and wait for the stretcher, you shed a tear. Now what, has this to do with investing…….
Absolutely nothing, other than the fact that SA investors may be forgiven for feeling a similar fatigue to the poor bugger described above. The current flood of bad news must equate to at least 89km of gruelling pain and self-doubt.
The rational desire to quit the pain by simply opting out bears a striking to resemblance to those investors switching into cash and / or divesting from SA. However, the runners have a massive advantage over investors as they know how far they have run and how far they must still run to finish the race. Unfortunately for investors it is impossible to call the bottom of the cycle, other than to state there is always a bottom, but this provides little comfort when prices plunge to new lows and the irrational brain is screaming sell!
For investors the pitfall is focusing solely on the bad news and forgetting that the bad news is already in the price. Selling at or near the bottom of a cycle is like quitting the race with the stadium in sight for fear of not making the cut-off time. You have crystalized the temporary paper-loss and made it permanent, your race is run.
Don’t quit now rather crawl.

Mark Williams
Mcomm, CFP®, HdipTax
T. 021-851 3746

Don’t quit now, rather crawl; there will always be an upside
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