Sometimes, when you take a superficial look at things, you really don’t see the beauty.
I have to admit that while I’m not a real glossy person in life and while I’ve never been one to look for thrills or seek to stand out, I do like stocks that have character.
In a perverse way, I think that I may even like stocks that treat me poorly.
There is probably a name for that sort of thing and there is probably a diagnosis that goes along with the propensity to get some joy out of misfortune.
In case you don’t know the term, it is Schadenfreude.
This week, though, it was a different Germanic word that came to mind, as I marked the end of an almost 2 year association with the shares of Weyerhaeuser.
During that time, I never really even learned how to spell its name without having to look it up, even as “Schadenfreude” comes as second nature.
Like the camera pictured above, sometimes the actual appearance of things doesn’t really tell the story of its beauty.
That utilitarian looking camera, almost appearing as if it was something designed in the former Soviet Union during one of its more bleak moments, was actually a collaboration between Leica and the Hermes fashion house.
I rarely thought about those Weyerhaeuser shares. They were in my portfolio since June 2015 and they never gave me much in the way of emotional highs, nor lows.
But as I look back at those shares, as undistinguished as they may have been, they were a true superstar.
They just did it quietly and without too much fanfare.
In fact, in the nearly 24 months of holding, despite the existence of weekly options, I only held options contracts on the shares on 9 occasions.
That’s because there were times when I held no contracts and then there were times when I tied up the short call positions for months at a time.
Before I talk about how my approach to investing is shifting, a few words about the Weyerhaeuser performance.
In the 22 3/4 months of its holding, those shares returned 23.5%, when including its dividend.
That’s pretty good, but as anyone knows, you always have to assess performance relative to something else.
If you assume that individual stock picking is a crap shoot, then if you ascribe to the concept of “opportunity costs,” your next best investment alternative can’t be another individual stock.
It has to be a mindless index.
In that case, the S&P 500, including dividends, was up 15.5% in the same period.
My investing objective for at least the past decade, has been to beat the index by 1% each year.
I always based that on how much more quickly the miracle of compounding would allow me to double my money.
I always looked at a 7% annual return as my standard and at that annual rate it would take about 10 years to double assets.
At an 8% annual return, that doubling would only take 9 years.
As my actuarial table sees fewer years ahead of me, that one less year seems awfully appealing.
In the case of Weyerhaeuser versus the S&P 500, there was an 8% differential over the course of less than 2 years.
At the same time, there was little fuss and little bother.
Best of all, mediocrity ruled.
The shares returned only 4.5% during that time. The rest was from dividends and option premiums.
I think I could aspire to mediocrity and I think that I am now at that stage in life that I don’t need to get more of that perverse good feeling from some of those more volatile positions that had given me so much enjoyment in the past.
What I have seen in this past months and certainly there were signs of it in the past year, is that as there are opportunities to roll over short options, I’m increasingly looking at weeks or even moths at a time, rather than just a week at a time.
Maybe that’s because volatility is so low by any historical standard and the relative costs of trading to the premiums received for shorter term contracts is just too onerous.
But maybe it’s a mellowing out, as I always knew that someday I would evolve into a LEAPS strategy utilizing attractive dividend paying stocks.
Weyerhaeuser may now be gone, but it may just be that first step toward the rest of my investing life.