Maintenance Man

Age 10

When my Mum used to say “a stitch in time saves nine”. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. You see as a child I had never sewn anything or repaired anything. So the idea that you should catch a loose thread early or else it will take much longer to fix in the future, mean’t nothing to me. I’m now 55 and I remember buttons being sewn back on, trouser hems re-stiched and the knees of my jeans being caught with stitches as the merest hole threatened to tear straight across. Clothes had to last longer back then. They needed maintenance.

Age 20

As time goes on we all make our mistakes. Many of which were preventable if we had just taken some action much earlier. I’ve run out of petrol twice in my life. It should have only taken once to teach me that lesson. But on the first occasion I ground to a halt only 100 yards from my chosen petrol station. I got out of the car, bounced the rear end a few times, got back in, re-started the car and made it to the pumps. Having got away with it the first time I hadn’t learnt my lesson. The half mile walk of shame on the second occasion did the re-education job. Maintaining the amount of fuel you have in the car is second nature to us all.

Age 50

I reached age 50 and decided to run again. When I say again, It’s not that I had ever competed in the past. In fact since I was 11 I think the only running I had ever done was the occasional sprint for the bus to school. Sure I knocked a ball around on a 7-a-side pitch for several years, but that didn’t prepare me for the long slog that leads to 10 mile runs. My first run was only 1.65 miles, and I stopped twice! Gradually I could do 3 miles, then 5 miles and so on. As many of you know I have completed a few half-marathons. Today I try to run 2 or 3 times a week, 3 to 4 miles a time to keep fit and keep trim. I’m not training for anything big or trying to make money for charity, although I am running the Manchester Half in a few weeks time. No, it’s just maintenance. Over 2000 miles of maintenance. A stitch in time hopefully.

Rust Never Sleeps.
Neil Young 1979

A Dull Thankless Task
  • Maintenance is inconvenient.
  • Maintenance takes time.
  • Maintenance is repetitive.
  • Maintenance costs money.
  • Maintenance takes you away from the more exciting things that you would rather do.
  • Maintenance never brings any breakthroughs.
  • Maintenance benefits are hard to see.

Way before 9/11 there was a call to fit locks to aircraft flight deck doors. It didn’t happen then. I’ve tried to research who had the vision to recommend the locks, but even Google was no help. If the locks had been fitted back then, would the guy who suggested the door locks be less anonymous now? I don’t think so. You see 9/11 may never have happened if the locks had been fitted. Nobody is ever remembered as being the guy famous for preventing something from happening, that then never happened.

Rest of my days

I have become a maintenance man. That glamour job was never suggested to me as appropriate at any school careers talk. I maintain an ever increasing level of life savings for 185 families. Last week we re-balanced all of our model portfolios. I’m sure you saw the notifications from our wrap providers. It is dull, time-consuming yet essential maintenance. It means our investments don’t get out-of-kilter, it also allows us to get rid of a few laggards and bring in some new opportunities. Just maybe it helps avert a disaster. But if a future disaster has been averted, it would be impossible to tell right now.

8 Replies to “Maintenance Man”

  1. Thanks to your excellent maintenance of our finances over more than 10 years we are currently maintaining our tans in Barcelona prior to the Grand Prix. (I’ve run out of petrol once, though Sheila is convinced it’s only a matter of time. I should switch to the cautious petrol plan)
    Many thanks, Allan and Sheila

    1. Hi Guys

      Enjoy the Grand Prix! Heads will roll if any drivers run out of fuel over the weekend. 🙂

  2. I like doing maintenance especially when there is something to show for, I’ll have a go at most things. However there are certain maintenance jobs I leave to the professionals like plastering and very importantly, personal finance!

    1. Hi Peter

      Plastering! Now that’s a dark art. Like you I can put my hands to most things, but plastering is a job from only professionals. It’s a good job I met Vinnie 17 years ago. He’s done most of my house since.

  3. Hi Howard

    To my mind it’s not just a matter of “maintenance” more like monitoring, evaluating the situation, making valued professional judgments and most importantly taking necessary actions.

    Thank you and all the best

  4. Thanks Howard always enjoy reading your blogs! Valuable life lessons we should all apply to our daily lives. Enjoy the cruise!

  5. Hello Howard

    I like the look of the Drax and Cohort companies.   I have set up a spreadsheet to keep better track and I’m surprised that you have kept SSE and Centrica, both the worst performers. Given the manifesto statements about energy prices I’d think things would be getting more difficult, or do they have very good dividends.  Also the American Health and Pharm has been not performing well, again with Trump hitting drug prices and the mess of the state care I’d think this was difficult.  I know that it has been one of your best performers in the past.

    But taking the investments as a whole I am impressed.

    1. Hi Phil

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s good to see clients taking such an interest. When we simply owned large faceless funds, who new what was in there? Nothing to comment on.

      The third recent addition to our portfolios was a company called Mears. It joined along with Drax and Cohort. You are correct we have not sold any shares on this rebalance, even the poor performers. Here’s why.

      I’m not particularly chasing performance, neither am I trading viciously in the short term. That simply adds costs. Every share I have chosen does a job. Centrica and SSE are part of the group of companies that we are all addicted to. If we didn’t pay these companies we would get cut off. If they didn’t pay dividends we wouldn’t hold them, as it’s those dividends that we receive that in turn go towards paying our utility bills. As a business model it will survive the long term. Like all companies utilities will face challenges. Currently we have some political posturing as an election is upon us. Let’s not believe all manifesto promises that suggest price caps and indeed re-nationalisation!

      One of the seven deadly sins in investing is favouriting any particular share and investment. Our Health and Pharm fund has been a long term hold. I sold over half of it well before Trump’s recent comments. In fact it was Hilary who was going to challenge US drug prices originally. I bought the Technology fund to diversify away.

      So another two areas that we are hooked on. Drugs and Technology. Both long term holds. Both will experience their great periods along with their dog days. As most of the companies within these funds are based in the US, I do expect a gradual clawback of some of our currency gains achieved by Sterling’s gradual strengthening in the future.

      The bottom line is I have absolutely no idea as to which part of the portfolio will out perform or under perform next, but I’m hoping that overall I have the correct balance.

      It’s what we don’t hold that is telling. Banks, Basic Raw Materials, Oil Exploration and Supermarkets. I’m likely to avoid those sectors for some time to come.

      As always keep your comments coming, I’m sure the answers are interesting to my other clients too.


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