There are only three things you need to be a good parent - patience, patience, patience. What about love, affection, attention and other such things, you'd ask. Sure, that's important as well. But while those things, in most cases, come naturally, patience is something that needs to be cultivated. The lack of patience leads to stress. Stress leads to frustration. Frustration leads to anger. And anger leads to bad parenting.
Now think about this in terms of investing and you'll realise where this column is heading. Parenting and investing are both long-term processes. The immediate effects of any decision that you take are rarely satisfying, but the long-term results can be copacetic if you have the patience. Ironically, you need to be patient to cultivate patience. And that is not easy. The markets, much like your children, will behave erratically. They'll do things that are out of your control. The more you try to be patient with them, investments as well as children, the more they'll make you lose your patience. It's a vicious circle.
But there's no way around it. If you lose your patience, you lose the chance of enjoying the fruits of your efforts. The market is at some kind of a new high as I write this, with the Sensex hovering around 29k. A couple of weeks back, it had crashed by 800-odd points in a single day. Somewhat similarly, my 4-year-old son behaves like an angel on some days but on other days, he won't eat his food properly, will throw around his toys when we have guests over or just be unrelentingly stubborn about something he wants. Such instances are when parents easily lose their patience. But scolding or smacking the kid is hardly the solution. Just the way stopping your SIPs when the markets fall or investing a lump sum when the markets are high is not the way to go about with your investments.
These are decisions that are taken under the influence of impatience. They're almost guaranteed to fail. I know my son isn't going to become the best-behaved boy in the world if I scold him, but he might listen to me if I calmly keep telling him why he should or shouldn't do certain things. The markets, on the other hand, are never going to listen to what anyone has to say. They have a mind of their own, which makes it even more futile to lose your patience with them. Just stick to your investment plan and you'll be set to meet your goals and objectives. The market's misbehaviour won't matter in the long run, but any decision you take after losing your patience will.
This story first appeared in January 2015.