When I was 10 years old I read the classic “Where the Red Fern Grows”. It’s a book about a young boy who adopts two dogs who eventually get into a fight with a mountain lion and die. I hated that book because it was the first time I was really confronted with the concept of death in a deeply emotional way.
When I was 30 I was bike riding through the Englischer Gartens when I came across a flock of sheep. The sheep were at the edge of a road and one decided to cross the road in front of us. And then, as if they were programmed robots, the other hundreds of sheep followed. I turned to my wife and said “this is what financial markets are like” – herds of sheep robotically chasing prices. Then, out of nowhere, a small dog came whirling around the corner and circled the sheep. The dog ran circles around them corralling them all back hundreds of yards to where they were supposed to be. I turned to my wife and said “that’s the Fed, ha”. It was incredible to watch and I had to know what that dog was so I rode over to the farm house and asked the farmer. He told me that it was an Australian Shepherd. “They are the best dogs in the world”, he said.
Two years later the financial crisis had ravaged the global economy. We decided we wanted a dog and the shelters were overflowing with dogs that people could no longer afford. I was stunned when I arrived at a shelter to see a 3 month old brown and white Australian Shepherd. She was the most adorable thing I had ever seen and I asked myself “how could anyone give this dog away?” I wrote a donation for $200 and she sat frightened at my feet for the two hour ride back to San Diego. It was the best $200 I ever spent and it’s not even close.
They call Australian Shepherds “velcro dogs” because they become stuck to their owners. And for 12 years she was stuck to my side. I learned so much from her. She taught me to be selfless, nurturing and to be happy all the time. She died peacefully and beautifully yesterday and so today I am not a dog person anymore. I don’t know when or if I will become a dog person again, but it’s hard to imagine ever finding a more loving and beautiful piece of velcro.
I write a lot about money here, but it’s never really about money. Money is just a tool for life and loving money is like loving the theater ticket while you sleep through the performance. Don’t sleep through the performance because it always ends and when it does you can’t get it back.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.