A Garden is Hard Work

When I was a kid, some of my favorite books were from the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel. Each book contains five silly, yet profound, stories about a tall, green, easy-going frog and a short, more serious, and sometimes neurotic, toad. The stories chronical the adventures of Frog and Toad and have much to say about the value of friendship.

Recently, I was reading a story to my kids called The Garden. It’s from Lobel’s book Frog and Toad Together. In the story, Toad sees Frog’s garden and likes it so much that he decides to plant one for himself. Immediately after planting his seeds, Toad says, “now seeds, start growing,” but his seeds do not start to grow. He then puts his head close to the ground and shouts, “now seeds, start growing!” The seeds still do not start to grow. Even though Frog warned him that a garden is “hard work,” Toad becomes impatient, and he shouts, even louder, “NOW SEEDS, START GROWING!”

At some point, Frog hears all the commotion and stops by to tell Toad that he is shouting too much and that his seeds are probably afraid to grow. He tells Toad to “leave them alone for a few days and let the sun shine on them and the rain fall on them.” Then his seeds will start to grow.  But later that night, Toad decides that his seeds must be afraid of the dark, so he goes to his garden with candles and reads his seeds a story. Over the next few days, he sings songs to his seeds, reads them poems, and plays music for them. Finally, feeling hopeless and tired, Toad falls asleep.

The story ends when Frog stops by again and wakes Toad up to show him the little green plants that are coming up out of the ground. “At last,” shouts Toad, “my seeds have stopped being afraid to grow!” “And now you will have a nice garden, too,” says Frog. “Yes,” says Toad, “but you were right, Frog. It was very hard work.”

Toad was right. A garden is hard work. But perhaps not for the reasons he had in mind. A garden is hard work because you have to till the soil, plant and water the seeds, pull the weeds and wait patiently. Not because you have to shout at your seeds, read them stories, sing them songs and read them poems. Toad was missing the part about waiting patiently. Much like planting a garden, growing a portfolio can be hard, too. You have to do the upfront work of diversifying your investment options, managing your costs and keeping taxes to a minimum. Then you have to wait patiently. For many of us, just like Toad, waiting patiently can be the hardest part.

Lately. I’ve found myself logging into the Charles Schwab app on my phone to check my portfolio balance. It started innocently; I was getting a few questions about the Schwab website from my clients so I thougth I’d log in to my personal account in order to experience the same thing my clients see when they log in. But then, I found myself checking the daily changes in my balance after seeing a breaking financial headline. Or, anchoring, just like in Ryan’s Friday Brief last week, and logging in to see how far off my balance was from its most recent all time high. I haven’t gotten to the point of shouting, “now investments, start growing,” but perhaps that’s not far off!

It’s perfectly fine, even smart, to check your portfolio balance from time to time. Just remember that investing well is hard work and often requires waiting patiently. That can be hard, especially if you’re at the point where you’re relying on your investments for income.  But if you’ve done the upfront work on your garden (see portfolio), now may be a good time to leave it alone and let the sun shine on it and the rain fall on it so it can bear little green plants when the time is right.

By the way, if you find yourself shouting at your portfolio or reading stories to it at night, give us a call. We’re here to help.


The content above is for informational and educational purposes only. The links and graphs are being provided as a convenience; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Beacon Wealthcare, nor does Beacon guarantee the accuracy of the information.

Geoff Hall, CFP®
[email protected]

My wife, Crystal, and I have been married for 11 years and have two kids, Cooper (10) and Rhodes (8.) When I’m not spending time with them you might find me downtown serving at our church, pushing my limits during a mountain bike ride or having coffee with a friend in the Five Points area. I've been a financial advisor for 29 years and I'm thankful for the privilege of shepherding my family of clients through the ups and down of the markets, and of life for that matter.