My older son’s school celebrates a positive trait each month (respect, courtesy, etc) and recognizes students that embody the month’s trait at an assembly. For February, William earned a golden paw award for fairness. I keep thinking about this because while William may display fairness to his fellow students, life has not been fair to him. The kid was dealt a tough hand of cards from the beginning. He has ARPKD. He deals with it and tries his best to show fairness and compassion to others, though, which is mind-blowing because he could use his diagnosis as a crutch instead. Will could whine about all the things he can’t do like play contact sports or ride roller coasters. Instead, he plays the hand he was dealt. To see him do this day after day is inspiring and humbling.
March is National Kidney Month. The Wall Street Journal has a powerful story about a woman who donated a kidney to her brother by giving it to a stranger. She wanted to give her kidney to her brother, but wasn’t a match. By participating in a kidney pool, she donated to one patient while another donor gave to her brother. This is a relatively new strategy for donation which makes me hopeful for the future. If you needed a kidney in the 1970s, though, you didn’t have access to this sort of thing. High quality medical care is commonplace in the United States, but patients are languishing in Venezuela because the power keeps going out. Is that fair?
Fairness in Investing
There is a lot said about inequality and fairness especially around money in the United States, but sometimes we forget the difference between equal opportunity and equal outcome. We’re not entitled to both and sometimes life ain’t fair and you’re born with a genetic disease or to abusive parents. Life doesn’t always go the way we planned. Sometimes, you can do everything right and still fall short. One of Michael Batnick’s 20 Craziest Investing Facts Ever is that if you outperformed the market by 5% from 1960-1980, you’d have less money than if you underperformed the market by 5% from 1980-2000. Even if you’re a great investor, much of the end result is out of your hands.
So why even bother?
The universe is an inherently unfair place. We can lament this or be proactive around what we can control. For William, that’s eating right, taking his medicine on a tight schedule, and attitude. The kid puts himself in positions to interact with others which gets them invested in his wellbeing. Increasing exposure to events with upside potential like this is a sort of manufactured serendipity. For investors, saving more and rebalancing regularly likewise increase the odds of success.