The big picture: Counting our blessings

In conclusion…We now enjoy prosperity greater than ever dreamed of before this century…if we are able to preserve and enhance freedom, these trends may continue and accelerate. Centuries of human enterprise are now miraculously bursting into flower. If you do not fall down on your knees each day with overwhelming gratitude for your blessings, you have not yet seen the big picture.John M. Templeton, May, 1984.

As the clock ticks down to a new century and the next thousand years, I keep thinking back to a speech I was privileged to hear Sir John Templeton give on “The Future for Investing Worldwide” in Los Angeles in the spring of 1984. A worldly-wise septuagenarian held a hard-bitten audience spellbound. If there was much to be grateful for then, think of now.

A recent visit to New York, where people everywhere were talking on their cell phones, brought me face to face with what a different world we live in. Instead of bricks and mortar, it’s now high-tech fibre-optics. Tap into it(www.whatever) and information and knowledge are instantly available to us. Our parents never had anything comparable, how lucky we are to be living in th most thrilling of times.

Exponential change is also requiring new investment yardsticks, just as happened earlier this century when a new-fangled contraption called the automobile began supplanting the horse and buggy. Approached in this light, maybe those high-flying equity markets are not so far ahead of themselves –and maybe the greatest risk lies in missing out on quantum change and investment opportunity.

This same realization prompted my purchase of a modest holding of IBM in the early 1980’s. It took many years and two lots of averaging down before my investment in “Big Blue” began paying off. It’s recently been split 2-for-1, has raised its dividend and has turned out to be one of my most successful investments. Similarly with two other major holdings of mine, Nortel Networks and Thomson Corporation, both leaders in their electronically-driven fields. In addition, there are sector mutual funds like Fidelity Focus Technology Fund where experts choose and evaluate for us. Ideally, leading-edge, high-tech representation is best approached in combination.

Once past Labour Day, I anticipate heightening jitters as our world goes “on hold” for the great computer changeover at midnight on Friday, Dec. 31st. Those genuinely worried about Y2K dislocation risks should ask their advisers about ways of prudently safeguarding their portfolios –just as we insure our lives, homes and automobiles against contingencies we hope won’t happen. Those taking a longer-term approach should be watching for buying opportunities, and we should all remember the time-honoured axiom about the trend being the investor’s friend.

Stand back from the noise of the crowd and you will find that the (long-term) trends Sir John Templeton spoke about are friendlier than ever. Also, we live in a good news world in which the bad news is mostly wrong. Best of all is the good news about Canada, an envied country that has got its fiscal situation under control, is attractive and competitive as never before, and whose time for economic and investment excellence has come.

Hence, in the nervous lead-up to the new millennium, let’s count our blessings and keep focused on the ever-revolving Big Picture. And, as we do, let’s feel especially positive about Canadian equities –and equity products –with which to accumulate investment wealth to sustain us in our retirement, to ultimately pass on to our beneficiaries, and to have available as valuable collateral along the way.