Planting an orchard this summer has been one of the most fulfilling and therapeutic things my wife and I have done since buying our first house last winter.
Last night, we were watering these young apple saplings after a long day of work. After I reluctantly headed inside for the night, I began to think of blog post topics. I started to ponder how growing and maintaining trees that will deliver bushels of fruit is analogous to investing our hard earned money in the hopes of someday having the benefit of financial independence.
Here are the four lessons that we’ve learned while starting an orchard that can enrich your investing ethos.
Lesson #1: Start Now!
“The best time to plant an orchard was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” –Chinese Proverb
We planted all these apple trees as soon as the temperature was warm enough to stick them in the ground. Apples take anywhere from 3-5 years to start producing large quantities of fruit so we knew that if we did the work now, we could reap the benefit earlier as well.
Similarly, if you start investing as soon as possible, your investments will grow thanks to interest compounded over a longer amount of time.
We didn’t have the money to buy large, established trees, so we purchased what are called “bare root” trees. These trees are very small (3-feet), and were shipped to our house in a dormant state. This provided a sizeable cost savings compared to buying the expensive 6-foot trees from a local nursery.
When investing, it’s important to start small, even if you don’t make very much money. It’s been crazy how these trees really took off! Those saplings are already over 6 feet tall, and will probably out pace a nursery tree’s growth thanks to a strong foundation and starting small.
Lesson #2: Don’t Stop
“The seed of a bamboo tree is planted, fertilized and watered. Nothing happens for the first year. There’s no sign of growth. Not even a hint. The same thing happens – or doesn’t happen – the second year. The tree is carefully watered and fertilized each year, but nothing shows. No growth. No anything. For eight years it can continue. Eight years! Then – after the eighth year of fertilizing and watering have passed, with nothing to show for it – the bamboo tree suddenly sprouts and grows thirty feet in three months!” –Zig Ziglar
We watered our trees nearly every week. If you want apple trees to thrive, you need to continue investing in them. Trees need water, nutrients, and even pruning.
In the winter we will prune off any bad growth, or limbs that might impede fruit production. These steps must be taken every year to ensure that we maximize fruit production and ensure the long term durability of our apple trees.
With investments, you also need to contribute every year.
Investing some money in a consistent manner will really help your investments grow that much larger and faster. Add the magic of compound interest to your annual or monthly contributions and you will be much more likely to have a fruitful retirement.
Lesson #3: Play the Long Game
“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” –Robert H. Schuler
It’s a struggle to maintain an orchard. From diseases that scar the leaves, to bugs that feast on the fruit before it ripens, it’s sometimes tempting to just rip up the whole lot of them and plant the easier to manage and safer crop: turf.
Similarly, just turning on cable TV for 20 minutes can make you think the whole economy is going to collapse. These cable “experts” tell you that you should cash out your IRA to buy gold and keep a big pile of cash under your mattress.
When you plant an orchard, you do so with the understanding that it will take YEARS before you get to benefit from your toils. There will be good years of growth and also drought years where the tress really suffer.
Make sure you know from the start that you will participate in the market through the low times and the high times.
You never want to jump off the roller coaster until you’ve finished the ride. Remember back in 2008-9 when a lot of people cashed out there investments? They lost a TON of money. That’s because they let their emotions define their investment decisions. Be patient, the inevitable storm will pass.
Lesson #4: Enjoy the Fruit from Your Orchard
“The fruit derived from labor is the sweetest of pleasures.” –Luc de Clapiers
Whatever you do, have a reason for it. Our reason for planting an orchard was to drastically lower our grocery bill, eat healthy, and give some of it away.
Why do you invest?
Hopefully it’s for the same reasons we planted an orchard- to be financially independent, to have freedom, and to give some of it away.
It’s hard work, but once you hit that time period of fruit production, enjoy it. You’ve earned it.
How do you invest? Do you have any advice for the readers to help “grow” a productive investment portfolio? Share in the comments below!
Also, check out this article which describes how growing an edible landscape is helping us achieve Financial Independence (FI)!