Friday, July 31, 2015

Spend or Build

I am a sucker for a good castle, but the Castle of the Moors overlooking Sintra (below its walls) and Lisbon (in the distance) is something special. Going up the slopes trying not to get my slops stuck in the rocks, it is easy to forget that the castle would have been built other than for reasons of being magical. Its business was violence. This particular castle however did get a little upgrade. Although it was built in defence of the Muslim conquerors of the Iberian Peninsula, subsequent Kings gave it their touch. When in 1840, Ferdinand II took up the task, he was swept up in the Romantic era and so added lots of gardens and nooks and crannies. Peace has a premium.


There is a difference in approach if you are building something to last or something to sell. If something lasts, the owner becomes a custodian. You can start to add small touches that over time create magic. You can leave something in a better condition than you found it. Your use being a bonus different from consumption.

My brother and his friends bucked the trend when he was at school. He was a Prefect (like the Romans but a 17 year old boy) in a system the school has now done away with. They had a room as part of the privileges of policing the other boys. The tradition had been to absolutely trash the room at the end of the year so that the next bunch would have to start again. As a result, things typically went backwards rather than forwards. The main advantage of the room was simply the plug sockets so that you could make tea and toast some sandwiches.

Like a Roman Prefect - but with tea instead of a sword

My brother's group decided to be different. They put a big effort into restoring the place over the holidays before school started, and then handed over the improved version at the end of the year. Thinking of ownership as custodianship completely changes the game. You get to add time. Lots of time.

Most of us live hand to mouth. Some manage to think of their own retirement. Even fewer think of a legacy to make their family's life better. How many think of investing for their great-great-great-great-grand children. We know by the simple rules of maths, science, biology and having a good time that these descendants are likely to be related to most people you meet too. Adding time with a custodial mindset means the small improvements compound.

I don't know much about Sovereign Wealth Funds other than that they manage money for specific nations. I like the idea though that wealth gets managed in a custodial style rather than spent in and on one generation.

We can learn from, value and protect things that come from the past. We can think of and build towards the future. We can either be the link or break the chain.
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