No degrees of difficulty in investing

See, unlike in Olympic diving, there's no extra points for degree of difficulty when you invest.

a man wearing a business suit has a wide-eyed surprised expression on his face with a powerboard in one hand and a power plug in the other and yards of power chord wrapped many times over around his neck and body.

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Apparently, Mt Dare Hotel is South Australia's most remote pub.

It'd want to be – it's in the far, far north of the state, an outback stone's throw from the NT border.

It's known as the last stop before crossing the Simpson Desert, for those heading across the dunes to Birdsville (or the destination for those doing the crossing in the other direction).

It's also a great pub, and a great place to roll out a swag, as I found out recently.

Which is all just to set the scene for what happened next.

"There must be an investing article in that!" said my mate, Mike.

He was right.

I'd just pointed out a very, very clever spider.

The spider had decided to piggyback on the pub's efforts to get rid of flying pests, by building his web on top of the fly trap… right in the flightpath of those bugs enticed by the trap's contents.

Talk about taking the easy option!

But it's also the smart option.

And yes, it reminded me of investing.

See, unlike in Olympic diving, there's no extra points for degree of difficulty when you invest.

You can't say "Well, I made $1,000 but I want double because I took more risk".

You don't get to recoup your losses just because punting on a speculative mining company was always a long-odds bet.

Sure, some of those long-odds punts might pay off. Sometimes. But a dollar is still a dollar, no matter how you make it.

Or, put another way, taking extra risk for an uncertain payoff is one way to invest. But it's probably not the best.

You might know that Warren Buffett's baby, Berkshire Hathaway, has done extraordinarily well over the past 50-odd years. (I own shares in Berkshire, but unfortunately wasn't given them when I was born. Otherwise, I might still be at the Mt Dare pub!)

You probably know that a somewhat plainly named Australian investment conglomerate, Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Co. Ltd (ASX: SOL), has also had a long record of marketing beating performance (I own some of them, too).

What you mightn't know is that another boring investment company, Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES), has compounded at 19.1% per year, on average, over the last 39 years, according to the company.

But how many people own 1, 2 or 3 of those companies?

How many, instead, are looking for the next big (speculative) winner? How many are buying lithium stocks, biotech shares or speculative miners?

How many, instead, are trying to find an AI company in which to invest? Or trying to guess where commodity prices are heading?

How many ignored Berkshire when the mania was at its peak? How many gave Soul Patts short shrift when cannabis stocks were going to make everyone rich? How many eschewed Wesfarmers, instead chasing the phalanx of buy-now-pay-later copycats?

No, I'm not saying that the only way to invest well is to buy boring, staid, market-crushing businesses.

But, well, doesn't that last phrase make you think that maybe… just maybe… there might be something to it?

And it doesn't need to be only the mega-caps, or investment conglomerates.

Think about the long term compound returns from some yawn-inducing businesses like the massive multibagging return from truck parts business Supply Networks, 4WD accessories purveyor ARB Corporation Ltd (ASX: ARB) (I own shares) or computer hardware and software distributor Dicker Data Ltd (ASX: DDR).

Sure, sometimes a Netflix, Facebook (sorry, Meta), CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) or REA Group Limited (ASX: REA) takes the market by storm. I'm not saying you shouldn't invest in those types of businesses, if the prospects and the valuation stack up.

But I am saying that Aesop's hare isn't always the best way to make a buck in this caper.

Sometimes, the lower-degree-of-difficulty tortoise – or spider – is the better bet.

Fool on!

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Motley Fool contributor Scott Phillips has positions in ARB Corporation, Berkshire Hathaway, and Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Company Limited. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended ARB Corporation, Berkshire Hathaway, CSL, Dicker Data, Meta Platforms, Netflix, REA Group, Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Company Limited, and Wesfarmers. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Dicker Data, Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Company Limited, and Wesfarmers. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended ARB Corporation, Berkshire Hathaway, Meta Platforms, Netflix, and REA Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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