On vacation in Maine for most of August, I'm back for the 44th year to a summer home on the island of Isle au Haut some six miles from land out in the Penobscott Bay. Half of the island is now part of Acadia National Park, so not much will be changing any time soon. The island's most famous resident has been Linda Greenlaw, who was the real-life fishing boat captain and the heroine in the true story behind the book and movie, "The Perfect Storm."
When I first started coming, as a guest of my future wife-to-be, there was no phone, and electricity was generated only during the early evening hours. All that has now changed, thanks to undersea cables, so we now have Internet service. But the sense of being remote has persisted, and the setting is ideal for relaxing and thinking "Big Thoughts" -- like what to do next. Inspired by Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote about 13 published books during his summer vacations, I have written three -- two on 401(k) plans and one on retirement investing. Teddy's, by comparison, were mostly on different birds.
Speaking of birds, this place is home to an array of seagoing birds with ospreys (basically, seagoing eagles) leading the food chain. They tend to build huge nests high at the tops of tall trees whose tops have been blown off by storms. The effect is that of a flying saucer (made of sticks and twigs) that chose to land on the top of a flagpole. Through binoculars, we can see baby chicks peering over the edge, waiting for Mom and Dad to return with some fish.
The osprey nest reminds me of the graphic picture typical of any illustrated article on the so-called "Retirement Nest Egg." And as I think about the year so far, it is hard to remember a period that has been as productive and as stress-free for those of us trying to build the nest egg or to live on what we have accumulated in it. Even the stock market's traditional "summer doldrums," last seen back in 2012, were not in evidence this year for the second year in a row as the summer comes to a close.
In short, the past five years have been a blessing. The stock market recovery itself took only 22 months before patient investors were whole again, and since that time things have only gotten better -- and stayed better without a letup. Moreover, most of us have even seen our homes recover to something approaching what they might have been worth about 10 years ago. So, we've all learned a lesson about real estate as an investment. The next chapter, when this blissful one ends, will involve the challenge of protecting our gains, which will involve the counterintuitive application of staying the course that has brought us this far. Accepting the next market downdraft and recognizing that all such paper losses are temporary, leads to the serenity that is the ultimate purpose of financial security.
Stephen J. Butler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, "Roadmap to Retirement Security" is available on Amazon.