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The only certainty is uncertainty

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By Michael O’Connor   

"History is just one damn thing after another" - Arnold Toynbee

Late last week, the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa sent shockwaves worldwide, upending what had been a reasonably quiet week for the stock market. On Friday last, a steep sell-off left the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq down 2.2% and 3.5%, respectively.

This 147th twist in the pandemic tale got me thinking about how much we think we know when really, we know nothing at all.

At the start of the year nobody would have predicted that 2020 would have played out the way it did. Very few would have predicted that 2021, with promising vaccines and a return to normality would have represented so little change, but here we are.

Everyone loves to pretend like they fully understand what this all means and what will happen next. I get it; who doesn’t love the warm cozy allure of certainty. We all want to exist in a world where we know what lies around the corner.

History is a perpetual stream of mistaken opinions and unpredictable outcomes, but the predictions won’t stop. People will cast their views with deluded certainty about what to expect next by extrapolating the current conditions out into the future, but the current conditions aren’t a constant, and the game is always changing.

Unfortunately, the reality is, nobody knows what’s next, and the sooner you can discard any naive sense of conviction, the easier it will be in both life and investing. While this statement may seem morbid on the surface, loosening our grip on our need for certainty can be liberating.

Remember, while it is important to have expectations and predictions, predictions are not fact, and you will be wrong. Not always, but you will be wrong, so try not to be overly tethered to your current version of the truth.

Lean into the uncertainty

Accepting that nothing is certain can often be cast as an impotent statement in a world obsessed with knowing all the answers.

In an industry where uncertainty is the ultimate enemy, telling investors to submit to it is often met with disdain, but accepting the inevitability of uncertainty is so important if you want to avoid going stir crazy as you try and hold for the long term.

Of course, discarding uncertainty is easier said than done. Worrying about factors beyond our control is an inherent part of the human condition. However, simply being aware that the game is not predictable and nobody truly knows the final outcome may help you reduce your craving for certainty.

My advice

Stop reaching for perfection in a world of constant uncertainty. Stop obsessing about making the right decision one hundred percent of the time. Even the best investors in history have had their fair share of howlers. Ultimately you just need to be right more often than you are wrong.

The solution

Create an investment portfolio centred around what you believe to be the most probable outcome based on available information and incorporate enough diversification to function as a buffer.

In a world where anything is possible, all you can do is focus on what is most probable, allow for a margin of error to support you when your assumed outcomes don’t play out and simply let go of the rest.

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The late Peggy O’Callaghan was a founder of Kilcummin Scor

By Sean Moriarty Tributes have been paid to Peggy O’Callaghan, who was laid to rest on Tuesday of this week. Peggy played a central role in all activities related to Kilcummin parish. She passed away peacefully at her home on Friday, January 7. Peggy and her husband Michael founded Kilcummin Scor in 1978 – the […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Tributes have been paid to Peggy O’Callaghan, who was laid to rest on Tuesday of this week.

Peggy played a central role in all activities related to Kilcummin parish. She passed away peacefully at her home on Friday, January 7.

Peggy and her husband Michael founded Kilcummin Scor in 1978 – the music and drama arm of the local GAA club.

“It afforded the opportunity to females to participate in club activities long before ladies’ football was initiated and it brought many people into the club, many of whom remained involved in different capacities over the years,” said a club statement.

“She has left us a wonderful legacy and will be remembered fondly by those lucky enough to have met her.”

Peggy will be sadly missed by her husband Michael, sons Diarmuid and Shane, daughters-in-law Trisha and Áine, grandchildren Dara, Caoimhe, Donnacha, Siún and Éabha, brothers Seánie and Frank, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, extended family, neighbours and friends.

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Surprise: Details of town-centre inner relief road revealed

By Sean Moriarty Plans to link the Monsignor O’Flaherty Road with New St via a new road at Bohereen na Goun have been announced by Killarney Municipal District. Town engineer John Ahern told Wednesday’s Killarney Municipal District Meeting between elected councillors and senior council executives that Kerry County Council intends to make a compulsory purchase […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Plans to link the Monsignor O’Flaherty Road with New St via a new road at Bohereen na Goun have been announced by Killarney Municipal District.

Town engineer John Ahern told Wednesday’s Killarney Municipal District Meeting between elected councillors and senior council executives that Kerry County Council intends to make a compulsory purchase order on lands that will link the two town centre streets.

If plans come to fruition it will be possible for motorists on New St to get to the top of High St, adjacent to the Killarney Advertiser’s town centre office, without travelling through the town centre. The plan was first mooted as far back as 2016.

The announcement caught councillors off guard, it was one of the last topics discussed at the four-hour meeting, but it was broadly welcomed by all.

“This access will change the dynamic of traffic movement in the town forever,” said Cllr Niall Kelleher.

Further details of the surprise project are set to be revealed to elected members over the next four to six weeks.

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