The ‘Can’t Miss’ Investment I Missed

Dammit. I wish someone had pulled me aside at a dinner party when I was in my early 20’s.

And told me the two words that could’ve changed my life. Self-storage. Apart from AAPL, I double dog dare you to find a better investment.

From this week’s Wall Street Journal:

“Self-storage pulled ahead of other property types in the reopening trade as the real-estate business rebounded this year during the easing of pandemic restrictions.

The storage facilities around the country have brought the biggest returns to investors in public real-estate stocks this year. Many people moved, and for those who stayed put, a desire to have more space in their homes because of remote learning and working also spurred demand for self-storage.

As of June 30, total returns from self-storage real-estate investment trusts reached 36%. . . . Over the same period, the FTSE Nareit Equity REITs Index gained 22% and the S&P 500 climbed 15%.

People generally haven’t been able to tame their consumerism, increasing the need for storage space. The self-storage industry sees demand when people’s lives are disrupted, such as relocating for a new job, marriage, divorce and education.

‘Self-storage thrives when people experience change, and Covid disrupted norms across all generations,’ said Drew Dolan, principal at DXD Capital, a self-storage developer and investor. He added that many customers who needed self-storage in 2020 were first-time customers.

Operators moved quickly during the pandemic to offer customers more choices for reservation and move-ins, including online rental agreements and kiosks that limited contact with other people.

‘What used to be a 45-minute transaction can now be a six-minute experience,’ said Natalia N. Johnson, chief administrative officer of Public Storage, in a recent presentation to investors.” 

“People haven’t been able to tame their consumerism.” My vote for understatement of the year, decade, century. I should’ve bet big on American consumers not taming their consumerism years ago. I coulda, shoulda made bank on your neighbors’ conspicuous consumption.

No it’s not too late, but the crazy recent gains have to moderate, don’t they?

The Overworked American

From True Wealth by Juliet Schor:

“Not surprisingly, over the last twenty years, a large number of U.S. employees report being overworked. A 2004 study found that 44 percent of respondents were often or very often overworked, overwhelmed at their job, or unable to step back and process what’s going on. A third reported being chronically overworked. These overworked employees had much higher stress levels, worse physical health, higher rates of depression, and reduced ability to take care of themselves than their less-pressured colleagues. Adverse effects of long hours, stress, and overwork have found in a number of studies, for a variety of physical, mental, and social health outcomes.”

Phenomenon like that inspired this blog’s name many moons ago. So, as the calendar year draws to a close, let’s step back and process what’s going on.

Why do so many U.S. workers subject themselves to the “adverse effects of long hours, stress, and overwork”? Is it because, as one of my friends insists, they have no choice, because their families have grown accustomed to uber-comfortable, expensive-to- maintain lifestyles? Is it as simple as mindless materialism or trying to keep pace with one’s neighbors conspicuous consumption? What if my friend went to his family and said, I want to invest less time at work and more strengthening our relationships and my physical, mental, and social health?

Overworked U.S. readers, what is keeping you from reducing your personal or family overhead and going half-time at work? Or if your employer doesn’t provide a half-time option, finding a different job that would require less of you so that you could prioritize, rather than continue neglecting, your physical, mental, and social health?

I don’t think my friend would admit it, but I’m convinced, despite his sporadic complaining about his work, he greatly prefers being at work to not. He does not have many interests outside of work. He’s good at what he does. Being good at what he does gives him an identity.

Maybe the central challenge for the overworked American isn’t figuring out how to down-size his or her lifestyle, it’s how to craft an identity from non-work interests and activities.

Postscript: Mea culpa. I should’ve woven this sentence in from Schor too. “Of course, for many earning less money is simply impossible, because their wages are too low.”