Interlude: Investing in autogates

This article first appeared in Personal Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 24, 2017 - April 30, 2017.
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“What have you invested in?” asks the Accountant, frowning at me. 

“Um, autogates?” I venture.

The Accountant frowns even harder. “How in God’s name is that supposed to be an investment?”

“When I click on the clicker, it opens. And when I click again, it closes.”

Anyone who has been without a functioning autogate for any length of time because her recalcitrant dog chewed through the wires yet again will understand what I am talking about. I had to fix the gate about 10 times last year alone. After a certain point, it was no longer a repair. Considering the quantum of cash that has been poured in, it is an investment.

And for me, the return on investment is simple convenience.

Others may think a better return on investment would be to send the dog for training so that she stops biting the wires. There is merit to that point of view, but I know an autogate repairman. I do not know any dog trainers. And googling does not yield much, except horror stories.

So, maybe I have a skewed idea of what an ROI actually is.

I once invested in a cat castle, thinking my felines would love to have someplace to jump on and hang out. The problem with my felines is, well, they prefer scratching furniture and generally hanging out where they are not wanted, like on my desk when I am trying to work or write a letter.

A cat rescuer friend came over with one of his latest kittens, saw the cat castle in question and was mesmerised. Now, being a rescuer with more than 10 cats in his tiny apartment, not to mention feeding all the strays, the cat castle was a little out of his budget. 

So, I came up with a brilliant idea. “Why don’t you take it home?” 

He stared at me, startled. “Are you sure? No, I will go buy one. Don’t worry about it.”

“No, no, take it. Your cats will actually play with it. Better return on my investment.”

So he did. Then he sent me a picture to show me how the cat castle had almost started a riot in his tiny apartment. They were so fascinated and they all wanted to get on it. Every level was occupied. And for the first time, I felt satisfied about the super-expensive cat castle. Yes, now that is what I call an ROI.

When I am scolded for being so thoughtless (what will you do when you get old?), I hang my head in shame, dig my toe into the ground and go, “Aw shucks.”

Of course, I intend to never stop working. Isn’t retirement planning for those who plan to retire? 

Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks this way. I met a lady who works for a company that pays her very well. But she works there because she loves the mission of the company and feels that she is working for a good cause. All the extra money she earns goes to the children she has adopted on World Vision (all six of them) and the World Wildlife Foundation. The satisfaction she gets is the best ROI ever. She does not plan to retire either — just switch professions.

I wonder about this timid new world where people spend so much time being anxious about tomorrow. I am anxious too, but I allay my anxiety by eating scones, writing letters, reading Harry Potter and spaying strays.

Something will turn up. It always does. And until then, I will keep doing what I do and hope that it all works out somehow. 

In the meantime, anyone know a good dog trainer?