As we approach the end of the summer, we also approach the end of the famous watermelon season in Israel. Unlike in the old country, most fruit in Israel is still only available during specific seasons and ensuring that you choose a good one is a critical task. Admittedly, my experience in this area has been limited over the years as my Eishet Chayil has traditionally taken this important role upon herself. Yet, somehow I was recently given the job of buying the watermelon one week. Seeing as this fruit is crucial to my family’s wellbeing, I decided to research the topic properly to ensure a successful purchase. If I failed, we would have no watermelon (or worse – BAD watermelon) for Shabbos. After extensive research and interviews, the following were the main conclusions (for a full discourse including footnotes, feel free to write me privately!).
Rule #1 – get recommendations. First, I needed to determine where to go to buy the watermelon. Should I go to the guy who comes and sets up his wares once a week in the courtyard of the marketplace, or should I go into one of the grocery stores. If the latter, which one? After interrogating all family members and some of the neighbours I received a selection of recommended stores and chose the one recommended by the most people. Experienced watermelon pickers received more weight in the point allocation structure. I chose the most highly recommended store and off I went.
Rule #2 – timing the market. At the entrance to the store there was a big display of watermelon at the prominent end of the fruit aisle. I took this as a good sign. If the watermelons were still front and center, they must be in season. Choosing a good one during the height of the season when most watermelons are good quality gave me a much better chance of choosing a winner.
Rule #3 – know what type you want. Now that I was closer to the display I realized there were a few different kinds of watermelons. Most were huge ones that I would need two hands to lift, some were small “personal” sized cuties I could palm with one hand, and some had been big but were cut in halves or quarters and wrapped in plastic. For me, this was not a difficult choice, as we have a lot of watermelon eaters in my house. The huge one it would be.
Rule #4 – no external blemishes. Some of the watermelons were clearly unappetizing, with large dents, discolorations or other off-putting blemishes. I immediately rejected those. The rest all looked fine from the outside.
Rule #5 – trust the experts. At this point, I felt like I could trust my instincts. I was in a reputable store. Watermelons were in season. I knew which size watermelon I needed to buy. I knew which watermelons to stay away from. I reached out my hand… and heard a sound that stopped me in my tracks.
Smack. I looked at the woman on my left. She was hitting the watermelon with the palm of her hand. Smack. She hit another one. Smack. What did she have against watermelons? Now she came to another one. Smack. She hit it again. Smack. She turned it over. Smack. She put it in her cart. I finally realized that she was smacking it to figure out if the watermelon was good. Of course it’s not enough to look good on the outside. It has to BE good on the inside.
I started smacking the watermelons too. Before long I was beating out quite a nice rhythm. The only problem was… I didn’t know what a good watermelon was supposed to sound like.
I started to panic. I had been this close to choosing a watermelon that was nice and round and green on the outside, but tasteless on the inside. Now what? I closed my eyes and davened for divine assistance. When I opened them… there stood my saviour.
The local watermelon expert came to my rescue. Just to my right he was banging away with confidence and a keenly astute expression on his face. He clearly knew – and enjoyed – what he was doing. I asked for help. He showed me where to smack and what to listen for. Of course, he couldn’t guarantee it, but with his experience and advice added to my own intuition I felt confident that I was buying the perfect watermelon to grace our Shabbos table and bring joy and delight to my family and guests.
Now at this point in the article, you must have been wondering more than a few times what in the world does watermelon picking have to do with investment management and financial planning. But if you go back and reread the article and substitute “watermelon” with “choosing an investment”, you’ll discover five critical lessons to picking an investment (and then you can read the summary below).
- Rule #1 – Get recommendations. Working with people who come recommended is critical.
- Rule #2 – timing the market. Knowing the right time to invest is critical. It’s not a matter of trying to time the market, which is beyond the ability of almost all investment professionals. Rather focus on picking the right investments given your situation and your time horizon of investing. Short/medium and long term investments are very different creatures and you need to know where you stand.
- Rule #3 – know what type you want. Investments should be catered to fit your needs, your risk preference and overall financial situation.
- Rule #4 – no external blemishes. Even without knowing every detail about an investment, there are tell-tale signs that can be checked to determine whether this is the investment for you. Do an internet search on the managers and the company running the investment for any possible sign of problems.
- Rule #5 – trust the experts. Sometimes even after doing everything you possibly can, you still might need to rely on an expert to help you choose. Understanding our limitations and finding the right advisor can often be more than half the battle.
As we approach Rosh HaShana may we be granted the wisdom to make and apply the right decisions in the coming year – be it regarding watermelons or other more important issues!
Wishing everyone a Shana Tova uMetuka!