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In Investing and Health, Slow but Steady Can Win the Race

As a geriatrician, Walter Bortz takes the long view on both health and investing. He and his wife, Ruth Anne, are avid marathon runners. While Walter may not be at the front of the pack, he has run a marathon every year for 43 consecutive years.



Ruth Anne and Walter Bortz



Walter Bortz: I give the first talk at the Stanford Business School. And it’s strange having a doctor do so, and I say, “What’s the most important asset in your life? It’s got to be health. Who owns that asset? You own it.” So that’s my talking point, that’s the drum that I beat. And as a geriatrician, I feel very privileged of having an insight into what health is about because aging’s not a disease.

Well, as a geriatrician, I take the long view. I’m not into immediate gratification. I’ve not been at all interested in what next year’s profits might be. I don’t know what’s in my portfolio. Our guy has always said to me, “You know, if we’re doing 5% a year, that’s okay.” Once a year they would bring me in and say, “Look here, this is good, this is good,” and it was all allocated into a balanced portfolio.

We always hear that one of the troubles of marriages is money. We never talk about money; it’s a non-issue.

Staying healthy is a big credential, but health is something that cannot be downloaded. You must own your own health. And the last book I wrote was “Occupy Medicine,” which is, “You’re in charge – you own your health.”

Forty years ago we moved here to California from the east and we adore it here. I’m affiliated with Stanford, and Stanford is a fantastic place. So we’re very happy here. I wrote my honors thesis at Williams College on arterial sclerosis, which is hardening of the arteries because it was then a big killer.

Then I had a catastrophe in my life because my father died. He was alpha and omega to me and I crashed.

So the first good thing that happened when I was 39 is I started to run. I’d never been a runner; I’m still not a runner of any caliber. But I knew that exercise was the best anti-depressant in the world. So I immersed myself into that. And I’ve run a marathon every year for 43 consecutive years since then.

Ruth Anne Bortz: When we came home from Nepal, we’d climbed to 21,000 feet, and I was in the best shape of my life. And I went out and started running the next day and I’ve been running ever since, but I run to win. Wally runs to keep himself healthy and that’s lovely, so do I too, but I like to win marathons. I can win. I’ve won the Boston Marathon a few times in my age group. And lots of other races.

Walter: When I finished the Boston Marathon, I was at the back of the pack. And I said, “Every now and then the turtle wins the race. Slow but steady.” And I think that’s a good strategy for life in general.

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