Flashing Lights, Bells, and Whistles

photo shows a BNSF train going through Louisville, Nebraska

The main line of the Burlington Northern Railroad parallels the Platte River through Nebraska, and it crosses Main Street in Louisville. Many times each day, bells sound, lights flash, and the crossarms come down to block traffic. The locomotive blows its whistle. When this collection of clues occurs, you can bet a train is near.

The warnings all make sense when you think about the damage a 200-ton locomotive would do to a car or pedestrian, should they meet at the crossing.

Another thing happens many times each day, with nearly as much noise. Dire warnings about the future of the stock market come from cable business news shows, internet business sites, people at the diner, and sometimes even friends and relatives.

But there are two important differences between train warnings and market warnings. No one profits by promoting phony train warnings, but there is a lot of money to be made by those promoting fear of stock market volatility. And often, the dire-sounding market warnings merit a yawn in response—not a slamming of the brakes.

For example, those who pretend to know that a 10% or 20% stock market decline is around the corner may well be right. A 10% decline is par for the course in any given year: they are routine. Of course a market decline is coming! They always are. It goes up and down, sometimes a lot, unpredictably.

I’ve followed the markets avidly for decades. One of the things that is ever-present is the prediction by someone, somewhere, that the market is about to get crushed. There are always reasons or rationales; the human mind is a marvel of creativity. History provides millions of snippets of data that can always be arranged to convince some people of anything.

We have found it worthwhile to ignore the noise and stick to our discipline. Search for bargains, avoid stampedes, and strive to own the orchard for the fruit crop. Clients, if you’d like to talk about any noise you’re hearing, or the fruits of our research, email us or call.


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Fresh as a Rose

photo shows pink, yellow, and red roses in a garden

Maybe you remember having to write a persuasive paper or give a persuasive speech in school. The structure of such a composition could be pretty simple: describe a problem, then present a solution to that problem. Done.

I remember this kind of prompt when I see ads today for certain products, especially those related to… the nose.

“Your neighbors will notice your home smells like garbage… if you don’t buy this spray.”

“You’ll never find romance… without our mouthwash.”

Advertising in this country has relied on these types of messages for decades. In fact, the first commercial deodorant makers realized that in order to survive they would need to convince Americans that sweating was an embarrassment. (Your human body leaks? How unseemly!)

Fast-forward, and these products do sell! Scented garbage bags, room sprays, and body washes have become staples for many households. And don’t get us wrong, we’re not suggesting these products don’t have their uses and pleasures. But it’s pandering to exaggerate about “how much poorer your life will be without this one specific solution I have to offer… and it’s available! Call now!”

We’ve got nothing to sell. We’re not going to provoke a sense of shame or pretend to be high priests. Wherever you are, wherever you’ve been, (however you smell?!), we are here to try to help you strive toward your goals—however you identify them.

The problem/solution formula makes plenty of sense in its own way: of course we want companies and brands to help us improve our daily lives! On the other hand…

We don’t need the world to believe it stinks to be of service to others.

Clients, we’re here for you on your schedule. Let us know how we can help.


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In Business to Talk All Day

graphic shows Polaroids picturing the logos of social media platforms and our newsletter and weekly videos

Dire need first drove us to it. Fortunate circumstances made it possible. Now, with more dedicated resources than ever, it’s clear that 21st century communications have transformed our work with you. 

Now we are striving to be available in the forms and places that suit you best. And believe it or not, we think our communications with you are an important part of our mission to try to grow your bucket. 

Clients, maybe you’ve experienced this in your own work and communities. Keeping the channels open is not an extra step you add onto your relationships: communicating is just part of it!

Our work is really a joint venture, a collaboration with you. It does not matter if we can find favorable investment opportunities and manage portfolios in advantageous ways if clients don’t understand why we are doing what we are doing. They might feel driven to sell out at what could be the wrong time. No guarantees that our views are right, but at least you will always know what they are. 

This is why our bountiful communications with you are so key. You know what we are doing; you see our principles in action. With all that, you tend to stick with the program at crucial times when it might otherwise have been difficult to do so. 

For instance, with the best clients in the world, we can take on unpopular but potentially profitable ideas. And we don’t need to jump on every fad or chase popular but overpriced concepts. Each week you hear from us—and get our take on which stories are actually news worth knowing. 

We’ve been working on improvements in our communications program across the last year. Whether you prefer to read, or listen, or watch, you can find us! Have you caught us on our website, or visited the podcast, or watched us on YouTube? Or do you like your content best on social media? 

Here is an update of where you can find us: 

  • The blog at 228Main.com now includes an audio version of every post, playable right below each story. 
  • Want audio only? It’s available as a stand-alone podcast on SpotifyGoogle, and Anchor
  • The weekly “Clients, You Know What I’m Talking About!” videos and more are available on our YouTube Channel. Subscribe or drop in anytime. 

  • The email newsletter “The Weekly Note” rounds up the best of the blog, socials, and updates—short and sweet, in your inbox just once a week. Leave your email here to get it. 
  • You can also find news and notes and commentary from us daily on socials, at FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn

Clients, you can make it interactive any time you want, by replying to an email newsletter, calling, or stopping by 228 Main. We love to hear from you! 


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Financial Planning, Starring You!

photo shows rows of marquee lights in lines

Some pros rely on the idea that financial planning is a mysterious process, requiring advanced mathematics and cold, hard reasoning that mere mortals cannot achieve.

We keep seeing language to this effect across the financial services industry. Maybe you have, too?

  • “We’re the best solution for objective planning.”
  • “This is a strategic, objective process for financial freedom.”
  • “Everyone needs an objective partner to shape their plan.”

Being “objective” gets held up as a pinnacle of professionalism, but what’s so great about it? Objectivity is the idea that we’re more interested in the reality that exists beyond an individual’s experience—that truth is out there beyond one’s feelings and deliberations.

Objectivity is overrated, in our opinion.

Clients, what’s so bad about being the main focus of your own story? The objective part—the math!—should be working backwards from the goals you bring to the table.

I will never tell you how much you “should be” spending in retirement: you are the boss of your life.

I can’t know what portion of your assets “should be” more liquid: let’s talk about your mid-range goals first.

I don’t have an opinion on what your employment plans “should be”: you’re the one who has to wake up each day and make the most of it.

You are the star of this show, and it’s an honor to be here with you. Whether we’re trying to get some better lighting on things or rehearsing for what’s ahead, the focus is… you!

Clients, is it time to revisit any goals? Write or call.


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525,600 Minutes

“How do you measure a year in the life?”

Jonathan Larson wrote those lyrics for the 1996 Broadway musical Rent, but today they strike a chord in me.

One year ago, I had two homes, four vehicles, and a life split between Florida and Nebraska. I was a year into this new chapter—as a widower—with many options and a lot to figure out. Life was unsettled.

“How do you measure a year in the life?” Had two places: left them, moved to one new place. Had four vehicles: dumped three, added one to end with two. Used to swim laps in the sunshine for health: now I walk in all kinds of weather. Had a Floribraska snowbird lifestyle: came back as a full-time Cornhusker. Used to split my workdays between the Florida home and the shop in BDL (beautiful downtown Louisville!): ended up “on Main,” as we say.

“525,600 minutes…” The mid-century modern home in Louisville is what started it. Driving over to see it with my realtor the day it listed, I kept thinking, “I need another house like I need a puppy! This is stupid.” But the home charmed me very quickly, and I realized I needed just one place—that one. Fortunately, I was in a position to purchase it. Then other pieces fell into place quite quickly.

That question of location seems pressing for a lot of people in the wake of a loss or a change in the household. In the year after Cathy passed, I too was wondering where I should spend my time, but I should have been thinking with whom I will spend it. It just took me getting settled back here to realize it.

The people I care about are mostly concentrated around here. Reconnecting with the community, the place I lived most of my life, has been a joy. And rededicating myself to business has been invigorating.

A year into it, I’m happy here—I would not trade with anybody.

Resources create options, which are handy when circumstances change our plans. I’m so grateful for you, the best clients in the world, who are such a large part of my life. That I came out of the hard years still connected to you is a blessing for which I will always be grateful.

Clients, if you would like to talk about your plans and planning or anything else, please email me or call.


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A 100% Chance of Weather

photo shows a misty landscape, partly in light rain, partly in blue sky

Understanding the risks involved is an important part of decision-making. Most would agree, I think, because how can we make informed decisions without weighing the consequences?

What makes it tough, however, is that a lot of financial planning literature uses the word “risk” when they’re actually talking about volatility. It’s about as helpful as the local news personality letting us know that weather is ahead: “There’s a risk of weather today! Heads up, everyone.”

How would that possibly help us make informed decisions?

Instead of railing against the presence of weather—or gravity, or any other to-be-expected force!—we like to spend our energy paying attention to risks that can actually affect our long-term goals.

Recall that in our shop, risk assessment takes place with a long time horizon in mind. We believe that you should have the money you’ll require for the next 3–5 years invested outside of the market. (Short-term volatility is a risk during the short term.) If you’re parking your money with us for a longer time horizon (3+ years), here are some risks you can expect we will factor into our strategy:

  • Concentration risk. Too many eggs in one basket could spell trouble if the basket upsets.
  • Inflation risk. Over time, what’s the likelihood this investment can outpace inflation? Put another way, what’s the risk of losing purchasing power over time?
  • Investment risk. What’s the likelihood that this investment will substantially change for the worse as time goes on or that the players could go out of business?

How much risk a portfolio might endure depends on a number of factors—your investing time horizon being just about the biggest one. There are other types of course, but these are some of the main examples of the risks we’re attuned to.

Volatility isn’t one of them. We don’t “mitigate” weather by hiding in a burrow forever; we don’t react to short-term swings by pulling out. As if we could spell it out any plainer, here’s our periodic reminder: we live with volatility in the pursuit of long-term gains.

Clients, when you want to talk risks, time horizons, and goals, email or call.


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Flashy Clues and Second Opinions

photo shows one hand with white skin pointing to a piece of paper that another hand with white skin is signing with a pen

If you’ll forgive my language, I believe the way to “revolutionize” the financial services industry is quite simple: you just cut the crap.

The pushy peddlers of old aren’t entirely gone, and it reminds me to come back to the basics. Clients first. If you’re better off, I’m better off. Grow the buckets.

I recently met a person, well into the retirement years, who escaped some real damage by listening to their guts on a financial proposition. The peddler who almost got to them reminded me of the antics of a character I met as a young man starting out in the life insurance business, long ago.

This classic peddler fit every stereotype of the master salesman of the last century. Big pinkie ring, Cadillac, flashy suits. His motto? “Dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with bull….”

It didn’t matter if you needed what he was selling or not. The question was, could he make a buck by tricking you into buying it?

The sales abuses are just as real today. Can you imagine tying up money for 10 years when you are retired, facing a huge penalty if you do want your money out, and getting mediocre returns just so a peddler can get a big insurance commission? It happens.

The bad news is, the obvious signs like pinkie rings and flashy suits are gone, replaced by a sea of nice websites with family pictures and flowery talk about your best interests and the peddler’s degrees and designations. The good news: you can always get a second opinion.

I’m in business to talk all day. If someone you know needs a second opinion, I’d love to talk to them. Here to help as I can.


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