Month: February 2019

Everything’s Connected, Chapter 137

© Can Stock Photo / punpleng

The world is both numbers and ideas, math and language, money and art, computers and nature. A lot goes into connecting your money to your life and ambitions. We were reminded of this in learning about the life and work of Ada Lovelace.

The world’s first computer programmer was not working out of a garage in California in the 1970s—but like the computing pioneers of Silicon Valley, the 19th century thinker Ada Lovelace saw possibility where others didn’t.

Born in London, Lovelace’s education started at age four. She was a young adult when she began work with other early computing minds on an analytical computing machine: a giant engine that could process numbers mechanically.

Although their genius wasn’t recognized at the time, Lovelace’s notes about this machine have helped lift her from history: she was one of the first people to suggest that if a machine could process numbers, it could process other forms of information, like text and images and other symbols.

The insight that resonates with us is, math is “the language through which alone we can adequately express the great facts of the natural world.” Certainly arithmetic is key to working out the money ends of your goals.

We owe a lot to Ada Lovelace, her contemporaries, and succeeding generations of pioneers of the modern age. We are all beneficiaries of their breakthroughs, and wiser for understanding the philosophy behind their achievements.

Clients, if you would like to discuss this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

  1. Ben Rabinovich, “Ada Lovelace Day 2018: When is it and who was Ada Lovelace?” The Daily Mail: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6256519/Ada-Lovelace-Day-2018-Ada-Lovelace.html
  1. Julia Markus, Lady Byron and Her Daughters: https://books.google.com/books?id=nOtwBgAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=ada%20lovelace%20education%20insanity&pg=PT131#v=onepage&q=translation&f=false.

 

The Golden Business Rule

© Can Stock Photo / czany

The Golden Rule exists in many forms and many cultures around the world. We see it in different formulations: what goes around comes around, you reap what you sow, do unto others.

At 228 Main, we stopped thinking about our business revenue or asset goals a long time ago. We do have goals: a specific one and a broader one.

The narrow one is to try to grow your buckets. This has us reading and researching, assessing opportunities and threats in the economy and markets, forming views, and taking action in portfolios. It is endlessly fascinating to me, one of the reasons I want to work until age 92.

The broader goal is to do great work for you, from your perspective. There are two pieces to this. First, we have to understand your life and your plans and planning. Whatever your financial position is, your objectives and needs play a large role in shaping the best strategies.

The second part is in communicating in clear terms and engaging with you, so we understand you and you see how your money connects with your life. Living with confidence about your financial position may contribute to your happiness and wellness, which is our true underlying purpose. Life may be better when you have confidence in your approach and know that we are responsive to changes in your situation.

The ironic thing is that business got a whole lot better when we stopped worrying about it and began to focus more on your situation. Evidently, what goes around comes around.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Financial Planning and Fortune Tellers

© Can Stock Photo / Anke

We recently reviewed a financial planner’s article about strategies for claiming Social Security. They had software to do a complex analysis. The software required inputs of some raw facts: estimated Social Security benefits at different ages, household cash flow requirements, financial balances.

But the software required inputs, answers to questions about the future:

How much will investments earn in the future?

What will tax rates be in the future?

What will inflation be in the future?

How will household cash flow needs change in the future?

Many software planning tools even ask for the answer to the ultimate question: what will the date on your death certificate be?

The problem is we can’t know the future. So calculating that financial balances would be a tiny amount higher 30 years from now if one course is chosen versus another is probably about as reliable as consulting a fortune teller. Especially when it comes to trying to guess when your retirement will “end”!

But when it comes out of a computer, with charts and graphs and year-by-year tables of numbers, presented by a well-dressed person with initials after their name, it seems real.

At the dawn of the computer age, a phrase was used to describe the analytical version of “you reap what you sow”: “garbage in, garbage out” (or GIGO).1 We might do well to remember it.

Clients, if you would like to puzzle through any financial issue, we would be happy to use real life dialogue to sort out how the alternatives might work out. Email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

 

The Information Age is Over

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An Italian philosopher has identified the great paradox of knowledge. The tidal waves of data and information coming at us every second are more likely to drown us than empower us. Gloria Origgi believes we are moving towards the Reputation Age, in which information has value only when it has been filtered by a trusted source.

To illustrate, we recently sought to find the reason behind a rise in the stock price of a company in which we are invested. Turning to Google, filtering to see only news from the last 24 hours, we found a blizzard of information – but nothing related to our quest. None of the search results was from a news source we recognized. Here are the entries we found, with our interpretations and judgement:

1. A tiny investment manager sold some of its shares, an insignificant 0.02% of an average day’s trading volume. Worthless.

2. A press release about one day’s trading action from last July. Worthless.

3. The third entry was of an increasingly common type. Apparently written by a robot, it recites the percentage change in the stock for the prior day, month, and year to date. It also included average analyst ranking and statistics about the stock price and volume of trading. Worthless.

4. All of the remaining entries on the first page of the Google news search were similar in form to the third, with variations in the statistics cited. Two had proprietary technical scales or indicators, one included Bollinger bands, none had actual news about the company. Worthless.

Fortunately, we invest in proprietary subscription-based investment services which include breaking news about the companies in which we invest. A quarterly earnings report is due out within a few days, so we concluded that changing sentiment about that report was probably behind the stock move.

This anecdote demonstrates Dr. Origgi’s concept. The quantity of raw data available is staggering. But only when we to turned to our trusted sources did we find what we wanted in an efficient fashion. How did we know to look there? Reputation.

The Reputation Age. It’s here. We strive to earn a place in it when you are looking for guidance about your plans and planning and wealth issues.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Building an Enterprise to Serve You

© Can Stock Photo / artjazz

Over lunch with dear clients recently, I mentioned that our work together has now spanned twenty years, through the beginning of retirement and building a dream home.

One said, “I will never forget what you told us in that first meeting.” I was curious: what had been so memorable?

“You told us you wanted to work to age 92.”

I still have the goal, as you know. (Although, I had not remembered that it was twenty years old.) Of course, working to age 92 depends on living to age 92, maintaining vitality and mental acuity.

But we do not choose our lifespans, and good health is a gift that may be lost.
Early in my career I established a succession agreement. This assured your affairs would be handled by competent, high-integrity colleagues in the event I could no longer work for you. You could elect to go elsewhere at your convenience, on your time frame, but you would not be forced to scramble for help.

Although I would not walk across the street to talk to a prospect, being fully occupied with the goal of growing your buckets, the business has grown beyond anything I could have imagined when I established that agreement. Our outbound communication is aimed at you, not prospects. And yet we grow and grow, and new clients find us.

You point neighbors to our blogs and videos at 228Main.com. Your relatives find their way in. Even “likes” and “shares” in social media spread the word about our services.

This unexpected success prompts us to think about building an enterprise strong enough and deep enough to survive me. We’ve had success in finding wonderful people to work with us. Our philosophy and strategies resonate with them, and they bring their personal contributions to the shared mission.

You see four people working at 228 Main, but three others are working part-time, behind the scenes, and there may come a day when any of them devote even more of their energy to working for you.

I’ll never farm out talking to you to someone else. Yet we will develop associates who help new clients get connected to our system and philosophy, and take care of them.

Our object is to develop the organizational depth to survive the loss of any one of us. Then you will have a more resilient, sustainable partner in this enterprise.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Hit ’em Where They Ain’t

© Can Stock Photo / dehooks

Investors can learn a lot from Willie Keeler, one of the smallest major league baseball players in history. Wee Willie stood 5’4” and weighed 140 pounds.

Playing from 1892 to 1910, Willie was a prolific hitter, with a batting average of .345 over that long career. He explained his success with words that have become part of baseball lore:

“Keep your eye on the ball, and hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

We believe it makes sense to strive to understand investment opportunities, researching companies, trends, and economic developments to try to gain an edge. This is what it means to “keep your eye on the ball.”

As contrarians, we seek to avoid stampedes. If the crowd is there, we probably want to be somewhere else. As Warren Buffett once said, “be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy.” Isn’t this the investment version of “hit ‘em where they ain’t?”

It would be interesting to know whether Wee Willie Keeler did any investing. Did his investing philosophy match his baseball hitting philosophy?

We cannot know the answer to that. But we do know, our investing philosophy matches up very well. “Keep your eye on the ball, and hit ‘em where they ain’t.”
Clients, if you would like to talk about his or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Pin It Down

© Can Stock Photo / albln

Social Security is a key piece of the retirement puzzle for most people. The benefits can be worth a substantial amount of money, Each one of us must make decisions about our participation.

We advocate getting facts specific to your situation before making up your mind about what to do. There is a lot of information floating around, not all of it accurate. If you do a Google search on the term “social security” you find more than six billion references.

But there is only one Social Security Administration, and its official websites may be a good place to begin. The reality may be more complicated than indicated by articles in the media.

Recently a client wondered about whether to defer retirement benefits to age 70. Supposedly the benefit of waiting past Full Retirement Age would be an 8% increase per year, calculated to the month. But when they looked at their online benefit statement at SSA.GOV, the benefit of waiting to age 70 benefit was 17% greater than indicated by the 8% formula.

How could this be?

Social Security retirement benefits are based on your best 35 years of earnings, indexed for inflation. Working beyond Full Retirement Age would replace a low wage year from earlier in life with higher current earnings, for this client. So there were two factors working in favor of deferral, not just one.

Pin down the specific facts for your situation before making up your mind. Clients, if you would like help with this or to talk about anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This is an individual example and is not representative of any specific investment. Your results may vary.