Tactics

Louisville, My Home Sweet Home

© Can Stock Photo / rxr3rxr3

Planning to work to age 92 has a side effect: there is no date any time soon after which I can do what I want. Cathy and I knew this. A decade ago we figured out that we needed to have some fun along the way. That’s how the whole snowbird plan got started.

Snowbirds are people who go south for part or all of the winter, migrating north to their homes in the spring. We began doing that in 2010, for a few winter months. It was the best of both worlds. We had our home in Nebraska to enjoy most of the year, close to friends and family, and a place to get some weeks of warmth in the dead of winter.

A couple years after we began this, Cathy’s health went south. She was diagnosed with a slew of pretty awful lung conditions. We were able to continue our snowbird routine. Her rising need for oxygen eventually made flying impossible, so we simply drove back and forth.

Three years ago, things got to where long road trips were no longer possible. She had to choose where to live. The specialists who saved her life and continued to treat her are in the south. And Nebraska winter weather could be fatal in a power outage or a stalled car. Staying in the south became a matter of medical necessity for Cathy.

At the same time, health insurance paid the bills for stuff that kept Cathy alive. My small group policy required me to be maintain Nebraska residency. And I needed to be in the shop at 228 Main Street for a bit every month. (Our work for you helped Cathy, because it’s expensive to be sick.) I became a long-range commuter. Cathy could remain in the warmth and I could keep the business end going.

Cathy got extra years of life with the help of Florida weather and Florida doctors—important years, in which children got married and grandbabies were born. With her passing, I can focus again on life in Louisville, my home. I’ll be selling Cathy’s Florida house – it’s too much, and in the wrong place.

We have come full circle, back to the original situation. I’m going to work to age 92, so I need to figure out how to have some fun along the way. Bottom line, I’ll be spending much more time at home in Louisville.

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

Extreme Discounts

© Can Stock Photo / konephoto

One of the basic distinctions made in the stock market is between growth and value. Growth stocks offer the potential or history of above-average growth in revenues and earnings. Investors are buying a brighter future.

Value stocks present a low cost in terms of price for a current dollar of earnings, or price/earnings (P/E) ratio. In the late 1990’s growth stock boom, value stocks were derided as “old economy” stocks. The exciting “new economy stocks,” computer chip and internet and fiber optic companies, were all firmly in the growth camp.

Investing in growth worked well until it didn’t. Value stocks went nowhere until the Tech Wreck, when growth stocks peaked and then fell a long way. The stock market often experiences periods where one of these factors outperforms, and the other one lags.

A recent article at MarketWatch.com1 detailed the work of a Wall Street analyst who claims that value stocks are at their biggest discount relative to growth in many years. The charts show that valuation differences generated by a decade of strong growth stock returns put value stocks at perhaps the biggest discount in history relative to growth.

In plain language, the bargain stocks have generally become bigger bargains.
When there are sound reasons for expecting better stock prices at some point in the future, we may own companies that are underwater, or down from what we paid for them, for an extended period.

We strive to own the best bargains. It is hard to watch as bargains become even better bargains while more expensive stocks do better. But we know how this works. We believe that sooner or later the bargains will produce gains.

If the differences in valuations are at extreme levels, perhaps the trend change is coming sooner rather than later.

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

Notes & References

1. MarketWatch, “Value Stocks are Trading at the Steepest Discount in History”. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/value-stocks-are-trading-at-the-steepest-discount-in-history-2019-06-06. Accessed June 14th, 2019


Content in this material is for general information only and 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.

Knowing and Doing

© Can Stock Photo / yarruta

Knowing and doing are two different things. We were reminded of this recently, during a Financial Literacy Month discussion. A colleague surprised us with a contrarian opinion on financial literacy.

Conventional thinking is that the presence of so many people who fail to save for retirement and make costly mistakes is proof that more and better financial education is needed. Our colleague asked us whether the issue was one of knowing, or one of doing?

“Consider what we know about health and what we do about health,” he said. By some estimates, lack of exercise and poor eating habits lead to millions of deaths each year, not to mention deaths from tobacco use and alcohol abuse. Haven’t we all heard about these things?

Likewise, most people may have heard that investing for the future is a good idea, and spending within one’s means. But surveys show that many are ill-prepared for retirement.

Whoever first said “knowledge is power” perhaps was only partly right. Wall Street pioneer Roger Babson wrote a century ago:

“Experience has taught me that there is one chief reason why some people succeed and others fail. The difference is not one of knowing, but of doing. So far as success can be reduced to a formula, it consists of this: doing what you know you should do.”

Our view at 228 Main is that ‘knowledge in action is power.’ We will continue to promote knowledge and awareness of financial and investment concepts and ideas. But we will also work to motivate and persuade on the merits of taking worthwhile action.

Knowing. And doing. We need both in order to get where we want to go. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

About Cathy and Me, and the Path Ahead

© Can Stock Photo / Geleol

Some of you have known me since childhood, or for a very long time. Others, we’ve met more recently. Not all of you know this story in full. But circumstances have made it pertinent to all.

It’s personal. But in my integrated life, personal things have business ramifications.

First, some history. In the eighth grade I was Charlie Brown to Cathy as the little red-haired girl – I was totally infatuated, but she didn’t even know my name. That changed the morning of the first day of freshman year in high school. Looking for my assigned locker, there she was: the magic of alphabetical order put Cathy Livingston’s locker right next to mine.

By the following 4th of July, when I was 15 and she almost was, our long romance began. We married four summers later, and built a life over the next four-plus decades.

Ten years ago Cathy developed troubling symptoms. Seven years ago she was diagnosed with four kinds of lung crud and pulmonary artery disease. These things are big trouble. Dr. Internet gave her 2-5 years to live; he didn’t know how tough she is. However, recently things became critical.

During an emergency admission to the Mayo Hospital ICU, the lung transplant evaluation team roared into action. After a seven day whirlwind of consultations with six kinds of specialists, they listed her for transplant with a very high priority, based on her dire condition.

With a commitment to communications via every means and an able, growing staff, I have been able to serve as caregiver these past several years AND take care of business. Cathy has gotten what she needed from me, and business adapted – it did not suffer. I have been able to work a full schedule, with the time flexibility afforded by 21st century communications and the best clients in the world.

You need to know what the path ahead looks like. For perhaps four months after transplant, I’ll be able to work much as I have in recent years. This means I need the scheduling flexibility we’ve already figured out. For those four months, I may not spend any time in the shop. Cathy will be my top priority, and the role of a transplant caregiver is quite demanding during this phase.

Thereafter, I’ll have more flexibility than I’ve had at any time in the past five years. With new lungs, Cathy will be able to walk on the beach again, and drive, and go to the store, and live with a lot more independence.

I still want to work to age 92. And the business is still the source of the health insurance and other resources to do what we need and want to do on the home front. I feel my obligations to you very deeply, and I will be there for you.

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

Pipeline of Medical Miracles?

© Can Stock Photo / Nickondr

Everybody has troubles. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. Among the troubles some people have are chronic or acute medical conditions.
A list of these might include the following:

• Neuromuscular: Parkinsons, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers, Spinal Muscle Atrophy, neuropathic pain.

• Inflammatory: Crohn’s Disease, IBD, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, pulmonary fibrosis, liver diseases.

• Dozens of forms of cancer, leukemia and other blood diseases.

These conditions have one thing in common. Each one is the target of one or more drug therapies currently in the research pipeline of three established biotechnology companies. These firms seek to discover, develop, manufacture and distribute innovative therapies for people with serious medical problems.

Importantly for us, these three firms are already profitably engaged in the business of distributing past discoveries. The research pipeline represents both hope for people with problems and potential future business. Stock in these firms is trading at below-market multiples of earnings, one of the valuation measures we use to judge the attractiveness of a potential holding. This is no guarantee of future returns, of course.

We believe the future is bright for this industry. But we cannot know which drugs in the pipeline will ultimately be approved as safe and effective. Therefore we cannot know which company’s stock will do best. This is why it makes sense to have a diversified approach – owning shares in a variety of companies.

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


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Because of their narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies.

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

Autonomy: Freedom, Independence…

© Can Stock Photo / RioPatuca

Dictionary definitions of autonomy talk about freedom and independence. This is fitting, when you think about what autonomous or self-driving vehicles (AV) are going to do for those who are unable to drive. And that is just part of the story.

In our society, a drivers license has long represented freedom and independence – autonomy, in other words. One of the toughest issues in dealing with friends or elders with diminishing abilities has been that moment when driving a car becomes a threat to one’s self and others. And some among us have never been able to drive, due to injury, sickness, or congenital conditions.

Progress has been made in the development of autonomous cars. Within the next few years, we are likely to see the first widely available autonomous vehicles. This will make it possible for those who cannot drive to live autonomously, independently, on their own. Delivery of goods and services may be more widely available than ever before. Getting to a medical appointment or store will be routine for nearly anyone, in any condition.

An even larger benefit might come from a reduction in motor vehicle injuries and fatalities. When a self-driving car is implicated in an accident, everybody hears about it – the news covers it extensively. Yet these incidents rarely happen. And each month, more people die in US traffic accidents in conventional vehicles than were killed on 9/11.

From an investment standpoint, it is possible to own stock in several of the leading approaches to autonomous vehicles. A significant fraction of the value of one of the traditional auto companies is in its autonomous vehicle division. With another company, you gain ownership in an aggressive AV development program along with the leading internet search business, among other things. These are established, profitable companies. The third is a somewhat controversial, newer company that has yet to book a full-year profit, as it works on building an electric vehicle business.

In the investment advisory accounts we manage through LPL Financial, we have chosen a number of paths to gain exposure to the evolution of the automobile. This diversified approach will hopefully bear fruit in the years to come. No guarantees, of course.

Just as in the 1990’s, it was difficult to understand the pervasive changes the internet would bring to everyday life, autonomous vehicles may present a transformation as sweeping. We humans tend to believe things will be as they are now – it is hard to visualize change. But we believe change is coming.

We will continue to study and watch. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and 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. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

Consolidating Gains

© Can Stock Photo / designer491

In the course of our weekly research, we found a theme worth talking about.

Some notable long term gains have been notched in the past by companies that consolidated a highly fragmented industry over a period of decades. For example, many years ago, it seemed that most towns had two or three trash hauling companies. There were thousands of them across the country.

Now, a large fraction of our garbage is handled by just a few companies. Each of the giants grew faster than the overall economy, or the waste removal industry, through acquisition of companies and contracts as they consolidated the industry.

There are reasons why this happens:

• A bigger player spreads overhead over a larger operation.
• Larger scale might mean lower cost for equipment and supplies.
• Resources may be shared among different locations.

All of these things and more boost profits, or reduce costs, or both.

This is why we are excited to find the largest player in a highly fragmented industry available at what we believe is a favorable price. We cannot know the future, but thinking that the big will get bigger seems promising. Consolidation has been a durable feature of modern economies.

We own the largest player in each of three fragmented industries, companies that are growing their share of the market. Values bounce around in the short run, as with any long term investment. There are no guarantees.

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


Content in this material is for general information only and 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.

This Will Pay Dividends

© Can Stock Photo / lightkeeper

One of the joys of thinking is that every once in a while, you might come up with a good idea. We are hoping we just did exactly that.

Our buy list, the securities we believe have favorable prospects for the years ahead, provides the building blocks for your portfolios. We rank them in order of timeliness, together with a weighting or percentage each should have. When funds are available in a portfolio, we start at the top of this cascade and fill up each holding to the desired weighting.

In our research and portfolio management, our object has long been to maximize total returns.

The bright idea? We re-ranked the Buy List based on dividend yield, and changed the weightings to reflect an income emphasis. By taking the top twenty dividend payers on the list and putting more weight on the better payers, we come up with a healthy dividend yield in a portfolio that has the potential to grow, too. Income and growth.

Dividend payments could be used to reinvest and compound your income or taken as a monthly payment, your choice.

Is this right for you? Maybe, maybe not. Our traditional “total return” approach is more suitable for many. Both alternatives feature holdings that fluctuate in value. These “income emphasis” portfolios will be more concentrated, although having twenty holdings provides diversification.

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. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

The payment of dividends is not guaranteed. Companies may reduce or eliminate the payment of dividends at any given time.

Writing the Book on Investing

© Can Stock Photo / alexskopje

In the 21st century, it is possible to be more open about every aspect of business than ever before. Digital communications enable us to describe in real time what we are doing, why, how, and for whom with a level of detail that was not possible in the last century.

We have always had a well-defined investment process. We know what we want to own, and why. Since 2015 we have been able to share insights about our views, thinking, philosophies, strategies, and tactics here on the blog at 228Main.com. Those of you who are regular readers have perhaps gained a good sense of what we are about.

It is time to take it to the next level. We are working to comprehensively document our investment management process, from philosophy to research sources to investment selection methods to portfolio structure to tailoring client fit to trading protocols to client and account review process. We will be writing a book.

As great thinker Morgan Housel wrote, “writing crystallizes ideas in ways thinking by itself will never accomplish.” So we expect to come out of this exercise with a tighter, better-defined set of processes and protocols. No guarantees, of course.

This will take time and effort. What are the other advantages in doing it?

• To provide even greater clarity for you.
• To gain a comprehensive business operating manual.
• To help new associates understand what the enterprise is about.

Bottom line, this is a step toward greater sustainability, one of our major objectives for the years ahead. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Update: The Next Energy Revolution

© Can Stock Photo / kessudap

Our work involves looking at trends and striving to figure out if there is a way to make appropriate investments that may have a good chance to work out well. More than two years ago, we put together a pair of trends and made a forecast. It’s time to check in and see how the forecast is working out.

The cost of electricity from solar sources was said to be declining 10% per year, while the cost of electricity storage by battery was also declining. We felt then that this would lead to a revolution in energy production.

Installed solar generating capacity in the US grew 19% last year. The Solar Energy Industries Association projects that capacity will double in the next five years. In terms of new generating capacity by source, solar has ranked first or second each year for the past six years.1

Groundbreaking projects are going up around the world, too. The World Economic Forum reports that Abu Dhabi switched on the world’s largest virtual battery plant, able to store 648 megawatt hours. That’s enough to keep the city supplied for up to six hours in the event of a generating outage. This is feasible because the price of lithium-ion battery storage has dropped by more than 75% since 2012.2

As this combination of solar power generation plus battery storage commands a bigger share of global energy production, it seems to us that a lot of copper will be used. At the recent Global Copper Conference, a keynote speaker talked of record demand in the years ahead.

With prices on some mining companies that produce copper off by 75% or more from peaks of a few years ago, we see opportunity. This idea has not made large piles of money for anyone over the past few years, but the trend looks favorable. We believe we know how this turns out, so we are sticking with our convictions.

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

Notes and References

1. Solar Energy Industries Association, U.S. Solar Market Insight. https://www.seia.org/us-solar-market-insight. Accessed May 7th, 2019.
2. World Economic Forum, “The Cost of Generating Renewable Energy Has Fallen – A Lot.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/this-is-how-much-renewable-energy-prices-have-fallen/. Accessed May 7th, 2019.