about us

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.

A Tour of 228 Main Street

228main

Hello, and welcome. We hope you enjoy your tour today. If you have comments or questions as we go along, by all means, ask them.

My name is Mark Leibman. I have been enchanted by the markets and the economy since my college days. And my whole career has been about helping people plan and invest to strive toward their life goals. It is all I ever wanted to do.

Back in the year 2000, twenty years into a career marked by experience in most forms of personal finance, I bought this building. I needed more space than my office at home could provide. Obviously, I could not pass it up. It dates to 1900, a brick commercial Victorian structure like the ones that dot so many small town Main Streets across the country. The careful restoration reflects the timeless values we hold dear.

My brother Paul and I did the work to get the place ready for business, and he became my first assistant. Paul, a retired firefighter, was a man of many talents. He refinished the wood floors, and we patched and painted the walls together. By the time the first round of inexpensive furniture began to show its wear, my wife Cathy was working here and directed an upgrade to the comfortable and functional pieces you see.

Larry Wiederspan, our newest associate, sits here. He came to us after more than thirty years in banking. I knew decades ago that he would make a great addition, and the pieces fell in place back in 2014. He has a great background for all the paperwork and compliance duties required of us these days. Clients also love that we have a dedicated Technology Ambassador to coordinate 24/7 online account access, electronic signing of documents, and going paperless for those who prefer.

Greg Leibman works at this desk. Yes, we are related—he is one of my children. Greg does valuable work in a number of areas. He is the primary contact when people call the office with questions about their accounts. He assists with investment research, doing special projects and screening the market for potential holdings as well as following the news on current holdings. When it is time to make changes in portfolios, Greg makes trades under my direction. Hard to believe he started here at the end of 2009.

(Greg also maintains our virtual presence at http://www.228main.com, where he is a full partner in the writing and editing. Just like our physical location here at 228 Main Street, 228main.com is a friendly place. We post a new story or article once or twice a week, highlighting our philosophy or key investment concepts or thoughts on events of the day. Links there go to our running daily short commentaries at your choice of venues, Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. It’s almost like chatting out front on the sidewalk, talking about whatever seems most pertinent or interesting at the moment.)

My office is right back here, across from the coffee maker. I believe that five cups a day keeps the Alzheimer’s away, and that is important to anyone like me who plans to work to age 92. You’ll notice that I sit at a partner’s desk—it is the same on both sides. When you sit down, we meet as equals. We think true genius lies in finding unrecognized simplicities, not in complicating things to confuse people or acting like some high priest.

The machinery on my side of the desk connects to a thousand times the resources any investment professional had back when I got registered to do business, at a tiny fraction of the cost. For someone who reads voraciously and studies long hours, we truly live in a golden age. And it’s portable: I can work from anywhere with my cell phone and internet access.

So that’s our place. I’ve done all the talking so far, and I apologize for that. If you’d like to visit about your goals and your life, let’s get started. We can do that by phone, email, or the good old-fashioned way, face to face. You choose.

What, Why, How, for Whom?

We’ve been blogging, commenting, tweeting and otherwise communicating for a while now. A diligent follower, after much reading, would be able to determine what we are all about. This memo is to simplify things by putting the basics all in one place: what we are doing, why, how, and for whom.

What we do: Help people manage their finances to pursue their life goals. We get paid as financial consultants who manage advisory accounts on a fiduciary basis—putting client interests first—for a percentage fee. The larger your account, the better our revenues—our sole business objective is to grow your buckets. The talk is all free, as is any supplemental financial planning work to connect your money to your real life.

Why we do it: Mark Leibman is obsessed with the economy, markets, and financial plans and planning. We are contrarians, we do our own thinking, and we find great satisfaction in the gratifying work of helping people realize their plans. Mark plans to work until age 92.

How we do it: The Strategic Asset Management platform offered by LPL Financial is well-suited to our strengths and interests. It affords the opportunity to own a wide variety of investments in an individually managed account, structured to work towards specific goals. Our key activities are talking to clients, investment research, and portfolio management.

For Whom: Our most important work is for those who really need their money managed effectively over the long term. A minority of people have so much they could never spend it all even if it was buried in a jar; others have no long-term resources to manage. We primarily serve the people in the middle.

The most vital qualifications, however, have nothing to do with money. Our methods and strategies require a good philosophical fit with our clients.

1. An underlying confidence that the country endures its challenges and emerges on the far side. You might be a candidate if you understand and agree with our short essay about the end of the world.

2. An understanding that people who live on their portfolios (or wish to) depend on portfolio income to pay bills, not account value. In our working years we tend to focus on account values; in retirement it is nearly imperative to focus on cash flow instead. We explain here.

3. Toleration of short-term fluctuations—volatility—without selling out at low points or bad times. We believe in knowing where needed cash will come from, and having some money in the bank. But long-term wealth needs to be managed for the long term, and that involves ups and downs. We wrote why this is here and here.

Our primary offering, the Strategic Asset Management account, can be an effective strategy for many of our clients. We have other products and services to serve those with less, or people who are saving for a successful future.

We are not a sales organization. We have no “new business” goals. Our object is to grow client buckets. If you believe you could do somebody a favor by recommending us, you may send them a link to http://www.228main.com so they can get to know us, and figure out whether they should call for an appointment.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.