big picture

Slow and Steady

photo shows blue, partly cloudy sky and brown stalks of rice plants

I’ve got something to say—about rice.

I know. I’m not a foodie. This is not a food blog. But hear me out. A retired client and amateur nutritionist opened my eyes about rice.

I’ve always had issues with white rice: I generally want to eat the whole pot. It’s handy, it cooks up so quickly, but to get full from it, I keep eating and eating.

“That’s not what you need,” the client told me. “They take the good stuff out so it will cook faster.”

Brown rice isn’t “minute rice”: it’s 45-minute rice. But the slow route preserves the stuff we really need. We don’t throw out the good stuff for immediate gratification. And if you want to think about the big picture, remember that this grain has been a food staple across the world for thousands of years. No wonder. It packs a punch, if only we handle it responsibly.

We are not nutritionists (although when you and I visit, you may still hear me talking about brown rice!). But this lesson is still paying off in other ways. Did anything sound familiar as I relayed all this?

In their rush to get in on the action, some new investors head for day-trading. It scratches an itch, but it’s focused on the smallest time frame. Investing for the long haul? That’s where the good stuff is, we believe. (No guarantees.)

There are benefits in the waiting. Preservation, patience—sometimes we need a dash of each.

Clients, email or call to talk about this or anything else.


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.


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Life Is Short… Pick What’s Precious

photo shows a winding path through brush on a causeway

Decades ago, my father told me something about perspective. He said, “The mortality rate is 100%.” It was a lesson, one which gave me a better understanding of his terminal illness. But the more lasting perspective is the one it gave me on life, a lesson that reminds me how precious—and short—life is.

We got into a discussion recently with a person who is close to retiring from an active career. After getting a sense for what life in retirement might look like for them, our talks focused on money and numbers.

After it became evident that this whole retirement thing could work out, anxiety about the change began to build.

When we spend four or five decades earning a paycheck, having them every month for several hundred months in a row, it is sort of jarring to step into the unknown—to live without the steady comfort of that paycheck coming in. Some uneasiness is understandable.

It is one thing to understand the concept of owning the orchard for the fruit crop—living off your portfolio—but it is a whole different thing to trust that concept with your wellbeing and way of life.

Yet if we never make that leap of faith, we might labor at a job forever, even one that drains us, even when our means actually exceed our needs.

And we can’t think or logic our way out of facing our feelings. (If we could, many of us would’ve already flexed our smarts and sidestepped these pesky feelings, right?)

So perhaps it is useful to try to finish this sentence: “Life is short, we better __.”

The fact is, time is what life is made of. Another day spent as an employee is one not spent on our own, personal priorities. When we fill in the blank, we are defining those priorities.

Clients, if you would like to talk about how you would fill in the blank, or finance it, please email us or call.


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This text can be found at https://www.228Main.com/.

A COHERENT COMPOSITION

A sunset over a body of water

Description automatically generated

On my morning walk recently, I captured a sunrise scene. Colorful clouds with interesting texture reflected perfectly in one of the Louisville lakes. I am strictly an amateur, but a good picture jumps in front of me once in a while.

Pondering later what goes into a successful photo, I came up with this list:

  • Choose a pertinent subject.
  • Frame the key elements, focusing on the important stuff.
  • Keep it centered and level.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this same formula is what goes into writing a blog post or telling a story. And it’s what we strive for in our work with you.

There are a thousand things we could talk about or think about, but you and I work on your highest priorities—the most pertinent subjects. Our goal is to frame them so you can make effective decisions. By keeping it level, we can use a balanced approach.

Clients, if you would like to work on your story, email us or call.

Slow and Steady

photo shows blue, partly cloudy sky and brown stalks of rice plants

I’ve got something to say—about rice.

I know. I’m not a foodie. This is not a food blog. But hear me out. Recently, a retired client and amateur nutritionist opened my eyes about rice.

I’ve always had issues with white rice: I generally want to eat the whole pot. It’s handy, it cooks up so quickly, but to get full from it, I keep eating and eating.

“That’s not what you need,” the client told me. “They take the good stuff out so it will cook faster.”

Brown rice isn’t “minute rice.” It’s 45-minute rice, but the slow route preserves the stuff we really need. We don’t throw out the good stuff for immediate gratification. And if you want to think about the big picture, remember that this grain has been a food staple across the world for thousands of years. No wonder. It packs a punch, if only we handle it responsibly.

We are not nutritionists (although when you and I visit, you may still hear me talking about brown rice!). But this lesson is still paying off in other ways. Did anything sound familiar as I relayed all this?

In their rush to get in on the action, some new investors head for day trading. It scratches an itch, but it’s focused on the smallest time frame. Investing for the long haul? That’s where the good stuff is, we believe. (No guarantees.)

There are benefits in the waiting. Preservation, patience—sometimes we need a dash of each.

Clients, email or call to talk about this or anything else.


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.

 

The Book of Life

© Can Stock Photo / photocreo

Books have chapters, each one a thread that is woven together with the other chapters to tell a story. Characters come and go, things happen, the plot advances. When a character’s part is finished, they do not appear in future chapters.

They were there for a reason; we remember them through the rest of the book. I’ve come to see that life is like that, too.

Our lives are a book with different chapters. In the hardest times, it helps to think there are more chapters out there. It will not always be the way it is now. The current chapter is not the whole book.

And in the best times, the same framework reminds us to be grateful for the moment, for what we have.

The way things unfold for some people, it may seem like half or more of their lives are in a single chapter. When the chapter ends, one might wonder if life is ending. But the chapter is not the book. (Or at least it does not have to be.)

C.S. Lewis noted we cannot go back and change the beginning, but we can start now and change the ending. Our sorrow is that we cannot change the prior chapter, but there is joy in being able to change the next chapter. This is why we make plans for the future!

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

Can You See the Forest?

© Can Stock Photo / Elnur

The old saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” refers to the difficulty we humans have in maintaining perspective, of keeping the larger context in mind. Our current challenges bring us reminders of this.

Recently we were discussing the prospects for investing in a food processing company. Market disruptions have knocked the cost of $1 of annual earning power down to $10 – an earnings yield of 10%. (Another way to say it: a price-earnings ratio of 10.) If one can purchase durable earning power in an enduring industry at valuations like that, the holding might be owned a very long time.

(No guarantees – there are a lot of assumptions in that last paragraph.)

A colleague asked us whether we were concerned about the impact of processing plant shutdowns. After agreeing that any shutdowns would likely be limited to a matter of weeks, this seemed to be one of those problems of perspective.

For none of the past few decades have the plants been shut down for a virus. Apart from the next few weeks, it seems unlikely that virus-related shutdowns will be much of a factor in the decades ahead.

The forest is that we humans will still need to eat in the future, and there is probably money to be made by meeting that need. The trees are the virus and the shutdowns and the disruptions. One of our key roles is working to see the big picture and striving to act accordingly. We need to be able to see the forest in spite of the trees.

Interestingly, the challenge of maintaining perspective may play a role in creating bargains. Investors who get too wrapped up in transitory effects may push prices to levels that don’t reflect the long term value. When current conditions fade, as they will, that value may become apparent. Again, no guarantees.

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.

The Pain Up Close and the Big Picture

© Can Stock Photo / PongMoji

This is personal.

I was visiting with a client the other day about the inevitable rebound to come in our economy, and the opportunities that are developing now. The conversation turned to concern for those we know who might not survive a COVID-19 episode, and the grim scenes and stories from tragically overburdened hospitals.

It was a reminder, again, of the duality of our existence.

On the big scale, it is almost mundane. Demographers estimate that 108 billion humans have been born in all of history, and 100 billion of us have already died. Death comes to us all. It happens to everyone.

Yet when you get down to cases, what could be more unique or personal than our experience of the loss of a friend, lover, parent, brother, sister?

It may seem impersonal or cold to compare a projected death toll from our current troubles to some past pandemic, to talk about economic recovery and market rebounds. But we have to think about the big picture in order to make plans for living. We need to avoid emotional reactions to issues which would benefit from reasoned consideration.

I am only going to say this once. I feel the pain up close, intensely. Less than a year ago I learned first hand what happens when the ventilator loses the battle to keep a person alive.

I’ll not be apologizing for trying to figure out how to make the most of what we have to work with. Cathy wrote me a note in her last hours. It said “You have a lot of wonderful life left.” That’s the big picture. 330 million of us will survive the virus in this country. We have a lot of wonderful life left.

We need to feel our feelings about the pain up close. But we owe it to each other to think our thinking in the big picture.

If you would like to talk about the big picture or anything else, please email us or call.

Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

© Can Stock Photo / Elenathewise

I recently heard the simple lesson about rocks and pebbles and sand again. You probably know it.

If you take an empty jar and fill it with rocks, you can still add pebbles and shake it until it is full again. Then you can fill it again with sand. The pebbles fit in around the rocks, and the sand fills in around the pebbles. Everything fits.

But if you empty it the jar and try to refill it first with the sand, then the pebbles, and finally the rocks, it comes out differently. The rocks will not all fit.

The moral of the story: focus on the big things, and do not let the little things get in your way. We each are happier and more effective when we have thought about our priorities and acted on them first. When we have time to take care of less important matters when they fit in. When we aren’t focused on little things that just bog us down.

We have rocks – priorities – in our personal lives, in our relationships with others, in our work or business. Our best lives may be when we can put all of our rocks from all parts of our lives into the jar, thinking about priorities and taking action. And keeping the sand out of the works, no matter the source.

Narrowing the focus to you, what are the rocks in your financial plans and planning, the big priorities? Let’s work on them first, and get to the fine points later.

In our work for you, the rocks are doing our research and taking care of portfolios, handling the service you need so your money connects to your life, and communicating with you every way we can.

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

The Long View

© Can Stock Photo / iofoto

The unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%, a fifty-year low, according to the Labor Department’s report for September. Like clockwork, some observers were quick to find the clouds around this silver lining.

That got us to thinking about life fifty years ago compared to today. Looking at the facts, it is hard to think of it as anything but unimaginable progress. In 1970, more than three quarters of homes lacked air conditioning. Televisions were only in 61% of them. 38% had washing machines. One in twenty lacked indoor
plumbing. There was about one land line telephone for every two people.

More startling are the things that nobody had in 1970, because they had not yet been invented. Mobile phones, digital cameras, post-it notes, email, video games, inkjet printers, MRI scanners, fiber optics, personal computers, GPS, and the internet, to name a few of them.

Median household income, adjusted for inflation, grew 37% over that half century. The rich got richer, but the average household made a lot of progress, too.

However, life isn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows, as an older acquaintance of mine likes to say. The economy grew and shrank in its cycle of expansions and recessions. The stock market, measured by its major averages, also went up and down year to year, sometimes sharply.

In between the record low unemployment rates at the beginning and end of the fifty years, we had three episodes of unemployment in excess of 10%.

We have noticed that when times are bad, some have difficulty imaging a recovery. And when times are good, some can scarcely think about the possibility of poor times returning. We humans like to believe that present trends and conditions will persist, good or bad.

The bad news is, the economy and the markets will continue to go up and down. The good news is, over the long term we have made amazing progress on almost every front. The past is no guarantee of the future, of course. In our opinion, there are many reasons to believe our progress will continue.

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.

The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.