communications

Collaboration: It’s a Team Effort!

black and white photo shows six hands bumping fists in a circle

Clients, looking back over these decades together, the word “collaboration” is what comes to mind for me. I have worked with some of your households for years, and I am most proud of what you and we have created together. Successful investing requires effective attitudes and intentional actions with money. You, the best clients in the world, have been stellar partners in this regard. It has truly been a team effort.

But I’m realizing that “collaboration” will have even more meaning for our work in the years and decades ahead. The success we’ve enjoyed together has resulted in an enterprise that is now beyond my ability to run by myself (and not that I would want to—to my estimation, the gang and I seem to be having a pretty good time together!).

Greg Leibman became an integral part of the effort a long time ago; Caitie Leibman and Billy Garver bring us perspectives and skills we formerly lacked and now rely on.

Two of our core activities are investment research and portfolio management. With the increasing wealth you’ve brought to us, these activities are more important than ever. Our capacity to do them depends on the team we’ve assembled. It’s a collaboration that’s become vital to our daily work.

Even as we conduct our work as a team, however, I remain the regulatory head: as an Investment Advisor Representative of LPL Financial, I am the business structure. The others, on paper, are technically assistants working under my direction.

This regulatory structure is a vestige of the days when this was a one-person operation, and it no longer aligns with what we’re trying to do here. So, for the rest of the year, we plan to work toward restructuring our firm as a Registered Investment Advisor: this arrangement should more clearly reflect how we can best serve you in the years and decades ahead.

Friends, you know about my intention to work to age 92, and that is still the case. But I also believe that part of my responsibility to you is to help shape an enterprise that can outlast me. The mortality rate remains 100%, so sustainability is the watchword here.

A team format—four officers, working collaboratively—gives this entity some of the durability it deserves. Fortunately, LPL Financial has developed plans and processes for this exact scenario, which is not unique to us. I’ve not lost my sense of gratitude for what LPL Financial has meant to my family and me; your funds will continue to be custodied with them. Account numbers and history and online access and statements and all that will remain essentially unchanged.

There will be just a bit of paperwork to transition each account. Details will follow as we learn more.

It will take the balance of this year for us to continue this work and implement the new structure. Clients, we will be in touch with more detail about this journey as it unfolds—and we are excited to get things more aligned with the big picture.

Please email us or call with questions or comments. Thank you all again, for everything.


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Connection, through the Ages

photo shows a gravel towpath along a blue river

I recently traveled through part of the history of communications. I was on a trip to the northeast. On one morning walk, I was able to reflect on how each age has had its own modes, connecting people and places with ever-newer technology. 

This topic is of natural interest to us: communication is a major element of our connection with you. 

For hundreds of years, the rich resources and strategic locales of the Potomac River watershed served as a major crossroads for coastal and inland indigenous groups. Colonizers arrived, and the river also carried settlers and European traders. 

Begun in 1811, the National Pike became the first major highway built by the federal government. Its right-of-way is still in use in many places. I walked on it to get to a canal. 

I followed the path where mules once pulled the boats; the land is a park now and may be hiked its 185-mile length. It stretches along the Potomac from D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. 

Railroad tracks run nearby, tracks from the nation’s first common carrier—the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad—whose service began in 1834. 

Copper wires stretched over my head, another legacy of the 19th century. The B&O right-of-way was used to construct the first telegraph route in the country. 

By the 1960s, parts of this land were crisscrossed with bridges over the new Interstate Highway System. 

I saw all of this on a short morning walk. Add to the list the phone I used to take a picture of the river and the towpath! And these are only a few of the major communication developments we’re witness to every day. 

The means and modes of our connections may change over time, but we suspect the desire to live our lives as social creatures will persist. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call. 


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Never the Same Normal Twice

photo shows the word "normal" highlighted in the dictionary

At the start of 2020, few people could have guessed the whiplash and lasting impact the novel coronavirus has caused. The pandemic has affected each of us in different ways, some minor and some profound.

“The return to normalcy” has been a stated goal for many individuals, leaders, and communities. And different people have different perspectives on the types of costs they are willing to pay in the interest of the return to normalcy.

But what is normal?

Some of you are reading these words on the screen of a cell phone. A few decades ago, this moment would’ve sounded absurd. Our website is available online: 50 years ago, the internet was still firmly in the realm of science fiction. Heck, a century ago, the notion of an electronic programmable computer itself was beyond imagination.

Many things that we take for granted in our lives, it turns out, are hardly “normal” at all: in the big scheme, our everyday circumstances would be new and alien to those who came before us. The routines of our daily lives, the things that feel so comfortable and natural to us, are often a product of a specific time and place in human history.

The oldest among us—just at the edge of living memory—were born in a world that would have found many of our habits and rituals unrecognizable.

Other things, however, they would recognize in an instant. Survivors of the 1918 influenza epidemic would have been keenly familiar with wearing face masks in public and witnessing the ongoing debate about their usefulness and appropriateness. Stories about overcrowded hospitals and overworked doctors and discussions about “flattening the curve” would not have been new (or surprising) to them.

It turns out that not only is our “normal” actually abnormal, but our “abnormal” is more normal than we might think.

Someday, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we will be able to close the chapter on this pandemic and our lives will return to normal.

… Which is to say, they will be different, new, and unprecedented. Just like always.


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Three Cheers for Larry!

Coincidence, good timing, good fortune… Whatever you call it, something wonderful happened to bring Larry Wiederspan into my life and later into our shop. Clients, three cheers for Larry as he closes a chapter working here at 228 Main.


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Serendipity, or, the Mark and Larry Story

graphic shows a framed collage of headshots of each of the six members of the office staff (Patsy, Larry, Mark, Caitie, Greg, and Billy)

It’s the way events might occur by chance, to our happiness or benefit. 

It’s coincidence. 

It’s good luck. 

And maybe sometimes it’s providence. All of these could define the word “serendipity.” And all describe my long association with Larry Wiederspan. 

I met Larry in one of my earliest incarnations in business, as a life insurance agent working with country banks and bankers. The owners of a small chain of banks asked me to go out west to see one of their branch office managers at a location 200 miles away, in the middle of Nebraska, to implement a benefit plan. 

We hit it off. I ended up making return trips to work with Larry and even his wife Marilyn on their own plans and planning. As my skills and services evolved, they came along with me. 

Over the years, some of Larry’s strengths came to the surface: integrity, diligence, good faith, attention to detail, and friendliness. Then serendipity struck about ten years ago, when I learned that they were thinking about a move to my neighborhood after Marilyn’s retirement. His characteristics and traits were something that our shop needed, and he was about to join the neighborhood. 

At the time, increasing regulatory requirements meant that files needed updating and business processes became more cumbersome—precisely when family health issues took me out of the shop for weeks at a time. I could easily have been that person who had a great business until… illness befell the family. 

Larry retired from his banking career, a higher-stress and longer-hours endeavor than the more relaxed pace of the position we created for him at 228 Main. Larry and Marilyn moved closer to their grandchildren. It was a big win for everyone. 

Clients, you and we obtained the benefits of knowing and working with Larry. We’ve enjoyed Larry’s association for longer than we expected we’d get, as he enjoyed his work too. 

But he tells us the time has come for more retirement-type activities and less work. We’ll soon be short the regular company of this conscientious and pleasant fellow who means so much to us. We are still here in part because he was here for us. 

My gratitude will never repay the debt I owe Larry.

There is some chance a special project or circumstance may bring him back for a spell, but at this time it would be appropriate for you to join me in thanking Larry for his many years of service here, if you are so moved. 

In the meantime, clients, we’ll still be taking care of business—and we’re learning how to do that without Larry’s help. Call or email us about anything you might need. 

Cheers, Larry! 


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Serendipity, or, the Mark and Larry Story 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

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Choosing the Slow Way, Or, See Ya Soon?

photo shows a sunset on a beach in Pinellas County, Florida

I recently drove to a business conference in Florida, more than 1,500 miles from home. It would have been much faster and cheaper to fly. But saving time and money were not on my list of objectives.

In fact, it took six days to get there. There were visits with clients along the way—sharing meals at their favorite restaurants, talking and laughing and commiserating about life and world events and markets and more.

As we learned more about each other’s plans for the future, a wide range of topics emerged. We talked about Social Security choices, long-term investing in perilous times, how to pay for increasing expenses in retirement, the snowbirding life, downsizing homes.

These weren’t theoretical discussions, either. These are real people living their real lives, making real decisions. It was affirming for me to be greeted so warmly, and to experience “IRL” just how our work has helped people with their plans and planning.

The trip was a roaring success by the measures I care about: happiness, gratitude given and received. (And I wrote this reflection even before the conference started!)

Two lessons so far:

  • It really is the journey, not the destination, as they say.
  • And there is nothing like being there.

We’ve all done a lot of phone calls and email exchanges and Zoom conferences over the past couple of years, but human contact does a very different job for our souls.

Then next, I had a few days at the conference, and then the journey home—the long way, of course, with many more stops. With the team we have to keep things running smoothly at 228 Main, I’m thinking more travel is in my future. I may be seeing many more of you in the months and years ahead.

In the meantime, when we can help in any way, please email us or call.


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Choosing the Slow Way, Or, See Ya Soon? 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

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SURVIVING OR THRIVING?

We were running a bit ragged there for a few years. You’ve heard parts of the story before, but when my late wife’s health meant more travel and new challenges, I had to try something different. What had worked before was no longer sufficient.

Once we caught our breath, we found exciting advantages in those new things we tried. We feared digital communication might seem a poor replacement for in-person connections, but they were never in competition. We improved the speed and clarity of our thoughts as they traveled to you, and then our personal conversations became that much deeper. The various channels of communication made wonderful complements for each other.

We might not have made that discovery—or made it in such record time—if not for terrible adversity. The universe gave us a shove, and we tried to ride the momentum forward.

We survived and, as it turns out, thrived.

In a recent company communication, LPL’s Angela Xavier shared that what makes “thrivalists” (we love LPL’s term!) different from the rest.

“We all know that with crisis comes opportunity,” she said, “and those that are going to thrive will definitely take advantage of those opportunities.”

Xavier mentions a few key moves that help thrivalists: practicing flexibility, reimagining the work, and embracing the new things you have access to. Each new environment brings new challenges and new paths.

Become a thrivalist in whatever way makes sense to you. We’ve described it in the past as discovering you’re actually “in the right place at the right time” or with the old chestnut “necessity is the mother of invention.”

And when you struggle? Xavier encourages us to “steal with pride”: what are your mentors, neighbors, and friends doing? How might you adapt, not just to survive—but to thrive?

Clients, we’re excited to help you with any of your plans and planning. Call or write when you’re ready.

Our Digital Communications: 4th Anniversary

© Can Stock Photo / iqoncept

As we complete four years in the world of digital communications, it makes sense to take stock. What have we gotten done, where are we headed?

We began with three thoughts. We had the intent to be able to communicate at the speed of light when events demanded – sort of a civil defense system for times of stress. And we wanted to communicate with all of you each week about our current thinking on a wide variety of topics. Finally, make available a complete archive of our philosophy and strategies, for you to find and read on your schedule, available 24/7.

We worked out a way to deliver these things with a combination of three methods. Nobody needs to access all three, but we can reach more of you by being more places.

228Main.com hosts our blogs, nearly 400 already published, one or two new ones each week. Daily posts in social media offer additional features, plus links to the blog articles, comments about developments in our thinking, and weekly short videos. And weekly email newsletters provide links to the new blog posts and videos, along with schedule notes.

We love the way you forward emails or like or share our Facebook or Twitter posts. Some of your friends and relatives have gotten to know us this way, at their leisure, with no threat of us bothering them with unwanted approaches (as if we ever would!) The 21st century is a great place to live if you like to communicate.

We are working on consolidating selected blog posts into books, thinking about a YouTube channel to make our video library more searchable, and continuing to explore new ways to communicate.

21st century communications played a key role as we met the challenges of the last few years. But instead of being a pale substitute for the way we had done business before, we learned that more communication is just plain good for you and good for us.

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.