oracle of louisville

Defining Success: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

NBC Universal

So many financial topics intersect with work topics. There are retirement goals, pensions and employer plans, income and benefits, career outlook, possible commuting expenses—the list goes on!

In talking with many of our friends, however, the work topics that have the biggest impact on how we feel day-to-day are a little less concrete. It’s sometimes less about the numbers and maybe more about how we think about our work or how we define success.

Success can be measured in multiple ways; it doesn’t have to be based on the type of career or how lucrative it is. Maybe it’s more about who we get to be at work. Maybe some people achieve success from the relationships they build professionally or the joy they bring to others through their work. Some might enjoy a good competition to feed their ego, while others may be proud just to make it through the day.

The hit sitcom The Office depicts everyday work life for the employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, a seemingly mundane office setting in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The office is managed by an eccentric “man-child” who spices up day-to-day activities with crazy stunts along with his maniac second-in-command, Dwight. Michael couldn’t care less if his staff meets quotas every day: he just wants his work friends to be happy. To live life to the fullest.

Somehow, even with all the shenanigans that happen at work, the job gets done. Each character explores their passions, navigates life, and shows us that success isn’t all based on the money you have in your bank account. We can enjoy the little triumphs and give ourselves credit when it’s due.

Now for a little fun… Which character resonates with you? Here are a few fan favorites from The Office lineup: each has their own strengths, goals, dreams, and relationship to their so-called day job.

Michael: Creative, Childlike, Optimistic

  • Michael dances to the beat of his own drummer. He resists going along with the crowd (sound familiar?), and he won’t waste time doing something that doesn’t bring him joy. He finds fulfillment through companionship—and bringing out the best qualities in his colleagues. Success, to him, is living up to the text on the coffee mug he bought for himself, to be the “WORLD’S BEST BOSS.”

Dwight: Analytical, Competitive, Committed

  • Growing up on a farm with his (peculiar) family made Dwight skeptical of “city folk” and anyone who didn’t share his views. But this makes him both curious and thorough in his research as he makes decisions. His ways might be strange to others, but he knows they are right for him. His sense of success comes from earning the promotions and respect he’s always desired.

Jim: Clever, Efficient, Funny

  • Jim really exemplifies the “work smarter, not harder” philosophy. He’s one of the highest producers in the office, but he puts in the least amount of effort. The efficiency in his work allows him to spend his time doing things he enjoys—like creating elaborate pranks on Dwight or meaningful gestures for his romantic interest, Pam. Some might see him as lazy, but he gets in and out so that he can prioritize what’s important to him. His success lies in finding gratification in the small things.

Pam: Practical, Passionate, Thoughtful

  • Pam is always looking for ways to improve herself and the systems and spaces around her. She knows what she is passionate about, and with support, she will take chances toward her dreams. She learns, grows, and ends up changing her mind about things a time or two, but she has the ability to end up where she wants to be. Pam shows us that as long as we have a plan, and we keep our values in mind, it’s never too late to try. Her success comes from learning along the way and being there for those she loves.

These characters, although fictional, remind us that it’s okay to take “serious” topics like work a little less seriously. Sure, we show up to work, we do what needs to be done, but what we get out of the experience may be more up to us than a paycheck.

Everyone is unique, so we will all take different paths to get to where we want to be. We choose how we define success. Does anyone’s approach sound like you? We would love to find out! Call or email us to chat.


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Defining Success: Working Hard or Hardly Working? 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

Episode art courtesy NBC Universal. This text is available at https://www.228Main.com/.

“You Have As Many Hours In A Day As Beyoncé!”

What would happen if flowers bloomed all hours of the day, every day of the year? Would we still appreciate the beauty?

Humans and plants have one thing in common; we can’t be at our “best” every single day. We struggle, we grow, and when we bloom, it is beautiful. We are allowed to give ourselves some time to produce new fruit.


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Where Does the Treasure Map Lead?

We believe in saving for the future, but the present is where we live. Your retirement flow might go toward any mix of spending: cash for bills, a stash for unexpected events, or maybe it’s for that adventure in the Florida Keys! None of it takes a pile of money: instead, we tend the orchard for the fruit crop.


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Happy Baby, Happy Investor

One of the few childhood pictures of me shows a happy baby. My sister says I’ve always been a happy baby. Optimism has been a lifelong trait, for sure.

I can’t know what delighted me all those decades ago, when the photo was taken. But when I survey my finances these days, I still feel the same way the baby in the photo looks.

I like what I own—percentages of ownership in a couple dozen companies. Iconic names, dominating their sectors. Some companies that are working to sort out the future of their industries, which are in flux. A few enterprises in lines of work that did not exist when I was young. The largest player in a fragmented, but consolidating, industry. Producers of vital materials for the age we are in.

These diverse firms have one thing in common: our research team believes their shares of ownership may be more valuable in the future than they are today. No guarantees, of course.

What I own is only part of it. How I own is another key. With a large fraction in a Roth IRA, gains are free of tax as they compound, when they are taken out and spent in my real life, or when left to people or causes I love. All the income tax freight was paid in advance for all time, on those smaller balances I converted to Roth—not the compounding tax-free wealth I now own.

And really, all of that is the proverbial cherry on top. The greatest source of my joy arises not from what I own nor how I own it: the knowledge that my resources exceed my needs, that’s the big thing. It was not that way when we started out, was it? Now, I have enough.

A dear friend once related to me what Grandma always told her: “I have enough, and enough is as good as a feast.” I love this thought.

Oh, my holdings go up and down too, just like yours. Sometimes a company we own messes up. But we know how this works, don’t we? We believe our principles and persistence will get us through, and knowing that is another source of joy.

Clients, if you would like to talk about what you own, how you own it, or what makes for enough, email us or call.


Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss.

A Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Qualified withdrawals of earnings from the account are tax-free. Withdrawals of earnings prior to age 59½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Limitations and restrictions may apply.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.


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Spend Well

The object of our work can be distilled into four words. Half of them have nothing to do with saving more, investing more, or putting off pleasure today in order to have more wealth tomorrow.

Invest wisely, spend well.

We’ve seen the dreary advice, no matter how much you are saving, to always be saving more. Some of you have told us about “advisors” who discouraged withdrawals from investments for any purpose, no matter how worthy.

What’s the point? As one of our clients recently told me, “I’m not living my life to make my kids rich.”

Invest wisely, spend well. We each know what spending well means in our own lives. But the reminder is that we’re not investing wisely in order to have: we invest to be able to do or be something different, to work differently or live differently.

These two facets of our work interact with each other. If we invest wisely and thereby increase our investment returns, we do not need to put away as much money each month in order to reach a sense of financial security “some day.” So investing wisely may give us more flexibility to spend well, even during our so-called wealth-building years.

Some advisors start with your pre-existing attitudes about “the market” and serve you up a lower-performing portfolio if you come in with any fears about volatility. We, instead, strive to work with people who were either born with great investing instincts or can be trained in them—in how to invest effectively for the long run. We believe this means, hopefully, obtaining higher returns by enduring the wiggles of the market, not pandering to fear of volatility.

This is what we do at 228 Main.

It’s not for everyone.

But if you can “invest wisely,” you may have more money to “spend well”—both now and in the future.

Invest wisely, spend well. Clients, if you would like to talk about the balance of these concepts in your life, email us or call.


Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.


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Have Your Cake, Eat Your Cake

They say you can’t have you cake and eat it, too… but what if your cake had the potential to grow over time? Who says you can’t snack when you’re hungry and still save some for later?

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What We Do—But Mostly What We Don’t

Organizations sometimes use “mission statements” to capture their core focus or values. In a sentence, why does this company exist? What is its main purpose? What’s the goal?

It’s a useful exercise. If we had to spit it out, what would we say we do? We invest.

There are a lot of ways to flesh out and explain this mission (and we do that, often, in our communications!). But we also consider ourselves contrarians. So it makes sense that we also like to explain our work in terms of what we don’t do.

We invest… but not with guardrails. No training wheels, no buffers, no timing schemes. We don’t give guarantees, and we will not offer a false hope of market returns without market volatility.

Why don’t we like that stuff? All of those things cost money or opportunity—or both—and thereby limit our future wealth.

So you won’t see us whipping out any literature about risk that confuses it with volatility. You won’t see pie charts that arbitrarily slice up a portfolio. We won’t pretend to know better than you about your goals or how you live your life.

We seek to invest for the long term when the cost of owning a percentage is lower than the value of the ownership opportunity, in our studied opinion—even as we know that the market price will fluctuate, even as we know we will not always be right.

But a smoother ride to a poorer future? No thanks.

Clients, want to talk in more detail? Call or email, anytime.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.


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Research, Behind the Scenes!

Clients, this week we’ve got a little behind the scenes tour: what happens in our in-house research process?

Here are some of the things we like to think about (so that you don’t have to!).


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Truck Stop Chili Dogs

What would I have to learn if I could talk to my past self? Or my future self?

There are some mental exercises that might help us reflect on our goals, but here’s what I’m wondering: What do truck stop chili dogs have to teach me?


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Getting to the Good-Enough Place

NBC Universal

Clients, in each round of portfolio reviews, we have a chance to get into the nitty-gritty with many of you. There are changes we suggest, but we also do a fair amount of listening. We’re shaping the future together, after all.

We’ve enjoyed our research in sectors like renewable energy, efficient energy systems, and more sustainable forms of transportation. These areas continue to grow all the time, and it’s been an interesting challenge to find the best opportunities among the players. Some of these developments hold promise for making the most of modern life here on earth while respecting our finite resources and limits.

We’ve written about how certain investing styles are harmonious with our focus on the long term, and whatever you call these practices, we’re interested: we want our practices to be more sustainable, more consciously capitalist, more socially responsible… You get the picture.

But it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Businesses are human endeavors—perfectly imperfect entities with a variety of goals, costs, and tradeoffs. So how do we minimize harm and maximize long-lasting good?

Maybe you’ve seen the sitcom The Good Place, but this Ted Danson and Kristen Bell show keeps coming to mind in these conversations. It’s an exploration of the afterlife, and believe it or not, it asks some hilarious questions about the meaning of life’s choices. How do they add up? Who has earned a spot in “the good place”?

Ted Danson’s character puts it this way: “Life now is so complicated, it’s impossible for anyone to be good enough. These days just buying a tomato at a grocery store means that you are unwittingly supporting toxic pesticides, exploiting labor, contributing to global warming.” He’s trying to point out that life in the 21st century is so interconnected that even the most mundane choices are tied up with consequences that cross the globe! “Humans think that they’re making one choice,” he says, “but they’re actually making dozens of choices they don’t even know they’re making.”

Put that way, it can seem overwhelming. There could be an existential crisis lurking in every grocery store aisle!

But, just like the characters in the show, we’re trying to come at this with a lighter, more gentle approach. What the characters come to realize is that given the costs of our choices, which do enough good that we can live with the costs?

Where can we be of service?

How might we try, fail, and then try better?

Big questions, important topics. Clients—let’s keep talking. When you want to know what this might mean for your portfolio, write or call.


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