FREE-MARKET GEMS

Mark Matson Minute (1:00) . . . It’s actually less than a minute, and I bet you can guess what he’s going to say. Investors, you can’t hear this message too often!

The secret life of Jackie Robinson . . . He was – are you ready for this? – a conservative. It wasn’t actually a secret back in 1960 when he joined the Nixon presidential campaign and got fired form the NY Post for it, but it sure is hushed up today. Happy Jackie Robinson Day, everyone!

Capitalists are self-interested . . . and the world shouldn’t want it any other way. Gary Galles of the Mises Institute reminds us of the important difference between self-interest and selfishness.

Let your No mean Yes? . . . Totally. Kathryn Schulz of The New Yorker explores the recent and puzzling emergence of the yes/no auto-antonym. Unregulated language development — gotta love it.

Best Song Ever! (2:00) . . . (The tax edition by Remy) Simultaneously funny and infuriating.

 

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F.O.C.U.S. We could all use a little more of it.

I read a book earlier this year that was very helpful to me in many ways. The book, by Greg McKeown, is called Essentialism. I think I like the subtitle even more: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

One of the things I’ll be pressing my clients on in meetings this year to focus, focus on essential tasks that will move them in the direction of their most important goals and objectives.

We are all in different places. Some have just finished paying off their home and paying for kids’ college and need to focus on a last push to invest before retirement. Others find themselves in the middle of kids’ sports, a growing debt load, and college looming. They need clarity and possibly a new commitment to move them in a new direction.

I’m meeting more and more business owners and association leaders today who are asking good questions about fiduciary risk and how to quantify and reduce it. Wherever you are and whatever your particular situation may be, let me give you a sketch of McKeown’s teaching about focus. He steals it from the CEO of LinkedIN. It’s a helpful little acronym:

 

Fewer things done better

o

Communicating, having the right information in front of the right people at the right time.

u

Speed and quality of decisions

 

A key component of this is that we all need to be able to say no before we can say yes. So what things do you need to learn to say no to?

Let me know how I can help.

 

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“ALL IN!”…a commitment gut check

How many times have you told someone about a commitment you made?  How many real commitments have you made in your life?  I think of my faith in Christ. I think of my marriage to Jenny. I think about my kids. I think of my business partnership with my brother, Steve.  I think about my mortgage.  These are things I’ve clearly committed to.

Brian Moran, in his book The 12 Week Year does a great job taking apart the necessary components of making a successful commitment. I would add that if we think we have to do all of the below work before we start the commitment, then we may not be ready to commit at all…

  1. Strong Desire.A clear, personally compelling reason to do what you are committing to.
  2. Find Keystone Actions. It’s what we do that counts.  A few key actions will produce the best results. Learn what those are and do those.
  3. Count the costs. Consider the hardships that will need to be overcome and decide ahead of time not to succumb to them.
  4. Act on commitments not feelings. Know up front that we will have to act from a commitment rather than a feeling.  We will not normally feel like doing what we’ve committed to do.

Nearly ten years ago, I made another commitment to you my clients—to households who entrust me with their retirement portfolios, to businesses who trust us with their plan and fund administration, and to all of you who trust our investment advice.

Here are a few of the ways I am answering the above four challenges in my commitment to you.  If you have not felt every bit of this, I want to know about it.  I am “all in” for the success of your financial future and your investing peace of mind.

  1. Strong Desire. One of my clients came into the year 2000 with nearly $1,000,000 in their investment account.  They were working with a traditional commissioned annuity sales person and purchased a product that they didn’t understand and had no criteria for holding him accountable.  When they came to me in a crisis in 2009, they had $150,000 left and were facing drastic and severe questions.  These questions did not have easy answers. This situation and countless like it drive me to help more households understand markets and products and to give the kind of advice that allows for exciting questions with a variety of fun answers.
  2. We can and will continue to evaluate what is best here.  What we’ve been doing so far is this: Quarterly coaching and education in event-style formats giving timely data and market interpretation. Essentially giving you the right information at the right time so that you can make the right decisions. We have recently begun live streaming these events for folks who cannot make it out. We also call our clients multiple times per year.  You have life events happen and we need to know about more of them.  A good coach learns about his players and I need to know you better. Please – take our call, attend the events, schedule an appointment to meet with me.
  3. Counting the cost.  My organization is grown with my clients.  We have the capacity and resources to serve you ahead of time.  Our offices have gotten bigger as well.  I am running my business based on best practices and growing with you. We have also reduced our fees in the past couple of years for all of our clients.  As we’ve grown, we’ve gained economies of scale and we passed the benefits of this on to you.  Costs for investing are one of the biggest enemies.  We are well under industry averages in every area. We won’t stop counting this.
  4. Act on commitments – not feelings.  This is where the rubber meets the road in my business.  Am I your advisor or am I simply a facilitator?  Do I allow you to make emotional decisions? Will I make decisions based on my emotions or out of personal fears?  One client, back in 2008, was a particularly difficult situation for me.  It was a larger account belonging to a well-connected individual.  He was not happy with the market decline that he was experiencing and did not want to “lose” any more money.  The account was not needed for any reason over the next 15 years, but that did not seem to matter.  Losing the client meant losing a good percentage of business revenue and meant that I would not have “access” to this person’s network, which I was excited about. He was giving me a solution that would have worked for him and had I agreed he said he would stick with me.  He wanted me to move his money to our most conservative platform just until the dust settled on the economy and then he’d pick back up with plan A and get back on track with my advice.  He just needed a short break. Friends, these “short breaks”, especially during down or flat markets are why you pay for my advice.  I ended up disagreeing and parting ways with this client and received a call from a fixed-annuity salesperson who was more than willing to fix in my client’s losses forever for a nice commission.

I will not sell you out.  I am committed to you.  I just wanted you to know what I mean by that.

Thanks for listening.

 

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Mars, Baseball, and Liberty: WEB GEMS

Mars or Bust (2:30) . . . ReasonTV talks to one of 100 finalists for Mars One, a privately funded mission to put humans on Mars. There would be no return ticket, by the way.

Regulating Baseball? (5:00) . . . Congress may have no authority over the game, but they sure act like they do. Here are the top five congressional hearings on the national pastime.

Villain or Champion for the Poor? (18:00). . . Mises Institute’s Jeff Deist interviews Adam Vass Gal, who discusses his book Generational Poverty: An Economic Look at the Culture of the Poor, and how the State helps the poor to stay that way.

Thinking of grad school? (2:30) . . . Here’s a quick check list for the right and wrong motives.

7 Habits . . . of highly effective libertarians.

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Don’t Make Me Laugh….

http://www.morningstar.com/advisor/t/100147779/the-winners-and-losers-of-u-s-equity-funds-in-2014.htm?&single=true

This is a short and entertaining read.  At least it would be entertaining if people didn’t actually listen to it and make decisions with their most valuable financial instrument – their IRA.  Morningstar puts out something like this every year after it crowns the winners of the returns game played by over 90% of mutual funds and nearly the same percentage of misinformed investors.  Give the full article a read here – or just skip below to my highlights. (Emphasis mine throughout.)

Even the author bio will make you laugh . . .

“Russel Kinnel is Morningstar’s director of mutual fund research. He is also the editor of Morningstar FundInvestor, a monthly newsletter dedicated to helping investors pick great mutual funds, build winning portfolios, and monitor their funds for greater gains.”

. . . unless you take “helping investor own last year’s winners” to mean “winning portfolios.”  It’s likely that Russel hasn’t seen the numbers on a manager’s ability to repeat performance.  Nearly 0%, Russell.

The writer actually has the ability to use the word “right” in this heading.  Isn’t that the biggest “No S%#T” you’ve ever heard.  Isn’t stock picking defined as picking “the right” stocks in certain categories?  Come on, people.  Let’s raise the standard to at least the common-sense level.

Winner: Funds With the Right Financials
It wasn’t a bad year to own financials. Fidelity Mid Cap Value FSMVX had a number of winners including Allstate ALL, AmTrust Financial Services AFSI, and NavientNAVI.

Oh yeah, in case you missed it up there, just try to remember to not pick the wrong ones.  And as always, who’s surprised that the high turnover crowd were actually losers in the returns game?

Loser: Funds With Astronomical Turnover
Birmiwal Oasis BIRMX has turnover of 2,000% and lost 22% in the year to date. The fund with the next highest turnover, Quantified All-Cap Equity QACFX, lost 3% with a sluggish turnover rate of 1,327%.

Let me paint a picture for you.  A fund with this kind of turnover is likely making north of 4000 trades per year.  That comes to over 10 trades during every open trading day.  So, the fund lost 22% while US small companies made 4%.  Ask yourself this – who did get paid last year?  Right – the fund manager, and he made bank! I’m on a roll now. While you’re laughing hysterically, check out this funny pair.

Winner: Growth Funds That Like Health Care
Primecap’s growth funds are all fond of health care, including biotech, and they produced returns between 15% and 20%, all topping nearly all of their peers.  ClearBridge Aggressive Growth SHRAX and Amana Growth AMAGX also rode health care to a big year.

Loser: Growth Funds That Love Twitter and Hate Health Care
Dennis Lynch’s team at Morgan Stanley made a mint with the Twitters and Groupons of the world in 2013, but in 2014 they gave some back as the market decided that Twitter’s shares had gotten a little frothy. Morgan Stanley Institutional Small GrowthMSSGX shed 14% in the year to date. Mid Growth MPEGX was down 1.3% and Growth MSEQX gained 5%, which was still bottom quartile.

Next year, you like totally need to try to like buy Facebook and stuff and then hate Twitter – you know?  Try getting out in front of picks like this enough years out of 10 to make a difference.  And this drivel is sold to you as advice.

CRITICAL MINDSET MOMENT…

All sarcasm aside, a critical mindset for successful investors is to fight the urge to buy last year’s winners of the returns game.  Mutual fund managers who beat the market in one period have little or no likelihood of beating it again in the next period.  Don’t buy their overpriced junk funds.

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