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How about another poem, huh?

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That Sink Full of Dishes

Twas the day after Christmas
And all through your pockets,
Are the receipts for the toys,
The rings and the lockets.

With much trash at the curb
And food under the table,
You’ll get to those dishes
Just as soon as you’re able.

But for now, you will rest.
For the couch you were meant.
With but one thought in your head,
“Just how much have I spent?”

With the swipe of your card
And the stroke of your pen,
That balance is rising
Toward the limit – again.

Off the couch do you spring!
With the thoughts of a budget.
But you’re unsure of the numbers…
So maybe you’ll...fudge it?

First things first, my friend.
And this step may be hard:
Focus more on good stewardship
And less on your card.

Take stock in your cash flow
The coming in, the going out,
And if headed the wrong way
Then quickly – come about!

Don’t have it, then don’t spend it.
Yes, it’s so easy to say,
But for control of your finances
There is no better way.

Know where you’re starting
And know where you’re going,
Give, save and then spend
And let margin start growing.

For margin is good
In every area of life.
It’s a guardrail of sorts
Keeping loved ones from strife.

So make a plan and begin
To get back in the black,
And chip, chip away
At that credit card stack.

And use this new budget
To help sort out your wishes,
And get back to your life
And that sink full of dishes.

It won’t happen overnight
But soon you will see,
That the plan you have made
Just might set you free.

Free from the worry
The stress and the strife,
And may give you more time
With your husband or wife.

And if you have neither a husband or wife, then you’ll have more time for yourself. See? You can’t lose. Make a plan. Make a budget. Start now.

And from my family to yours,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Try the dead wood next time

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So what is it about a campfire that we find so mesmerizing? The sense of community, the inherent danger of a destructive force, contained somewhat, for the enjoyment of those present? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just something to stare at while you figure out what to say next. Regardless, it makes for a great environment. I was afforded such an opportunity this last weekend, as a matter of fact. As part of his son’s birthday party, a friend invited the dads along to hang out by the fire while the kids ran around with flashlights. Who would have thought that running around in the woods, in the dark, would have been safer than sitting by a fire? Not me. But that’s what I get for thinking, I guess.

Adhering to campfire etiquette, I took a turn scouring the woods for firewood. Almost immediately, I happened upon one of those little trees which grows out of the base of a bigger tree. “Hmm,” I said aloud. And at that moment, my gut says, Dude, you can totally rip this thing down. Nonchalantly, I gave it a few cursory pulls to gauge the resistance. See, my gut offers, you got this! That’s it, I thought. This tree is mine! So after some serious pulling and heaving…snap…snap! The first snap was that of the tree finally giving up the ghost. The second was my ankle’s response to my torso rolling up on it. Two things were accomplished with that lapse in judgment: One, the tree was down - thank you very much. And two, there was no shortage of things to laugh about around the campfire. Here’s what I know to be true:

Your gut may not lie to you. But that doesn’t mean it’s always right.

For example, and more to the point, people are tempted to listen to their guts during market declines. And what do you think their guts tell them? Let’s listen:

“Ugh, look at what the market did today. You can’t take many more days like this.” [Then after another week of declines] “All right, what’s going on here? You need to do something about this. You can’t keep losing money. Maybe you should sell and go to cash for a while, you know, until things settle down.”

Let’s assume this is your gut talking. And who could blame you, right? It’s unsettling to watch your balance drop. So, after consulting with your gut, you feel you need to take action - so you sell. Then you watch and wait… and after some amount of time and a series of market increases, you figure it’s safe to get back in – so you buy. Sound familiar? Well, you’ve likely broken the first commandment of investing:

Thou shalt not sell low and buy high.

“So what would you have me do?” you ask, “just ride it out…do nothing?”

No. I would echo the sentiments of our Chief Investment Officer,   Marshall Bolden:

I think the best course is to evaluate what is driving, or thought to be driving, market movements, and then determine a prudent response. If there is fundamental deterioration in the economy, the markets have become overpriced versus long-term averages, or some similar factors exist, it may be wise to alter the investment strategy by reducing risk. However, an improving economy, low market valuations, etc., might mean that added risk is a wise option.”

At the time this post was written, one would characterize the economy as slowly growing and in a period of fundamental improvement. That being said, I’m not suggesting that you don’t need to make changes to your investment strategy, okay? I’m just stating there’s little wisdom in making wholesale strategy changes based on the day’s news cycle.

News cycles determine short-term market movements
while fundamentals lay the groundwork for long-term trends.

The real driver in your investment strategy should be the financial plan you’ve created. Your plan should have more influence on your strategy than the price of oil on Tuesday, the price of tea in China, China itself, and yes, maybe even more than your gut.

So, a week later, I’m still hobbling through my gut’s recommendation. I’ve been able to enjoy crutches, watch the purple accented aurora borealis dance upon my foot - all for a piece of wood that was too green to burn in the first place. Don’t be campfire discussion. Your gut wants what’s best for you, to be sure. But in my experience, at least, it doesn’t always know what that is. You and your gut need to find a financial advisor you both can trust and allow them a say in the matter. All of you will be glad you did.

Disclaimer: One tree and one ankle were hurt in the making of this blog post.

On the banks of Vickery Creek

IMG_0946.JPGFor our family, the day after Thanksgiving is a day of adventure. Mommy spent the day with her three sisters, leaving the four men free to roam the wild, uninhabited regions of north Atlanta. Since there are no such places, we opted for the Old Mill Park on the banks of Vickery Creek in historic Roswell. Founded in 1839, the Roswell Manufacturing Company used the mill to produce cotton and woolen supplies for the Confederate army. In 1864, Union soldiers destroyed the mill during the Atlanta campaign of the Civil War. Remnants of the mill have been preserved and surrounded by a wonderful outdoor nature center with hiking trails, covered bridges, and a man-made waterfall used to supply power to the mill. So, with the backdrop of Civil War history, I turn the boys loose.

This exploration began as most of ours do – with a spitting contest off a pedestrian bridge. Callahan took first prize with an effort leaving him just inches from the targeted brown trout. (Charles Henry’s attempt never made it past the railing and is likely still there.) As is often the case, the boys sought the path less traveled and left the pedestrian bridge for the banks of Vickery Creek. We walked over rock and limb, meandering our way to the base of the waterfall, where our “path” abruptly ended.

Our options were few.
Go back the way we came, or cross a network of pipes traversing the creek.

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(The above is the view whence we came.)

Before I could address the pros and cons of our options, they opted for the pipe. Having had my share of adventure, I was fine with retracing our steps and finding the nearest bench. In the face overwhelming odds, I offered:

“If we turnaround, maybe we could search for some Civil War relics, huh?

They would have none of it. Onward and upward.

William (12) first, followed by Nicholas (17), Callahan (9), me (old enough to know better), and Charles Henry (7) holding, no, strangling my hand from behind. Like a cat, William made the 25-yard crossing in no time. In between his hops, skips and jumps, Nicholas was filming the trek  with his phone and took great pleasure in stopping at various points, forcing the rest of us to pause and maintain balance. Walking being too easy, Callahan preferred bear-crawling for a touch of panache in the face of peril. Charles Henry and I were less enthused and were moving into survival mode with every step. We were only half-way across.

As an Advisor, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that my clients understand the relationship between risk and return. With 2015’s  fascination with volatility, you may have seen the effects on your retirement account. What’s that? You’ve not looked at it in a while? You’re not alone. Many opt for the “set it and forget it” approach. While that may work for some – depending on the allocation and the years in question – I don’t recommend it as a de facto approach to investment management. Nor would I recommend going to the doctor, checking it off your list, and not going back. You wouldn’t do that with your health, so why do it with what could be the single largest asset you’ll ever have? Talk with your advisor. Don’t have one? Find one.

Call us. We can help.

All five of us, thankfully, made it across the river that day. No one fell into the water or onto the rocks below. Interesting to note, the oldest (me) and the youngest (Charles Henry) seemed to have the greatest appreciation for the risks taken that day. Charles Henry, because he has no experience with such ramifications, and me, because I do.

Here’s the investor's take away from our "walk in the park":

  • Don’t just charge into risk blindly and at full speed. Do your homework and seek wise counsel.
  • If you’re going to take risks, do pay attention and monitor your progress along the way rather than worrying about someone else's. They have their own journey.
  • Respect the amount of risk you’re taking and be aware of the consequences.
  • Don’t just go along with it and assume the risk because some old guy takes your hand and tells you to - figuratively speaking, of course.

Despite the above indictment, I consider myself a pretty good dad. But I guess there’s something in all of us that longs for risk, even if for a little, and even if we know better. More reason to surround yourself with wise counsel - which we would have had had she not already been out with her sisters. Nevertheless, on this day after Thanksgiving, we remained unscathed with our bellies full of adventure.

And thankful for both, we are.

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