As I was shaving early this morning before going to work out, a few thoughts came to me that I thought you might find interesting. Allow me to share, please.
The Jockey is Too Fat As most of you know, I am a regular on Ken Ard's Live 95 Good Morning Pee Dee show (95.3 FM) on Thursday mornings from about 7 am until 7:30. He asked me this past Thursday how can some people see the economy as just fine and others as practically in a recession? Good question! I mean unemployment is seemingly at very low levels, and the economic expansion is in its eighth year, yet economic growth can't seem to get out of low gear, and there are more people on welfare than ever. Here is one potential explanation: the jockey is too fat. You see, I believe the American economy is still a thoroughbred at its core with the capacity to run fast. But it has been saddled with a 250-pound jockey called the US Government. The unchecked growth of entitlement programs and government regulation is causing this thoroughbred to plod along at plow horse speed. It is also, I believe, the reason why the current economic expansion is the weakest since World War II. (Thank you Brian Wesbury of ftportfolios.com for the plow horse analogy.)
Conflicts of Interest Can Cost You You probably have heard by now the news that Wells Fargo fired 5300 employees and was fined $185 million for creating false customer accounts and credit card accounts. According to cnn.com, this was to hit sales targets and earn bonuses. Like the financial industry doesn't have a bad enough reputation as it is. It is reports like this that make me thankful that I am not an employee of any investment firm or bank. Instead, we have a relationship with LPL Financial, the nation's largest independent broker/dealer for the past 20 years.* They don't have proprietary products, they don't conduct investment banking, nor do they trade in capital markets. This helps us to be unbiased and avoid conflicts of interest as we keep the interests of our clients foremost. They have been a tremendous resource.
What's a QCD? Most of us know that once we reach 70.5 (thank you Congress because of course round numbers are too easy) we must take out Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from our IRAs. But did you know that a permanent part of the law is the ability to give your RMD to a qualified charitable organization directly from your IRA and not pay the income taxes? This is known as a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). And you can actually give more than just your RMD; you can give any amount up to $100,000 annually. Just a thought as you do your year-end charitable planning.
Be Prepared Prepared for what? When I tell my spiritual director (deacons in the Catholic Church are required to have spiritual directors-usually a priest) what's been going on in my life, he often asks me: "So what do you think God is preparing you for?" He wants to remind me that calm times are often followed by troubled times and vice versa. I think a great related question to ask currently about the markets is, "What does the current market environment of low volatility with just about every investment class making gains portend for the near future?" And a related question would be, "Am I prepared for greater volatility and possibly a bear market?" If the answer is no or not sure, maybe it's time to call your wealth manager to review your situation and strategy.
Be Thankful The final thought I had as I was not putting on my aftershave (my wife since her brain injury can't stand the smell of my aftershave so, oh well), was how thankful I need to be. I need to be thankful for my faith, my family, my health, my friends, my superb associates, and, naturally, my wonderful clients. What do you have to be thankful for?
Thanks for letting me ramble and thank you for your trust.