How Do I Get on My Feet and Out Mom’s Door?

Question: I am 39 years old and want to find a nice boyfriend, eventually get married, and hopefully have a family. However, my finances are in bad shape: no debt, but no savings either. I have struggled with PTSD my entire adult life due to childhood trauma and have been unable to work for long periods of time. I am living with my mom, but I am trying very hard to get back on my feet. I am currently finishing up a course and hope to find a good permanent job and a decent place to live.

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Finding Niches, Avoiding Valeants

FIM Group has long taken pride in our independent views. While we don’t necessarily set out to be contrarian, the nature of our value-focused investing often leaves us standing apart from the herd. This month we’d like to share some perspective about why we aim to avoid the herding instinct and how we go about keeping our thinking sharp and unbiased.

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Wrestling with a Question of Inheritance

Question: I’m wrestling with an inheritance question: whether to pass my parents’ money to my kids. I don’t think I need it, and it could give them a good boost. It could go into a trust or something, though that seems controlling. I want my kids to be free. Down the road, I also don’t want to be worth too much more dead than alive. Any thoughts?

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Stein's Law

Herbert Stein, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under the Nixon and Ford administrations, came up with a principle many years ago that has guided me over several decades of professional investing. Stein’s Law, as it is now known, is simply this: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” In other words, unsustainable trends are unsustainable. 

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A Few Predictions for the New Year (and Beyond)

Now that we are a couple weeks into the New Year, most economists, market strategists, bloggers and other prognosticators have already pushed the send buttons on their annual forecasts for stock market levels, interest rates, foreign exchange rates and the like. Most will be off the mark come year-end, but that never seems to stop them from gazing into their crystal balls and letting the world know what they see. 

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Optical Discomfort

Investing with a thoughtful, proactive, transparent process, as we do here at FIM Group, can be uncomfortable at times. This month, I’ll address some of the discomfort that can occur with our approach. I’ll also share some thoughts on why I feel that by accepting some of this discomfort along the way, our approach can lead to better long-term outcomes than alternative approaches like indexing. Sprinkled throughout the newsletter, you’ll find a number of exhibits.

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Radical Responsibility = Good for the USA

A few weeks ago, my brother Bobby (founder/chief cherry guy at Cherry Republic) and I were chasing our boys through the woods near Glen Arbor, Michigan, where we grew up. Bobby and his family live near his store in Glen Arbor, not too far from Mom and our childhood home. As we were playing “hide and seek,” Bobby stopped by an area where the trees had been blown down by the “storm of the century” this past August.

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Staying Disciplined Through the Bumps

Investment markets fluctuate. We all know that they do, and today they are fluctuating at lightning speed. The advent of electronic trading, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and retirement accounts that can be switched with a click or a call has led to an avalanche of trading. TD Ameritrade, a brokerage that caters to individual investors, has seen its average trading volume per account rise around 60% in the past 10 years.

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Is Going Back to School the Best Way to Invest in Myself?

Question: I’m thinking about going back to school. Biz school, law school, grad school? I’m not sure which. All I know is that I can’t spend the next 20 years doing what I’m doing, and I think two or three years of school would break me out of my rut. I can handle the expense. What I’m really wondering is if school is the best way for a middle-aged person to invest in myself?

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October 19, 1987 – Black Monday

On October 19, 1987 – Black Monday – the U.S. stock market crashed 22% in one day. Linda Brezezinski (my only staff member at the time) and I were very busy that day…buying! That night, I served as an adjunct faculty member for the CFB Board and taught a course at Northwestern Michigan College to those achieving Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.

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Where Have All the Long-Term Investors Gone?

Everything is cyclical – spring/summer/fall/winter…recession/recovery/boom periods…deflation/inflation. An experienced farmer knows full well that weather directly affects the harvest, so he is prepared for both good and bad years. His success lies in the patient preparation and planting of the soil. Today, it seems that investors are obsessed with short-term performance (three years or fewer).

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Do Ethics in Business Matter? (Aren’t the Bad Guys Winning?)

Question: I am in an argument with some friends who say that getting rich doesn’t require ethical behavior. On the contrary, they say, ethics get in the way of profits. They quote Donald Trump, Milton Friedman, Russ Limbaugh, and Adam Smith, and I’m at a loss as to how to counter their arguments without sounding like a spiritual Pollyanna.

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Dividends Don't Lie

This month I’d like to discuss dividends. I’ll highlight a few stats that Swiss Bank UBS put out in a recent riveting 50-page report titled “Safe dividends in times of financial repression.” Before that, though, let’s briefly go over some dividend basics and our team’s recent thinking on dividend payers. I should also point out that Zach writes on one dividend-heavy sector for our managed accounts, real estate, later in this newsletter.

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Anxiety, Lazy Brains, and Investing

Why invest? Why get an education? Why not just live for today? Why plan, be forward-looking or think about the future? Of course these are loaded questions, but the answer is simple: We must be forward-looking because we live in the future and have no choice but to assume that the world will be here tomorrow, that the economy will not crumble and my home will still be standing.

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Should I Take a Volunteer Vacation?

Question: I need a vacation, and I’m happy to spend my hard-earned money someplace that needs it. But my husband wants to try a “volunteer” vacation. He says working to help desperate people will feel better than lying on the beach. I think we’ll be providing free (unskilled!) labor to a place with already high unemployment. I’d feel better by overtipping.

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