Memorial Day – 75th D-Day Anniversary

Normandy. D-Day. Operation Overlord. The events of June 6, 1944 are known by many names, and have been commemorated in countless books, dramas, and documentaries. You’ve seen the pictures of GIs wading through rough, freezing water onto a murderous, mine-strewn beach. You’ve heard the stories of those who braved smoke and shell to scale the cliffs beyond. But most of the stories we hear were told by the survivors – the lucky ones who made it to the top and saw France on the other side.

What about the others?
As you know, Memorial Day is just around the corner. It’s a day for remembering those who didn’t make it. The ones who gave their lives so that others might live. And since this Memorial Day coincides with the 75th anniversary of Normandy, I think it’s an especially good opportunity to remember the men who couldn’t tell their stories afterwards.
Men like the soldiers of Able Company.

The First Wave
Picture it: Roughly two-hundred soldiers packed like sardines in tiny boats that sway with the choppy sea. This is Company A – “Able Company” – of the 116th Infantry Regiment. Most are in their early twenties and barely into manhood, yet men they are. Long before they land, they are already fighting fear and the worst seasickness any of them has ever known. If they lift their heads above the sides, they can see the imposing cliffs of Normandy in the distance – and the 200-yard beach they’ll have to cross just to get there. A beach that offers no shelter or protection.

But when the order comes – “This is it men, you’ve got a one-way ticket and this is the end of the line,” – they shoulder their packs and lift their weapons, ready to do their duty.1

Until everything starts going wrong.
First, water begins spilling over the sides of the boats, and many are swamped completely. Those that stay afloat do so only because the men of Able Company use their helmets to bail the water out. Other boats, hit by German artillery, catch fire and sink. The noise is deafening.

Then, at 6:36 A.M, the boat ramps are lowered, and it’s time.2   

One by one, the men jump into the frigid ocean. They are not yet on the beach at all, but on a sandbar that stretches up to 100 yards out. To even get to the beach, they’ll have to wade through water that often comes up to their necks. Many soldiers, weighed down by heavy jackets, packs, and equipment, start to sink. Those who can’t shed the weight, drown. Those who can come up gasping for air – only to be greeted by a hail of bullets.

From the cliffs, German machine guns pepper the ocean, decimating Able Company before they even reach the shore. But still they advance. One pair of boots makes it to dry land. Then a second, and a third. They are the first wave, and they know what’s expected of them. What’s required. Despite fire and water, despite mine and mortar, they are the first liberators to step onto the shore.

The first free men to set foot on the beaches of France. But in the meantime, they have more work to do. Medics do what they can for the wounded, pulling anyone who might still be alive from the ocean. Minutes pass. No one from Able Company has yet fired a shot, and almost every officer – the men who give commands, who know the plans and have studied the maps – is dead. The others, leaderless and bloodied, continue anyway. It’s no glorious charge, but a desperate crawl. Liberating France inch by inch, foot by foot.

Thirty minutes later, over half the Company is dead. Most of the survivors are wounded and exhausted. But still they continue. Those who fall lift their heads to shout encouragement one final time. For they are the first wave. This is their job, their mission, their calling. To pave the way for waves to come.

Finally, after an hour, the survivors make it across the sand to the bottom of the cliff. A few join a nearby group of Army Rangers and scale to the top. The others remain behind, holding the beach. Most will remain forever. Behind them comes the second wave.

Seventy-Five Years Later
It may seem like Able Company’s sacrifice was futile, or their assault was a failure. But I don’t think so. Every yard they gained was a yard the next wave wouldn’t have to. Every bullet they attracted was a bullet someone else was saved from. Theirs was the smallest of footholds, yet it was enough – for the next wave, and the one after. For what they did that morning led to everything that followed. By the afternoon, the beach was theirs. By evening, the cliffs were theirs.

And less than one year later, all of Europe was theirs.

History is often written down as the story of great leaders making grand speeches and grander plans. But in truth, history is made up of moments. Moments when normal men and women stared fear in the face and acted. Moments when men and women offered service and sacrifice. Moments that lasted the length of a heartbeat…and yet still affect our lives to this day.

This Memorial Day, I want to remember those men and women. I want to remember the beaches of Normandy. I want to remember the men of Able Company. I hope you can take a moment to remember them, too.

1 “The suicide wave,” The Guardian, June 1, 2003.
2 “First Wave at Omaha Beach,” The Atlantic, November 1960.

SEC warns investors not to base stock decisions on social sentiment

Social media posts can have hidden agendas, regulators said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. are warning investors about using social media data to make investment decisions.

In recent years, companies like TickerTags, Social Market Analytics and LikeFolio have launched to turn the massive amounts of data on social media into investment research. The idea is that by aggregating and analyzing posts on Twitter, Facebook and others, one can detect a “social sentiment” that predicts future market or economic performance.

For example, if millions of people are tweeting how much they hate the latest iPhone, it could predict Apple falling short on its next earnings report.

Social sentiment data is increasingly popular among both retail and institutional investors. Several companies are providing earnings predictions to individual investors directly, and is selling data to quantitative fund managers.

But the SEC and FINRA said the information on these tools can be inaccurate, incomplete or misleading. Data can be stale or out-of-date, and social media posts may have hidden agendas. The SEC has actually charged someone for sending false tweets in order to influence stock prices.

FINRA’s  The investor alert added that buy or sell indicators driven by social sentiment can lead investors to make emotionally-driven or impulsive investment decisions. The SEC and FINRA advised investors to not rely solely on these tools when making decisions and to stick to a long-term financial plan.

The general consensus is that FINRA is warning investors that if they trade based on social sentiment and lose money, don’t expect FINRA to investigate, even if there is proof there were flaws in the social sentiment provider’s data.  Institutions likely will want to develop clear disclosures and disclaimers for any social sentiment data they make available to investors on their platform.

Financial industry insiders applauded the alert and said the SEC and FINRA correctly identified the issues that may arise for investors.

As always, We are here to help you find the best solution for your situation and your needs. Contact us to set up a free, no obligation consultation.

What Makes Your Mom So Special?

When you think “Mom,” it’s likely your brain conjures up a scent or a story or a song that feels like home. Here are a few inspiring and heartfelt words that have been written about the value and importance of mothers:

“A mother enables you to realize that there are different levels of beauty and therein lie the sources of pleasure, some of which are popular and ordinary, and thus of brief value, and others of which are difficult and rare, and hence worth pursuing.”
Amy Tan, Saving Fish from Drowning1

“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.”
Barbara Kingsolver, Homeland and Other Stories2

“And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.”
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath3

“I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars”
E.M. Forster, Howards End4

We wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day!  Give us a call if you would like to hear a few of our favorite quotes about moms (or financial markets).

Letter from Reagan

It was this month, 35 years ago, that a thirteen-year-old boy named Andy sent the following letter to President Reagan:

Dear Mr. President,
My name is Andy.
I am a seventh-grade student in South Carolina.
Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area. I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room. I am prepared to provide the initial funds if you will provide matching funds for this project.

I know you will be fair when you consider my request. I will be awaiting your reply.

Less than a month later, young Andy’s patience was rewarded when Reagan actually wrote back. Here is what he said:

Dear Andy:

I’m sorry to be so late in answering your letter but, as you know, I’ve been in China and found your letter here upon my return.

Your application for disaster relief has been duly noted but I must point out one technical problem: the authority declaring the disaster is supposed to make the request. In this case, your mother.

May I make a suggestion? This Administration has sponsored a Private Sector Initiative Program, calling upon people to practice voluntarism in the solving of a number of local problems. Your situation appears to be a natural. I’m sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore, you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program to go along with the more than 3000 already underway in our nation. Congratulations.

Give my best regards to your mother.

Ronald Reagan

While his letter was amusing, President Reagan made a point we could all do to remember. We all face challenges in life. Some are small, like a messy room. (Although, we all were once thirteen and most likely remember how insurmountable the task of cleaning our room seemed to be.) Some are large.

But in truth, most of the challenges we face are also opportunities. Opportunities to try, to volunteer, to organize, to lead, to change, to grow. And like Andy, we are in an excellent position to tackle these challenges. To launch our own initiatives.

To seize our opportunities.  Whenever we find ourselves in such a position, we remember President Reagan’s letter and say to ourselves, “Congratulations!”

Have a great month!

Source: “My mother declared my bedroom a disaster area,” Letters of Note, June 19, 2012.

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Lessons from March Madness

This year is no exception. Every spring, millions of people tune their televisions to March Madness, the annual tournament to decide the best team in college basketball. If you’ve ever watched before, you know it’s a time of great excitement as underdogs rise, giants fall, and new legends are made.

While watching a few games, it struck me how many parallels there are between March Madness and finance. The winning teams, whether they’re favorites or longshots, often display many of the same qualities that lead to financial success.

To illustrate what I mean, here are a few lessons we can take from March Madness:
1. Have a financial game plan. No winning team ever shows up to a game unprepared. They spend days, weeks, even months practicing, watching game film, and studying their opponent. The same should be true of your finances. Researching your investments, planning your taxes ahead of time, understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, laying out goals and determining how to achieve them – these are the best ways to get ahead in the game. Whether it’s sports or finance, planning beats just winging it every time.

  1. Aim for financial balance. Research shows that it’s not the teams with the best offense or best defense that are likely to win the tournament.1 On the contrary, it’s the most balanced teams – meaning those that play well on both sides of the court – that usually take home the trophy.
    Balance is important in finance as well. Some people spend all their money and time on their investments, thinking if they can just pick the right stock, they’ll be set for life. Others focus solely on saving every penny they earn without ever investing a cent. Still others think financial success is all about securing the highest-paying job.

The truth is, you’re more likely to achieve your goals when all aspects of your finance are in balance. That means paying equal attention to your income, investments, spending, saving, taxes, insurance, and so on. 
It doesn’t matter how much you earn if you spend even more. And while it’s great to save as much as you can, you won’t get as far as you would if you invested wisely. Furthermore, even if you nail every single one of those aspects, you could lose more than you can afford if the unexpected happens and your insurance isn’t in order. See what I mean about balance?

  1. It’s all about the team. Basketball is a team sport, not an individual one. A college could have the single best player in the world, yet still come up short if they played against a better drilled, better prepared, more balanced team. No one player can achieve victory by his- or herself. For a team to win, everyone must contribute. Similarly, you could be the smartest, hardest-working person in the world and yet still fail to reach your goals if you try to do it all alone. These days, having a financial team is more important than ever. That’s because there’s so much to know, so much to do. Working with experienced, caring professionals who specialize in the various aspects of your finances – your investments, your taxes, your estate, etc. – can make all the difference.
  2. Don’t blindly assume success. In March Madness, every team is assigned a seed from one through sixteen. (In this case, the lower the number, the higher the seed.) In most cases, when lower-seeded teams play higher seeds, nearly everyone expects the higher seed to win.
    But that doesn’t always happen.
    March Madness is (in)famous for upsets, where an underdog beats a favorite. This is more likely to happen when the favorite comes into the game assuming they’ll win. As a result, they may take the game less seriously or play less hard. The result? They go home early.
    Similarly, we shouldn’t just assume we’ll be financially successful. Achieving our goals takes planning, time, patience, and hard work – qualities we’re less likely to show if we just assume success is guaranteed.
  3. Always have a winning attitude. At the same time, we should never be pessimists about financial success, either. Remember what I said earlier about lower seeds beating higher seeds? When an underdog goes into a game thinking defeat is inevitable, their lack of belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But when a longshot plays with unshakeable confidence, believing they can win, knowing they can win – then suddenly, the impossible becomes very possible. We see it every year.

So, as you work toward your own goals, remember to always bring a winning attitude to everything you do. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Believe in your dreams.

It’s the surest way of making them come true.

There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA

If you haven’t already contributed to an IRA (Individual Retirement Account), there’s still time to do so.  Many people don’t know that the 2018 contribution deadline is actually the 15th of April.  However, if you do decide to contribute, you must designate the year you are contributing for.  Your tax preparer should be able to help you fill out the necessary forms.

For 2018, the maximum amount you can contribute is $5500 or $6500 if you’re over the age of 50.  This applies to both traditional and Roth IRAs. If you’re unsure whether to contribute or not, remember:

  • Contributions to traditional IRAs are often tax-deductible. While distributions from IRAs are taxed as income, your tax-rate after retirement could possibly be lower than it is now, lessening the
  • Contributions to a Roth IRA, on the other hand, are made with after-tax However, the advantage of a Roth IRA is that withdrawals are usually tax-free.
  • Whichever type you use, IRAs provide a great, tax-advantaged way to save for

If you have yet to set up an IRA for 2018, you can still do that. The deadline to establish an IRA is April 15th as well.  In other words, if you want to take advantage of the benefits an IRA has to offer, there’s still time to do so, either by contributing to an existing account or by establishing a new one.

If you have any questions about IRAs—whether it’s the right decision for you, how your IRA should be managed, or anything else—please give us a call at 301-294-7500. We would be happy to speak with you.