Hope in Humanity  Story #2: Kids Today

Hope in Humanity Story #2: Kids Today

Hope in Humanity 2

Kids Today
Let's Talk!

When you turn on the evening news, every broadcast seems to bring more stories of tragedy, fighting, and petty politics. But if we take the time to look a little closer, we often find that amidst the doom and gloom, people all around the world are constantly demonstrating courage, charity, and sacrifice. So, over the next few months, we’d like to share some inspirational stories we’ve come across that show how even a little bit of kindness can make a big difference.

To us, these stories show that there are still a lot of reasons to have…

Hope in Humanity
Story #2: Kids Today

“Kids today,” the saying goes. It’s something every generation seems to say about the next one, usually with an accompanying eye-roll or sigh. But in fact, kids often do as much good in this world as anyone. As a great philanthropist once put it, “You don’t have to be a certain age to make a difference.”1

That philanthropist’s name is Ethan King, and when he said it, he was fourteen years old. Now twenty, Ethan is a college student from Michigan who likes to play soccer. He’s also the founder of a global charity, who decided to ignore the fact that kids don’t normally found charities, and that people can’t singlehandedly fix the world. Instead, he decided to focus on what he could do, what he could fix, and that the word normally means absolutely nothing.

As Ethan himself tells it, it all started in 2009 in a village in Mozambique.2 Ethan had traveled to the southern African country with his Dad, who was working to repair water wells in the area. Before the trip started, Ethan decided to bring a soccer ball along, thinking he might get the chance to play pick-up games with local kids.

When he went out into the street, little did he know that a simple kick-about with a ball would lead to so much more.

“When we arrived at the village,” Ethan says, “there were a few boys standing around, so I tossed them my ball. In a matter of seconds, dozens of kids were playing and having a good time.”2

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but the irony is that there are millions of children all over the globe who don’t get a chance to play it. Kids in rural or impoverished countries often don’t have the access to real soccer balls, or the money to pay for them. As a result, they’re forced to improvise.

“I’ve discovered that many kids in poor countries want to play soccer,” Ethan explains, “but they can’t because they don’t have a ball. If they do have a ball, it’s typically a bunch of plastic garbage bags wadded up and wrapped with twine and it doesn’t last very long.” Even the legendary Pelé learned to play using a stock stuffed with newspaper, or by playing with a grapefruit. (Yes, a grapefruit.)

While playing with the local kids, Ethan noticed how delighted they were to play with a real ball. When it was time to go, he decided to leave the ball with them. “As I watched the kids play, it was hard for me to think that I would be heading back to the States where I had several soccer balls in my garage just sitting there. These kids in the village had none.”

So, Ethan decided to leave the ball as a gift.

As he walked away, one of the boys took the ball and ran up to him, offering it back. “I said to him, ‘No, this is yours. I’ve given it to you.’ Immediately they ran, laughed, and cheered like they had just won the lottery!” Ethan recalls. 2 The gift of a simple, actual ball was enough to bring joy to their lives.

Then Ethan decided, why stop at one?

When he returned home, he personally began to call up corporations, asking for donations.2 He spoke to other kids and parents while at soccer games. His own organization, Charity Ball, was born. Thanks to donations, Charity Ball delivers brand new soccer balls to kids around the world who can’t afford to buy any. In the past four years, thousands of balls have been delivered in 45 countries.3

When Ethan launched his charity, he was just ten years old.

Some people may ask, “Why start a charity based on delivering soccer balls when there are so many other causes that deserve attention?” Simple – because it brings joy. And joy is a commodity the world can never have too much of. Furthermore, children in many countries must contend with disease, war, and other hardships. While there are many charities helping to combat these miseries, not all provide an escape from them. The simple act of playing soccer, of having fun, is that escape.

Joy can’t remove hardship. But sometimes, it can help people cope with hardship. Sounds like a worthy cause to me.

Not all of us will have the ability to start our own charity, but we can all follow this young man’s example. Spreading joy is as valuable an endeavor as anything else we do in this life. And as a wise philanthropist once said, “You don’t have to be a certain age to make a difference.”

Kids today, right?

P.S. If you would like to learn more about Ethan and his organization, visit www.charityball.org.

1 Sharon Cotliar, “Teen Gives 4,000 Soccer Balls to Kids Around the World,” People Magazine, March 13, 2014. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20796491,00.html
2 “Charity Ball Founder, Ethan King.” Accessed September 18, 2019. https://charityball.org/about/charity-ball-founder/
3 “Recipient Map,” accessed September 18, 2019. https://charityball.org/about/recipient-map/

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Annuities, Potomac, Annuity, Bethesda,  Annuity Advisor, Rockville, 

The Secret Life of Data

The Secret Life of Data

What data about you is most important?
The data that identity thieves are after – social security, credit card, and bank account numbers – is important, as well as more basic data which is being collected by companies whose devices you use every day.

Geoffrey Fowler of The Washington Post recently reported what happens on smartphones doesn’t stay on smartphones, despite advertisements suggesting otherwise. He wrote:1

“Even though the screen is off and I’m snoring, apps are beaming out lots of information about me to companies I’ve never heard of…On a recent Monday night, a dozen marketing companies, research firms, and other personal data guzzlers got reports from my [smartphone].”

And, they used his wireless service to do it!

Over the course of a month, one expert estimated trackers would have sent 1.5 gigabytes of data – including Fowler’s email address, phone number, IP address, and location, among other things – from his phone to various companies.2

Here’s some more bad news: Your credit cards may be bigger gossips than you imagined.

When Fowler attempted to track data collected by credit card companies, it was akin to talking with teenagers about their plans for the evening. His personal credit card data was going out, but no one could say where it was going, why it was going there, or what would happen to it.2

The data collected from devices and credit card purchases is aggregated and commonly known as ‘Big Data.’ In some cases, data is anonymous. In others, it is used to learn more about a specific individual. Data also is collected through social media.3

Big Data is stored in computer databases and analyzed to “…increase the speed at which products get to market, to reduce the amount of time and resources required to gain market adoption, target audiences, and to ensure that customers remain satisfied.”3

In other words, Big Data is really valuable. Some researchers have explored whether individuals should own and control personal data. That way, you would have the right to decide whether to sell it or keep it private.4

The Council on Foreign Relations reported most western nations have laws in place to protect citizens from having data collected and used without their knowledge. The United States is an exception. It “lacks a single, comprehensive federal law that regulates the collection and use of personal information.”5

Until laws change, there are apps available that can help you block data collection – and they promise not to collect your data.6

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Inverted Yield Curve – Should You Worry About A Recession?

Inverted Yield Curve – Should You Worry About A Recession?

If you ask an economist what makes them toss and turn at night, chances are they’ll tell you, “Fear of missing the warning signs of a recession.” After all, for anyone who studies the economy for a living, few things could be worse than a sudden economic slump catching you by surprise.

That’s why many economists rely on certain indicators to predict if there’s rough weather ahead.  Historically, one of the most reliable indicators is the inverted yield curve. This is when the yield on long-term bonds drops below the yield on short-term bonds. Why does this matter to economists?  Because an inverted yield curve has preceded every recession since 1956.1

Long-Term Bond Yield Hits Record Low2
Stocks Skid as Bonds Flash a Warning3
The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2019

 On August 14, the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds dropped below 1.6%, officially falling beneath the yield on 2-year Treasury bonds for the first time since 2007.4 That’s an inverted yield curve. The markets responded the way children do when a hornet gets inside the family car – they panicked. The Dow, the S&P 500, and the NASDAQ all fell sharply, with the Dow plunging over 700 points.3

The obvious question, of course, is “Why?”

It’s a smart question! To the average investor, the term “inverted yield curve” probably doesn’t sound very scary. So, why does it have the markets freaking out? Let’s break it down by answering a few basic – but also smart – questions.

What’s a bond yield, again?
A bond yield is the return you get when you put your money in a government or corporate bond. Whenever an investor buys a bond, they’re agreeing to loan money to the issuer of that bond – the government, in the case of Treasury bonds – for a specific length of time. Typically, the longer the time, the higher the yield, as investors want a greater return in exchange for locking up their money for years or even decades. That’s why the yield on long-term bonds is almost always higher than on short-term bonds. When these trade places, we have an inverted yield curve.

Okay, so why have bond yields inverted?
Bear with me here, because I’m about to get a little technical. Bond yields have an inverse relationship with bond prices. That means when prices go up, yields fall, and vice versa.

What do I mean by price? Well, investors must pay to buy bonds, of course, and when more people buy them, the price of these bonds goes up. (It’s the basic law of supply and demand: When the demand for something increases, so does the price.) When that happens, yields drop.

Investors often see bonds as safe havens of sorts, especially during economic turmoil. Stocks, on the other hand, tend to be seen as “higher risk, higher reward” investments. In this case, investors are selling their stocks and plowing more and more money into long-term bonds, pushing prices up and yields below that of short-term bonds. The fact investors are doing this suggests they’re not optimistic about the near future health of the economy and are seeking safe places to park their money.

Why are investors so worried about the economy?
On the home front, it’s largely because of the trade war between the U.S. and China. As the two nations engage in an ever-growing battle of tariffs, the fear is that businesses in the U.S. will have to raise prices, thereby hurting consumers. On August 13, President Trump decided to delay the most recent round of tariffs until December, saying he didn’t want tariffs to affect shopping during the Christmas season.5  Previously, Trump predicted tariffs would not hurt U.S. businesses, so this sudden about-face suggests even he is worried.

Investors are also worried about a slowdown in the global economy. Two of the world’s most important economies, China and Germany, have both shrunk. Put all these things together and it’s not hard to see why investors worry about a recession in the near future.

Fears the recent news about inverted yield curves will only stoke.

So is a recession imminent?
As I mentioned earlier, inverted yield curves have preceded every recession since 1956. This includes the Great Recession of 2008. But does this mean a recession is just around the corner?

No!

There are two things to keep in mind here. First, a brief inverted yield curve is not the same thing as a sustained one. While inversions have preceded every modern recession, inversions do not always lead to a recession. Think of it this way: You can’t have a rainstorm without dark gray clouds. But dark gray clouds don’t always lead to a rainstorm. Make sense?

You see, correlation does not equal causation. By this I mean that while inversions and recessions are often seen together, one does not actually cause the other. An inverted yield curve is like a sneeze: It’s a symptom, not the disease itself. And while a sneeze can mean you have a cold, it doesn’t lead to a cold. Sometimes, we sneeze because we got pepper up our nose.

Second, let’s assume for argument’s sake that this recent inversion is a warning sign of a future recession. That doesn’t mean a recession is imminent. Some analysis suggests that it takes an average of twenty-two months for a recession to follow an inversion.1 That’s a long time! A long time to save, invest, plan and prepare.

So does an inverted yield curve even matter, then?
I’ll put it simply: It matters enough to pay attention to. It doesn’t matter enough to be worth panicking over. Make no mistake, we’re in a volatile period right now. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that volatility will continue. But while comparing the markets to the weather has become something of a cliché, it also makes a lot of sense. When storm clouds gather, we pack an umbrella or stay inside. We don’t run for the hills.

The same is true of market volatility.

Remember, an inverted yield curve is an indicator, not a prophecy. Economists can toss and turn about such things, but you and I are focusing on something much less abstract: your financial goals. More important than any indicator, more important than the day-to-day swings in the markets, is the discipline we show. If you think about it, market volatility is really a symptom, too – a symptom of emotional decision making. Investors see a good headline, and they buy, buy, buy! That’s a market rally. Investors see a bad one, and they sell, sell, sell! That’s a market dip.

Investing based on emotion leads to one thing: Regret. Regret that we bought into the hype and bought when we should have waited for a better deal. Regret that we fell into fear and sold when we should have held on longer. We invest by being disciplined enough to buy, hold, or sell when it makes sense for your situation.

That’s the best way to stay on track toward your goals. That’s the best way to not toss and turn at night. We don’t make decisions based on predictions. We make decisions based on need.

Our team at Research Financial Strategies will keep watching the indicators. We’ll keep doing our best to explain the twists and turns in the markets. And we’ll keep doing our best not to overreact to any of them. In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. We always love to hear from you!

1 “The inverted yield curve explained,” CNBC, August 14, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/14/the-inverted-yield-curveexplained-and-what-it-means-for-your-money.html
2 “Long-Term Bond Yield Hits Record Low,” The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/bondrally-drives-30-year-treasury-yield-to-record-low-11565794665
3 “Stocks Skid as Bonds Flash a Warning,” The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/asianstocks-gain-on-tariff-delay-11565769562
4 “Dow tumbles 700 points after bond market flashes a recession warning,” CNN Business, August 14, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/14/investing/dow-stock-market-today/index.html
5 “U.S. Retreats on Chinese Tariff Threats,” The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-willdelay-some-tariffs-against-china-11565704420

Hope in Humanity

Hope in Humanity

When you turn on the evening news, every broadcast seems to bring more stories of tragedy, fighting, and petty politics. But if we take the time to a look a little closer, we often find that amidst the doom and gloom, people all around the world are constantly demonstrating courage, charity, and sacrifice. So, over the next few months, we’d like to share some inspirational stories we’ve come across that show how even a little bit of kindness can make a big difference. To us, these stories show that there are still a lot of reasons to have…

Hope in Humanity
Story #1: The Tip of a Lifetime

Kasey Simmons, a waiter in Little Elm, Texas, was having a very bad day. In fact, Kasey later described it as “the worst day of my career.”1 The restaurant was so busy, and the patrons so demanding, that he debated just walking away without looking back. But then, a woman entered.

Trying to be polite, Kasey told her that it would be about 45 minutes before he could take her order. But she didn’t want to order a meal. All she wanted was a drink.

“Flavored water,” she requested. It was the cheapest item on the menu – only 65 cents. As Kasey went to get it, he knew it was hardly worth a tip.

He couldn’t have been more wrong. The worst day of his career was about to become his best.

One day earlier
The day before the woman ordered flavored water, Kasey had helped someone else who was having a hard time. While standing in the checkout line at his local grocery store, Kasey noticed an elderly woman with a dejected look on her face. In fact, she looked as if she’d been crying. 

Feeling bad, Kasey tried to start a conversation with her. The woman didn’t really respond. Undeterred, Kasey offered to lift her spirits by paying for her groceries. It was only $17 dollars, but as he later said, “It’s not about money. It’s about showing someone you care.”2

Suddenly grateful, the elderly woman asked for his name. Kasey gave her his business card, paid the bill, and left, thinking that was that. By the next day, it was probably out of his head entirely.

Until the woman in his restaurant ordered flavored water.

The tip of a lifetime
After Kasey brought it, the patron asked for a check so she could leave a tip. Kasey brought that too, then resumed his other responsibilities. When he returned sometime later, he found the woman was gone. In her place was a note written on a napkin.

“Kasey, on behalf of [my] family, I want to thank you for being the person you are. On one of the most depressing days of the year, (the 3-year anniversary of my father’s death) you made my mother’s day wonderful. She has been smiling since you did what you did. You insisted on paying. You told her she is a very beautiful woman. I have not seen her smile this much since Dad died. My mother did not need you to help her, but you made her year. Now accept yours!”1

Next to the napkin was the check. Kasey looked at the tip.
It was for $500. Sometimes, it’s nice to know that despite everything going on in the world, simply paying attention to the people around us can make all the difference in a stranger’s day.

Sometimes, it’s nice to know that simple human decency is alive, well, and as valuable as ever.
Sometimes, it’s nice to know that good deeds can be rewarded.

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1 “Waiter receives $500 tip after showing kindness toward grieving widow,” ABC News, August 23, 2016. https://abc7.com/society/waiter-receives-$500-tip-after-showing-kindness-toward-grieving-widow/1481366/
2 “Waiter tipped $500 for act of kindness,” CNN, August 19, 2016. https://www.cnn.com/2016/08/19/living/iyw-waiter-tippedbig-for-kindness/index.html

How important labor still is today

How important labor still is today

Happy Labor Day! 

As you know, this holiday is for celebrating the Labor Movement and the contributions workers have made to our nation’s history. But in recent years, as our society has grown ever more automated and modernized, we sometimes think we forget how important labor still is.

Each month seems to bring new stories about the latest innovations in artificial intelligence, robotics, or digital technology. But there are so many things we could not function without – things we often take for granted – that wouldn’t exist without laborers.

As financial advisors, we work a white-collar job. Every day we rely on computers to do what we do best. And yet, we could not perform our jobs without labor. The roads we drive on to get to work are made by laborers. The food we eat is grown, harvested, and prepared by laborers. The clothes on our back, the shoes on our feet, the roof we live under – it’s all thanks to hard work and no small amount of skill.

Laborers harness the power of the Earth, the sun, the wind, and the oceans to provide the energy we consume each day. They mine the elements that go into everything from streetlights to the smartphone in our pockets. They build, repair, and reuse. Laborers keep our cities clean and functioning smoothly. They even plant the trees we rely on both for oxygen and for natural beauty! We often don’t notice them, because they work behind the scenes, or at night, or even in faraway lands. But the fact remains that we still rely on the sweat and skill of workers around the world.

As another Labor Day rolls around, it’s important to remember that. It’s important to be grateful for the things we take for granted. It’s important to remember that many laborers still work backbreaking jobs, in harsh working conditions, for very little pay. It’s important to remember that the labor movement – the cause to ensure workers are treated fairly, safely, and humanely – is still going on today. So, while we celebrate another Labor Day, let’s remember how important labor is and always will be. Our civilization would be nothing without it.

On behalf of everyone here at Research Financial Strategies, we wish you a safe and happy Labor Day!

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