This third and final commentary was originally posted December 6, 2012.
Though written almost 3 years ago, the term “Fiscal Cliff” is fairly fresh in my memory. At that time, I was very aware of how closely everyone followed the news, how it dominated most any conversation, and how most people expressed a concern for how the “cliff” would impact them.
I was amazed at how the conversations were so personal, and the actions were not.
When I shared the thoughts below, I stressed the importance of gaining a better understanding of the key issues at hand, the relationship between finances and freedom, and free enterprise and entrepreneurialism. Three years later, our economy has shifted even further. These topics are just as important now, and they hit most everyone even closer to home. Financial literacy is as critical as ever.
What I most enjoy about returning to this post is the perspective and the call to action that the Centurion Advisory group article provided. As I said below, beyond the education and the guidance to take care of things “at home”, I hope this inspires you to also take the opportunity to reach beyond the noise, and reach beyond yourself, to make a difference in the lives of others.
One cannot develop others in an area he isn’t developing himself. To that end, I have always included a variety of publications and newsletters in my reading cycle that strengthen my understanding of the most significant matters currently driving the course of our nation.
Not the latest trends, and not the messages from mainstream media, but rather the core issues in play, the questions they raise, and the foundational principles being applied (or not) in their solutions. I also enjoy learning from the perspectives of other leaders concerned about the same.
I have always had a keen interest in the history of our nation, and enjoy learning about economic and financial principles. The more I study the two, the more I learn how finances drive freedoms, from our “personal economies” to our national financial systems. This past election, the economy was a core issue, yet our viewpoints on the economic issues showed amazing diversity.
Many viewed the issues from a very personal perspective. Others put aside a concern for personal gain in favor of national strength. Some had short term views, and others looked far into the future. Almost suddenly thereafter, the focus became a pending “cliff” only a couple of months away.
I encourage you to…
- better understand the issues at hand, learn all you can about them and view them through a lens of sound principles beyond the sound-bites being discussed
- understand what drives our economy, what drives our freedom as a nation and learn how they are interrelated
- gain a better understanding of free enterprise and entrepreneurialism, and how integral they are to where our country is headed
But also rise above it. Regardless of the short-term actions taken by the national leaders in the coming weeks, step back and see how little these decisions impact you. Or, perhaps, don’t let them.
In the article below, the Centurion Advisory group adds to their end-of-year outlook a great perspective on inward concern versus outward focus, and the importance of taking actions in both. Beyond the education it provides, and the guidance to take care of things “at home”, I hope this inspires you to also take the opportunity to reach beyond the noise, and reach beyond yourself, to make a difference in the lives of others.
FROM: Centurion Advisory Group, Newsletter, 12/4/2012
Domestic equity markets have followed a very traditional pattern this year. They were up through April, accomplished almost nothing through the end of October, and were up a bit in a volatile November. This pattern generally yields a solid December, but I'm no fortune teller, so we will know for certain the evening of December 31st.
Most investors have made money this year, whether they've invested in stocks or bonds, and regardless of where in the world they have invested. Again, this confirms a very traditional pattern, described by some as the "Wall of Worry". When many are fearful of investing, or concerned that the market will take a plunge, the market can do well. An added complication is that for many of us, the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 don't seem that far away, and none of us are excited about a repeat. This "Wall of Worry" isn't a perfect pattern, though the general correlation makes for a fascinating study in human behavior.
At the moment, there are plenty of macro issues to worry about, for those who choose to burn through energy worrying about things. Our fearless leaders in DC have gone almost four years without a budget, and they are still wrangling over tax details to avoid what has been called a "fiscal cliff". The U.S., and many other countries, is absolutely covered up with debt, and there is no politician living that is willing to stand in, and help resolve these long term issues. Some wonder what happens to the viability of the U.S. if the U.S. dollar is no longer the world's reserve currency. The Middle East continues to be a milieu of tribal warfare.
If it helps any, let me remind us that there have always been wars, and rumors of wars. Over the last 100 years, there have been two world wars, and almost too many other conflicts to reference. There have been currency implosions, destruction of people groups, tribes, and rainforests, terrorist attacks on the U.S and many other countries, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and hosts of other natural disasters, and on, and on.
In spite of this, and sometimes because of it, "here in Topeka", the screen door needs to be fixed, diapers need to be changed, and meals need to be prepared. Life for most will go on, and these "most" will continue to pay their light bill (Warren Buffett figured this out a long time ago), buy groceries for the family, tennis shoes for the kids, and gas for the car. The well run companies that offer these products and services will continue to be profitable, hire new employees, and expand. As these companies see similar opportunities around the globe, they will expand into enterprises with a global footprint.
So, what does all this mean, and how do you take action at the moment? Let me suggest a dual focus, one inward looking, and one outward looking.
First, know that your personal economy isn't directly related to the overall economy. Most of you reading this have developed some level of skill or expertise that allows you enough income to pay your bills. Provided you have food, clothes, and shelter, the rest of your personal economy is a function of one thing - discipline. Our highest and best recommendation is to spend lightly, save diligently, invest wisely and with counsel, and stay far away from debt. These habits and disciplines, exercised consistently across decades, will yield magnificent results. There is no better place to be financially than debt free, profitable, and cash flow positive, and on this issue, I speak from experience.
Now, what about outward looking? About 45% of voters were pleased with the recent elections, and 45% were displeased, with 10%, and growing, fairly agnostic and cynical about the whole thing. And yet, political outcomes, regardless of where we each fall on the spectrum, are white noise compared to other, larger, issues.
For decades, our country has been the city on a hill, the golden land, which offered opportunity to all. From around the world, immigrants came, seeking a life which was better than the one they left behind. For more than two hundred years, we have stories of those from meager beginnings, from all countries around the globe, finding a better life for themselves and their families in the U.S.
A study of these stories reveals a commitment to work, to give, to share, and to help others. A few of the names are Andrew Carnegie, who built many of the libraries in this country, Nathan Hale, who was saddened that he had only one life to give, and Patrick Henry, whose oratory helped inspire a young nation to freedom.
Others include Abe Lincoln, who was seen as inept, yet governed during one of our country's most difficult moments, George Washington Carver, who applied his God given talents in spite of what many would call built in disadvantages, Teddy Roosevelt, who challenged us with his "man in the arena" speech, Ben Carson, raised by a single mother, yet one of our premier physicians, Shahid Khan, new owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who came here with little, and Churchill (I know he's a Brit), who through force of will saw a weak England to victory against the Nazi war machine.
Here's the question. What will we choose? Will we choose only to feather our own nest, to hide behind security gates and locked doors, to move only within circles of folks like us? Or, will we choose to reach out? Can we, by example, show the world, even if that world is simply our neighborhood, how to live? Will we intentionally look beyond the belief system, the orientation, the skin color, the accent, the appearance, to hear the story, to offer a word of encouragement, to find a way to help, to be a friend?
Will we bind up the brokenhearted, loose the chains of injustice, help set the captives free? Will we share our food with the hungry, offer shelter to the homeless, and clothes for the naked? Will we choose to restore those broken relationships of our own flesh and blood? Will we choose to offer words of kindness and encouragement, instead of criticism, complaint, and condemnation?
If we will, then we will live in a supernatural light, and will find healing instead of brokenness. We will be given physical strength, and our lives will be as a well-watered garden. We will be called a repairer of broken walls, and a restorer of streets with dwellings.