Grow Your Portfolio the Intelligent Way

Don’t Be a Vaccine Stupido

By Jim Woods

Last Friday, I got “the jab” as the Brits say. Here in the States, we simply call it getting “the shot.” That shot, of course, is the COVID-19 vaccine, and in my case, it was the first dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pfizer-BioNTech version is 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness. And while being fully vaccinated (I am scheduled for my second dose on April 23) won’t totally prevent me from contracting COVID-19, it will almost certainly prevent me from becoming severely ill (or worse) from the virus that turned our world inside out for the better part of what is now about 16 months. 

I must say that I am extremely grateful to now be at least partially vaccinated. And I am even more grateful for, and frankly in awe of, the scientists and the drug makers that put their knowledge, effort and capital to use to create this life-saving vaccine. I am also grateful for the Trump administration and Operation Warp Speed, the battle plan it launched to fast track five vaccine candidates to produce a viable vaccine in record-breaking time.

Yet much to my surprise, and to my rational dismay, there seems to be a very large contingent of Americans who openly say that they are not planning to get the vaccine. Moreover, that group tends to be overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly Republican. And since many in my audience also are male and Republican, I thought it important to speak out on this issue.

According to a recent NPR/PBS/Marist survey, 49% of Republican men said they do not plan to get vaccinated. That group was by far the highest number of “refusers” compared to any other demographic group. Among Democratic men, the number of refusers was just 6%.

And this poll isn’t just a one-off either.

A recent CBS News Poll found the following: “Republicans and conservatives are the most likely group to express hesitancy. However, there are clear differences by age, with older Republicans more likely to express willingness to get their shots. In fact, a majority of Republicans age 65 and older report having already been vaccinated, while most of those under age 45 express hesitancy.”

So, why is there hesitancy among younger Republicans? According to the CBS News poll respondents, those who outright say they would not get the vaccine cited as their reason “distrust of the government, as well as of the scientists and companies that make the vaccines.”

Now, I am a small “l” libertarian. That means I think that government should have the smallest possible footprint and influence in our lives. I’m also a “radical for capitalism,” meaning I think the private sector should deal with nearly every issue government currently is involved in except for police, courts and the military.

However, the idea that you would not willingly take a life-saving vaccine because you distrust government, science and pharmaceutical companies is just not rational.

That’s like not eating because you distrust preservatives in your food, or not drinking water because it might have some harmful bacteria.

Yes, I know the vaccine has been fast tracked into existence much quicker than any other before. I also know that the new biotechnology that uses messenger RNA vaccines, also called mRNA vaccines, is the first of its kind. While extremely complicated technically, the mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein or a piece of a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This technology is new, and it is something to monitor for effects down the road, as any new technology should be.

I also know that we should harbor a healthy distrust of politicians and their motives. And yes, sometimes pharmaceutical companies make mistakes that hurt society, so we shouldn’t have blind trust in that company, or any company.

Yet concentrating on these issues as reasons why one shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine is like saying you don’t want to wear the seatbelt in your car because it will wrinkle your dress shirt. If you get into a head-on collision with another car and you aren’t wearing your seatbelt, you’ll have much bigger problems than a wrinkled dress shirt.

So, as my Mexican momma might say, “Don’t be an El Stupido.”

Get yourself “the jab,” and make yourself safe. You owe it to yourself, your loved ones and everyone else to make the rational choice and get yourself protected from the COVID-19 viral menace. Doing so will keep you safe, will help put an end to the pandemic and will help society and our economy get back to normal. 

Hey, do you remember normal? I do, and I miss it. 

Now, go out and get vaccinated.

P.S. Last Friday, before I got my vaccination, I was a guest on the Unlock Your Wealth Today TV show, hosted by my friend Heather Wagenhals. During our interview, I provided my thoughts on the markets in Q1, and I gave my outlook on what is likely to happen in Q2 and throughout the remainder of the year. If you have some time today, I invite you to check it out. 

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ETF Talk: Tapping into Dividend-Paying Technology Stocks

Technology was the one of the few shining stars during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, as a sizable percentage of the American population shifted into work-from-home mode, technology companies saw their earnings per share (EPS) sharply rise. Concurrently, the tech-heavy Nasdaq repeatedly hit new highs.

Since the start of 2020, the Nasdaq Composite has risen more than 50%. As the old saying goes, however, “what goes up must come down.”

Technology stocks then had a very weak first quarter in 2021, as investors started to move funds into value stocks and other companies that were leveraged toward the reopening of the economy. The result was an inevitable correction in the technology sector.

This does not mean, however, that the sector should now be totally set aside. Technology is still in a growth pattern, as some of the trends that were occurring before the pandemic are now accelerating and some of the changes that were impelled as a result of the pandemic are now becoming permanent, or at least protracted.

Due to the recent pullback in the technology sector and the onset of earnings season, it is time to turn our attention to the First Trust NASDAQ Technology Dividend Index Fund (NASDAQ: TDIV)

In order to sift through the bounty of technology companies that are out there, this exchange-traded fund (ETF) tracks a dividend-weighted index of U.S.-listed stocks that provide regular payouts. All companies in the fund are weighted according to their dividend yield relative to other stocks in the portfolio, and then adjusted so that technology companies make up 80% of the fund. Telecom companies make up the other 20%.

Some of this fund’s top holdings include Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Broadcom Inc. (NASDAQ: AVGO), Oracle Corporation (NYSE: ORCL), Texas Instruments Incorporated (NASDAQ: TXN) and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC).

This fund’s performance has been relatively strong, even when including the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 6, TDIV has been up 8.21% over the past month and up 12.30% for the past three months. It is currently up 12.39% year to date.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

The fund has amassed $1.51 billion in assets under management and has an expense ratio of 0.50%.

In short, while TDIV does provide an investor with a chance to tap into the world of technology, this kind of ETF may not be appropriate for all portfolios. Thus, interested investors always should conduct their due diligence and decide whether the fund is suitable for their investing goals.

As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.

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In case you missed it…

The Influence of An Unlikely Hero       

As a youth open to the world’s influence, you never know what will captivate your interest, and what will lead you to the paths you take in life.

It was August 1974 when I, along with the rest of the world, watched then-President Nixon resign his office in disgrace. And while I was only 10 years old, thinking about that event brings me right back to the Southern California suburban home where I grew up, and right to the scene of my family watching our RCA console TV and, astonished, taking in the historic moment.

A few years later, I began to read about this still-fresh historical wound on society, and I started exploring the reasons why the president had resigned (rather than undergoing the indignity of being impeached and removed from office). At the heart of that resignation was, of all things, a burglary. Specifically, it was one of the most famous burglaries in American history, the crime known as the Watergate burglary.

In reading about Watergate, one quickly comes to learn the name G. Gordon Liddy.

Gordon Liddy was one of the key figures in the scandal, because he was the person who basically organized, planned and sent his team of former intelligence industry operatives into the Watergate complex to bug the Democratic Party headquarters in June 1972.

Last Tuesday, George Gordon Battle Liddy died. He was 90 years old.

So, what’s so important about G. Gordon Liddy, and why am I writing about him today?

Well, because G. Gordon Liddy helped shape my mind. He also helped me forge my own will, and he helped me become the man I am today. Let me explain.

In 1976, “Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy” was published. My father told me that he heard that the book was very interesting, so he purchased it for himself. But I had the habit of beating my father to the punch when it came to reading, so I grabbed his copy of “Will” and read it before he had the chance.

Well, this book was a huge eye opener for me. Not only was it a fascinating tale of politics and intrigue during that time, it also was the story of how G. Gordon Liddy took control of his own destiny and basically created the man he would become (for better or for worse).

As I read Liddy’s book, I was mesmerized by the story of his personal transformation “from a puny, fearful boy to a strong, fearless man,” as he writes it. This transformation took place via a regime of intense exercise and physical bravado, including capturing, killing and then eating rats. He did this to overcome his fear of rats, so that now, the rats would fear him!

This overcoming of fear really resonated with me as a youth, and I sought out to do the same thing in my life. No, I never ate a rat, but I did decide to confront the local bully at my junior high after reading Liddy’s book. Although this bully was substantially larger than me, he crumbled when I punched him in his ugly mouth. Yes, I can still picture the bloody, busted lip and the tears on his cowardly face. From then on, he feared me.

Fast forward some 14 years, after high school, after college, and just as I was leaving the U.S. Army, I had the pleasure of not only meeting G. Gordon Liddy, but of also actually working alongside the man.

Liddy was setting up an academy where he would train security people in executive protection, firearms, military and intelligence operations and hand-to-hand combat. Through some mutual acquaintances, I was brought to Liddy’s attention to see if I could help with the project as one of the instructors.

Your youthful editor with Watergate icon G. Gordon Liddy.

The photo here was my first meeting with “Gordon,” as he liked to be called. One of the most interesting conversations we had was about a project he planned to call “Hurricane Force.” It was to be a private security force made up of former special operations personnel, and it would conduct operations such as child kidnapping recoveries and other “high-risk ops” where law enforcement wouldn’t or couldn’t intervene.

I never participated in Hurricane Force, and I don’t really know if anything came of it. But just the idea of being considered for a private special ops force was supremely interesting to me, especially when talking to G. Gordon Liddy about it over drinks at a Miami hotel.

The more important takeaway here is that in life, sometimes you are influenced by an unlikely hero. Sometimes that hero is less than 100% good. After all, Liddy’s attempted subversion of the 1972 election is not something I endorse. And I don’t endorse criminal behavior such as burglaries, or break-ins, or any of the other crimes Liddy was convicted of.

I do, however, endorse the man’s mindset, which cultivated an iron will strong enough to abide by principles in life, principles that Liddy would not abandon even at the price of going to prison.

Sure, he could have testified against his co-conspirators and likely gotten a much-reduced sentence, or no sentence at all, for his role in the Watergate burglary. But what he chose to do was live by his convictions, convictions that told him if you engage in an operation with others, you never give up those others just to save your own tail.

Stated more colloquially, you never “rat” on your friends. Instead, you eat the rat, and make him fear you.

R.I.P., Gordon, your influence will remain with me always.

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Wooden Wisdom 

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

— Coach John Wooden, UCLA Basketball

Over the weekend, my alma mater, the UCLA Bruins, played one of the most remarkable Final Four games in college basketball history. And though the Bruins lost their matchup with the Gonzaga Bulldogs via a stunning half-court buzzer beater in overtime, I suspect the legendary John Wooden would have been supremely proud of the team’s extraordinary effort. More importantly, remember what Coach Wooden says here, because though there are plenty of things we can’t do, we owe it to ourselves to do the absolute best at the things we can do. 

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

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