Grow Your Portfolio the Intelligent Way

How You Can Enhance Quarantine Communication

By Jim Woods
  • How You Can Enhance Quarantine Communication
  • ETF Talk: Making a MINT with Active Management
  • Time for a Candid COVID-19 Conversation
  • Just by Living

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How You Can Enhance Quarantine Communication

You’ve been cooped up with your significant other, your kids, your grandkids, your roommate, etc. for the past several months due to the COVID-19 quarantine. Now, to say that this has been both a beautiful blessing and caustic curse for most Americans is probably stating an uncomfortable reality.

Yes, you love spending quality time with family during the lockdown. Yet, you also are likely suffering from heightened tensions due to the constant proximity and general sense of cabin fever that the current conditions have created.

Now, the country is fortunately reopening, with all 50 states beginning to lift restrictions on shelter-in-place orders. And while that is great for the economy, it’s also great for the many Americans who have been under a lot of psychological pressure due to their intensified personal interactions.

So, what can we do about this situation? How can we enhance communication with our families, children, roommates or whomever we are in constant contact with?

To answer this question, I consulted master communicator, public speaker, writer and personal finance expert, Heather Wagenhals. Today, Ms. Wagenhals was kind enough to provide us with a few key techniques on how we all can improve our communication skills.

Jim Woods (JW): Okay, Heather, The Deep Woods readers want to know, what are your best tips on how to enhance communication?

Heather Wagenhals (HW): The first thing to do is realize that a conversation is not a 50-50 engagement. It is 100% both ways. Try to approach every communication as less about getting your point across and more about understanding. Consider it your obligation when communicating to try and achieve a clear sense of mutual understanding. We all approach the same things in a different way. So, it is helpful to remember that in any communication, especially ones that are strained during times of duress, to set aside our personal opinions of what we think is going on or how someone “should be” handling things and connect with people where they are.

JW: What about the concept of Mehrabian’s Rule? Does that apply here to familial communications?

HW: Indeed it does. Mehrabian’s Rule tells us that more is spoken without words. This rule is viewed as a ratio that explains how much emphasis we put on parts of communication, which is 55-38-7. So, 55% of our communication is nonverbal. This is body language, gestures, facial expressions, posture, etc. We say the most without even saying a word. Then 38% of our communication is audible. This is what we hear that includes volume, rate, pitch and vocal inflection. Only 7% of our ability to communicate is the actual words we use. So, make sure what you are communicating with words is what you are communicating with the other 93% of yourself.

JW: What about the importance of listening in good communication? I feel my interactions are enhanced when I pay close attention to the listening aspect.

HW: Listening intensely, and in full focus, is critical. Try to avoid thinking about what you are going to say next, avoid interrupting and just truly listen. Failure to do this will result in you missing out on quite a bit of information. The value of listening intently is that you will learn where people stand, and you will have even more information. Most people will tell you exactly what’s on their mind if you listen with both your eyes and ears.

JW: Excellent. Any final tips?

HW: Yes, and this is the most important — always think before you reply. By remaining calm and not engaging in instinctive and possibly overly emotional reactions, we can find ourselves in our highest resource states. These are the states that allow us to think objectively and clearly. This is where we review the information we have just received, and we can adequately evaluate the meaning of our conversation. Did the other person give us enough information to elicit our understanding? Is a follow-up question necessary for clarification so that we do not make any assumptions? Unless we stop and think about it for a moment and be genuinely contemplative, a knee-jerk reaction in communication can have an adverse impact, not only on that conversation, but potentially the entire relationship.

JW: Excellent. It is always a pleasure to get your insights, and I did think about that response before I replied.

HW: Well, then, you’ve listened well.

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ETF Talk: Making a MINT with Active Management

Note: This is the first in a series of the biggest actively managed exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active ETF (NYSEARCA:MINT) is a low-cost, actively managed fund that seeks higher current income than the average money market mutual fund by holding a hodgepodge of high-quality and ultra-short-term U.S. dollar-denominated debt from domestic or foreign issuers.

The fund, which aims to keep its average duration under one year, targets only investment-grade securities. Aside from U.S.-based debt, investors also gain exposure to U.S. dollar-denominated securities from developed countries and emerging markets.

Liquidity-wise, it doesn’t get much better than MINT in the fixed-income space. The fund trades in high volumes and its block liquidity is great. Its expense ratio is reasonable, and the fund has quickly amassed sizable assets, making it one of the most successful actively managed ETFs ever launched.

As you can see in the five-year chart below, this fund has experienced an incredible uptrend over recent years. Even with the recent overall market correction, MINT has almost recovered all that it had lost due to the pandemic, demonstrating its resilience and how well managed it is.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

The exchanged-traded fund has $12.8 billion in assets under management, 742 holdings and an average spread of 0.01%. Its expense ratio is 0.36%, indicating that it is inexpensive to hold relative to other ETFs. MINT trades around $100 a share, and it has a distribution yield of 1.94%.

MINT is designed to provide clients with capital preservation, liquidity and stronger return potential relative to traditional cash investments in exchange for a modest increase in risk. It also provides diversification and downside risk mitigation in volatile markets, with little exposure to interest rate risk. The fund also offers access to PIMCO’s veteran liquidity management team, as well as an extensive credit research process to source what are believed to be the most attractive securities.

In short, MINT is an actively managed fund that provides greater income and total return potential than money market funds by investing in short-term debt securities. However, investors are, as always, urged to conduct their own due diligence in deciding whether or not this fund fits their own individual investing and portfolio 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

Time for a Candid COVID-19 Conversation

Nerves are frayed, tensions are high and the country seems to be at an inflection point in this microscopic war. As the COVID-19 death toll mounts, so too does the number of Americans unemployed. On Friday, we’ll find out just how grotesque the jobs picture is, but at this point there’s no question it will be reminiscent of the works of Hieronymus Bosch.

On an individual level, I know we’re all struggling to make sense of how best to conduct our lives during this pandemic. And if you’re a thoughtful person (and I know The Deep Woods readers are), then you’ve probably wrestled with the macro and micro issues and complexities surrounding these unprecedented circumstances.

Macro issues such as when and how the economy should reopen are crucial questions, and both praise and criticism can be levied at those in political power at various levels for their handling of the matter. On a micro level, we all face questions such as when and how we should return to interacting with the world, what kind of safety precautions we should take and what course of action is in our own self-interest.

There are no easy answers to these questions, at least not from my perspective. But, fortunately, there is a way to help figure out the best way to conduct ourselves, and that is to talk to people whose opinions we trust, love and respect.

For me, a person who fits that description is my longtime friend, writer/filmmaker/intellectual activist Stewart Margolis. After reading some of Stewart’s thoughts on these issues, both macro and micro, I reached out to him via phone to discuss things. I found the conversation so fruitful that, with his permission, I decided to share some of the highlights of our discussion here.

Jim Woods (JW): Stewart, I know that many people are struggling with the best way to deal with this whole COVID-19 mess. How are you dealing with it, and what are your thoughts on the best approach?

Stewart Margolis (SM): I’m trying to gather as much objective evidence as I can on what is actually going on, but that’s not as easy as you might think. Because even with the best intentions, the reporting of the data out there is incomplete. And, it’s still very early on in terms of us dealing with this virus, and there are still so many unknowns it’s hard to know what the truth is out there.

JW: I’ve found the nature of this virus troubling in that there are so many unknowns regarding how it can cause death and/or severe damage in one person and how it can cause very little damage in another. Then there are those who are asymptomatic carriers of the disease and who most likely don’t even know they have it unless they’ve been tested. So, in the face of this uncertainty, knowing what to do isn’t easy.

SM: It is a bad situation, and especially because we all have to make decisions based on limited information. For me, the issue of how to act in the face of this pandemic comes down to the best assessment of what is in my rational self-interest. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home and still do my job, so for me the best course of action might be different than if I had a profession or business that required me to be out there interacting with people.

JW: I’m in that same fortunate situation, as I’ve worked from home for most of the past two decades. And while I miss going out to restaurants, the pub, the gym, concerts, etc., I don’t miss it enough to put my health at risk.

SM: In my hierarchy of values, my health is very important. So, for me, regardless of what the government is telling me, I am going to take sensible precautions. That means I am going to avoid big gatherings and not go to concerts or movies. Now, that said, I think people should be allowed to take on their own level of risk as it pertains to their hierarchy of values.

JW: I consider life to be the standard of value. That means that acting in a manner that jeopardizes my life is antithetical to my top value. So, I therefore won’t eat poison when I could eat healthy food. It also means I wouldn’t choose to visit a COVID-19 hospital ward without protective gear. Yet somewhere in between is where the struggle comes in and knowing how to navigate that struggle is a hard problem. It also is a hard problem when you extrapolate that out to the question of what society should do.

SM: I have mixed feelings on that, as I know you do as well, because as an advocate of liberty and free markets, I am very sympathetic to people out protesting who want to reopen their businesses and the economy. They should be allowed to reopen their businesses. However, if you are out there protesting without a mask and screaming in a police officer’s face, then you don’t seem to be someone who is cognizant of the reality of this disease.

JW: As you know, I am an advocate of limited government, and specifically a government whose basic role should be limited to the protection of individual rights. And while I understand the need for civil disobedience here, I think an in-your-face, aggressive approach is counterproductive. It gives the side arguing for more government control reasons to exercise that control and reasons to portray the protesters as anti-science extremists.

SM: I have a wide variety of friends in the liberty movement, and really all over the philosophic map, and there’s a subsection of people who are referring to COVID-19 as a “faux-pandemic,” or who think this is some kind of hoax. What I have pointed out to them is that this time of flippant dismissal of the crisis when tens of thousands of people are dying is not helping the cause of opening up the economy. It is making people who argue for opening the economy seem like callous, anti-science dolts. I think that if we want the economy to reopen, and we do, then we have to be reasonable about the reality of the situation.

JW: You and I aren’t afraid of the “extremist” moniker when it comes to ideas, but our ideas are not extremist in the sense of advocating for people to take reckless chances with their lives and also putting other people’s lives at risk in the process. I also think a rationally self-interested approach such as the one we advocate is not extreme, but rather should be the standard. And I agree with you on the counterproductive nature of ignoring the science and ignoring the reality of this virus. The only true victory that can be won here is through a rational exercise of our best judgement given the objective reality of the facts as best we can ascertain and evaluate them.

SM: Letting ideology crowd out reality is never a good thing. Reality always has to come first, and then you can figure out how it fits into your ideology. You simply cannot be editing reality because it doesn’t fit your narrative.

JW: You see, it’s a quotable gem like this that I wanted to make sure I share with The Deep Woods readers, and I think that’s a great place to leave it. Thank you, Stewart.

SM: Thanks, Jim. I always enjoy our discussions.

If you’d like to listen to a conversation I had with Stewart Margolis prior to the coronavirus, then I invite you to check out the podcast we did together from last year’s FreedomFest conference.

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Just by Living

Smile

and let go

it’s just life after all

and you’re doing

it right

just by living.

–Atticus

Thoughtful gems can be found almost everywhere, even on Instagram. The social media site is the where the writer, Atticus puts out his passion, and he’s built a huge following in the process that’s generated three bestselling poetry collections. In this piece, he reminds us not to complicate things by being too self-critical. Remember, you’re doing it right just by living.

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.

In the name of the best within us,

Jim Woods

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