There are only a few more days until Christmas, and while I hope you have completed your holiday shopping, I suspect that you still may have a few names you haven’t crossed off your list yet.
Hey, I know gift giving can be difficult, as it is often hard to find the right present for someone. Fortunately, I had some help on this front from a wise mentor of mine, who told me some years ago that he had two rules when giving gifts.
The first applies more to a man courting a woman, and it goes like this: “The key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.”
From experience, I can confirm that this maxim works exceedingly well.
As for maxim two, it is as follows: “It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be special.” This rule doesn’t just apply to lovers, but to all of us during the holidays.
Now, I am of the opinion that the most special gift you can give or receive, and the gift that matters most, is the gift of ideas.
That’s why today, I am going to tell you about some of my favorite holiday gifts, gifts brimming with great ideas.
The easiest, most cost-effective and arguably the best way to give ideas is through books. Whether it is a great work of literature, an insightful self-help manual, or a great “how to” book on a subject close to the recipient’s heart, a really good book has got to be my all-time favorite special gift to give (and one that also happens to be inexpensive).
For those who love literature, fiction, action, adventure, mystery and philosophy, then give the gift that asks, “Who Is John Galt?” Here I am recommending the greatest novel ever written (in my humble opinion), “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand.
If you’ve read the novel, you know how brilliant it is. But if you haven’t read it in some time, give yourself a gift and read it again. And, if you have any young minds on your holiday shopping list, then giving them “Atlas Shrugged” will make them remember you forever — and it may indeed alter the course of their lives the way it altered mine.
For those who prefer self-help style works, I recommend one of the original works on how to be human, “Meditations,” by Marcus Aurelius.
This work is more than 2,000 years old, but the wisdom in it applies to what you are doing right now — and what a human being should do every day to maximize their time on earth. The insights, wisdom and practical guidance delivered on every page of this work are amazing, and the subjects vary from how best to deal with life’s inevitable adversity to how best to interact with others. I also highly recommend the Gregory Hays translation, as I think it is the smoothest and most poetic out there.
As for the “how to” category, well, I’ve always felt that a collection of wisdom from the best brains in that industry has been most special to me. And on this front, there is no better “how to” anthology than the one by my friend, fellow Fast Money Alert co-editor and brilliant economist, Dr. Mark Skousen.
The work I am specifically referring to here is “The Maxims of Wall Street.” This is a collection of some of the greatest wisdom ever to flow from the biggest and brightest names on Wall Street. Great investors such as Jesse Livermore, Baron Rothschild, J.P. Morgan, Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch and John Templeton are just a sneak peek at some of the names you’ll discover in this fantastic collection.
Then there is profundity from the likes of Ben Franklin, John D. Rockefeller, Joe Kennedy, Bernard Baruch, John Maynard Keynes, Steve Forbes and numerous other luminaries too copious to mention.
Your editor with his signed copy of “The Maxims.”
As Mark puts it, “For years, I’ve been compiling these financial adages, ancient proverbs and immortal poems found in new and rare financial books and quoted regularly by investors, money managers, brokers and old timers.”
So, whether this gift of ideas is to yourself or to someone special, you should definitely do everyone a favor and give “The Maxims of Wall Street” to those you value.
Now, for those who are into health and fitness, there’s one must-read book full of brilliant ideas on the subject that I recommend with all my being, and that book is “Body By Science” by Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little.
This work presents a scientifically proven formula for maximizing muscle development in the briefest time possible (although don’t confuse brevity with being easy, because these workouts are killers!). Yet the best part of the “Body By Science” protocol is that you can do it in about 12-20 minutes a week.
And while that may seem like an incredible claim, it is one backed by rigorous research. Moreover, I can tell you from personal experience that this training works, as the concepts contained in this work have been the basis of my workout protocol for the past three decades.
So, there you have it, a few practical ideas on how to give the best gift anyone can ever give or receive — the gift of ideas.
ETF Talk: Invest in Natural Gas
First Trust Natural Gas ETF (FCG) is a straightforward exchange-traded fund (ETF) which invests in the natural gas space.
It can include companies involved in the exploration, as well as the production side of the natural gas business. FCG was the first fund on the market offering this type of exposure in 2007.
Master limited partnerships (MLPs), publicly listed limited partnerships that trade on a national securities exchange, are limited to 15% of FCG’s portfolio, and the fund’s holdings are chosen and weighted by market cap and daily trading volume.
Those who have paid attention to the fortunes of the energy sector in recent times may not be surprised to learn that FCG is up 53.14% over the last year. This rise represents quite a windfall for its investors, particularly given the underwhelming performance of the overall market during the same period, with the S&P 500 down 15%. At a peak around June, the fund was up 90% for the year. Performance in the latter half of the year has been mixed.
Though FCG, like the energy market at large, has not yet recovered to the heights it held when the sector was more in favor, it may now represent an opportunity. It offers a 2.6% dividend yield, and its expense ratio is 0.60%. Assets under management total $897 million.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
The fund currently holds a total of 52 companies, most based in the United States. Among the largest positions are Hess Midstream LP (HESM), 5.05%; DCP Midstream LP (DCP), 4.93%; Western Midstream Partners LP (WES), 4.54%; ConocoPhillips (COP), 3.96%; and EOG Resources, Inc. (EOG), 3.86%. The top 10 holdings account for 40% of the fund’s assets.
As always, investors should consider the fund’s features carefully and weigh what its holdings have to offer before adding it to their portfolios. First Trust Natural Gas ETF (FCG) represents a simple approach to investing in natural gas and companies in that industry.
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.
Wednesdays Mean Wisdom
This time of year is replete with reflection on the past 12 months.
It is also a time when we prepare ourselves for the coming year. But before we get to either of these things, it behooves us to consider some wisdom from the great Benjamin Franklin on the importance of conscience.
You see, when our hearts and minds are clear, we can see the past for what it is and the future for what it should be. And that, my friend, will bring you holiday cheer throughout the year.
So, from all of us at the Way of the Renaissance Man team, we wish you the very happiest of holidays. And be sure to catch this week’s Wednesday Wisdom, featuring the genius of one of our most-brilliant Founding Fathers.
In case you missed it…
The Curve of the Earth
Tell me does the world revolve the same?
Tell me do the people all take care of you?
Did you doubt the curve of the earth?
And every word, every word…
— Matt Nathanson, “Curve of the Earth”
Sublime moments. They may seem infrequent and evanescent, and many of the moments we categorize as “peak experiences” are, by their very nature, uncommon.
Yet it is my opinion that these sublime experiences don’t have to be as infrequent and uncommon as most people perceive them to be. I say that because all too often, we overlook, take for granted, or otherwise fail to really notice what’s happening all around us.
You see, the world of daily peak experiences, wonderment and awe of the sort that many of us experience only on rare occasions is open to us, if we know how to pay attention to each moment.
For example, last week I returned to my home in Southern California after a successful and extremely fun business trip to Washington, D.C. During my flight, I looked out the window and essentially witnessed the curve of the earth.
The curve of the earth as viewed from my window seat.
Now, I suspect you have been on a commercial airliner and looked out the window. But when you did, did you really pause and notice that sublime curve?
Did you drink in the wider notion that you were thousands of feet in the air, hurtling through the atmosphere at hundreds of miles per hour? I noticed this yesterday, and I did so with a glass of wine in my hand, and while also ironically listening to the song “Curve of the Earth” by the great Matt Nathanson.
The serendipity of this confluence of circumstances was not lost to me. In fact, I had to pause and make sure I really noticed everything about this moment. The felt wonderment at the technological achievements of the human mind that allowed me to fly across the country in about five hours while listening to music recorded, digitally reproduced and then pumped into my aural canal from little white pods wirelessly broadcasting the sound directly into my brain.
Yes, these things happen to millions of people every day, but most people don’t really notice how truly sublime an achievement it is.
Instead, many people lament the fact that things aren’t even better, or more convenient, or less expensive than they are.
Hey, I understand this. We all get used to modern life and the convenience of our wonderous world, and we all often take for granted that the luxuries produced by capitalism are here, on demand, for us to enjoy. And when things don’t go as planned, or when there is a glitch in our desire fulfillment chain, people take the opposite tack of noticing peak experience and focus on the distressed experience.
But in my opinion, this a huge mistake.
Now, I am not saying we should accept things that are broken, damaged or that don’t work. And if there is a problem to be solved, a need to be fulfilled or a fix that needs implementing, we should do it.
Yet in a world surrounded by brilliant achievement, wonderous technology and tremendous bounty — I think each day demands a bit more sublime notice.
So, right now, pause and notice the sublime nature of the wonderous things in your life.
Look around the room, look at the computer, tablet or phone you are reading this on, and let that sense of awe at the achievement wash over you as if you were seeing the curve of the earth for the first time.
Then I want you to reach for the tissue to blot your eyes, because when you stop to truly notice these things, the swelling of your spirit might just evoke a few teardrops of wonderment.
“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.”
— Garrison Keillor
The humorist reminds us that this time of year can be trying and tumultuous. But in the end, the chaos is benevolent.
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.