Grow Your Portfolio the Intelligent Way

Nobody Gets Footloose in D.C.  

By Jim Woods

“You won’t get any dancing here, it’s illegal.”

That’s a line from the 1984 film “Footloose” starring a then very young Kevin Bacon with the very cool character name “Ren McCormack.” 

Now, I know I am biased here, given my alter ego is “Renaissance Man,” and given that a certain cadre of in-the-know friends actually call me “Ren.” But objectively speaking, that has to be one of the best character names in all of film. Maybe only bested by “Dirty Harry” or “Clubber Lang,” or maybe “Snake Plissken.”

So, in case you aren’t familiar with the plot of “Footloose,” it’s about a big city teenager who moves to a socially repressive small town where rock music and dancing have been banned. Well, Ren isn’t about to let this stand, so he unleashes his formidable rebellious spirit and really shakes up the place. 

Oh, if only Ren were real, because the residents of our nation’s capital could you use a little of that rebellious spirit about now. 

Last week, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the city has banned dancing at wedding receptions. The reason? As a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Now, I am all for preventing the spread of COVID-19. I am not one who thinks the virus is a hoax, that it’s a “plandemic” or that its dangers have been overblown. Far from it. In fact, I have already written about how I think everyone should choose to get vaccinated.  

I am, however, an advocate of freedom — and that means I find a ban on dancing at private gatherings, ones that are freely engaged in by free people, to be one of the most repugnant ideas imaginable. 

The mayor issued the “no dancing” order along with new masking policies and changes in other restrictions for businesses and gatherings. So, if you want to get married in D.C., the mayor will “allow” you to have an indoor wedding at 25% capacity, or up to 250 people. However, standing and dancing at the wedding reception is not allowed.

In researching this issue, I further discovered that this “no dancing” edict applies to not only indoor weddings, but also to outdoor weddings. Moreover, it doesn’t matter if those in attendance are vaccinated, if they’re wearing masks or if they’ve all tested negative for COVID-19 that day. 

You see, in D.C., it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. There will be no enjoyment. There will be no freedom, and nobody will be permitted to get “Footloose.” 

Instead, you will obey. Instead, you will learn to love Big Brother, because Big Brother knows what’s best for you. 

Perhaps next the mayor will explain to us that: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Ironically, the “no dancing” decree came on April 29. Or as Orwell writes, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Now, lest you think I am making too big a leap from a dancing ban at weddings to a totalitarian state, keep in mind that the first step to loving the state and accepting its authority over your personal sovereignty is to first accept the premise that it knows what’s best for you. 

Once you grant the state supremacy over your mind, you have taken the first step toward permitting tyranny. 

Citing Orwell again, “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

So, if you live in D.C. and you are planning on attending a wedding, I say be like Ren and get rebellious. Put your dancing shoes on and get Footloose. Do it for yourself, and do it in defiance of Big Brother. 

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ETF Talk: Erecting a Shield Against Inflation 

Despite lying dormant for many years, inflation is back on the rise again, largely as a result of the Fed’s easy-money policies and massive amounts of government spending to combat the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most recent Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures stated that we saw a 0.6% rise in prices during the month of March. More specifically, energy (13.2%) and food (3.5%) saw the biggest rise in prices over this same period of time. To take advantage of these trends and to attempt to mitigate the corrosive impact of inflation on your money, I’ve identified four exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that might be worth considering. 

The first of those four funds draws on Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) in the form of the iShares TIPS Bond ETF (NYSEARCA:TIP)

Unlike regular government securities, which are negatively affected by inflation, the principal of TIPS investments increases during times when there is inflation in the economy and decreases when there is deflation, according to the CPI. Similarly, this means that while TIPS pay interest, the specific amount that they will pay out will vary every six months as they will be shaped by the presence of inflation or deflation at the time that the interest is paid.

Specifically, TIP tracks a market-value weighted index of U.S. Treasury inflation-protected securities that will not expire for at least one year.

TIP’s holdings consist of Treasury Notes of varying expiration date and yield.

This fund’s performance has been somewhat strong, even when including the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 4, TIP has been up 1.62% over the past month and up 0.13% for the past three months. It is currently up 0.20% year to date.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

The fund has amassed $27.04 billion in assets under management and has an expense ratio of 0.19%.

While TIP does provide an investor with a chance to tap into the world of TIPS, this kind of ETF may not be appropriate for all portfolios. Thus, interested investors always should conduct their due diligence and decide whether a given 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…

Don’t Squander the Now 

Life can be a cruel mistress.

You can love her, take care of her and be truly good to her, but the next thing you know, she delivers you a heart-crushing blow.

Allow me to get personal here for a moment, as recent events in the lives of those close to me have prompted me to share them with you today. And in doing so, I hope to illustrate a couple of important points about life that can help us all through pain, sadness and struggle that are an inextricable part of existence.

Yesterday, I received word that a good friend of mine from my Army days was diagnosed with a heart problem. This problem is one that will require surgery and the installation of a pacemaker. Now, this man is in his early 50s, doesn’t smoke, hardly ever drinks and generally leads an active life. Why was he afflicted with this heart ailment? We don’t know, but he is, and that is what he must deal with now.

After giving me the downbeat news about his situation, my friend proceeded to tell me that his circumstance was “the good news.” He then told me about what he considered the actual bad news in his life, which was that his wife of nearly three decades had just been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. To combat this disease, she will have to undergo chemotherapy, surgery and then more chemotherapy.

As you might imagine, a shadow crossed my heart when I heard this double dose of bad news. Unfortunately, the tales of pain and loss weren’t nearly over for the day.

Just a few hours later, another friend of mine told me that she was feeling overwhelming sadness, because it was one year ago today that her husband of 32 years had died due to complications from COVID-19. Her husband also was in his 50s, was very healthy and had no known comorbidities that anyone could identify.

Now, I wish I could tell you this was the end of the woe for the day, but it wasn’t. Late last night, another very good friend and I were reflecting on the sadness he felt regarding his recent separation and impending divorce. I knew that the chief reason for the dissolution of his 20-year marriage was his wife’s struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, which led to her mental and physical deterioration into a person he no longer recognized.

As I slept on the events of the prior day, I woke with a jumble of thoughts that I wanted to put down. The reason why is because I hope that my conclusions can illuminate not only my approach to the world for you, but hopefully they can help you if you are struggling with any of these difficulties. And even if you aren’t dealing with these now, life isn’t likely to let you off the hook.

There’s a great line in the novel “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk that says: “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

Well, on a long enough timeline, and no matter who we are or how well we’ve managed to organize our lives, nearly all of us will experience profound sadness, crushing loss, deep disappointment and likely intense physical pain that becomes both all-encompassing and debilitating.

Moreover, every one of us, if we haven’t already, will likely have to deal with the pain, hurt and loss associated with the death of either a grandparent, a favorite aunt or uncle, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a close friend or even what is said to be the most difficult loss to bear, the loss of a child.

What’s even more intense is that, as humans, we know that we are mortal. We know we are going to die, and we know that everyone we know living today also is going to die.

For me, knowing this allows me to focus on what I am doing right now — in this very moment. Because all we are sure of is that we have this moment. And this moment. And this moment.

This realization that life is now prompts me to ask myself why anyone would ever want to squander the now.

Why would you ever allow yourself to consciously live in a state of negativity, one replete with unhappiness, anger, distress, discontent and malaise over trivial things you have no control over? And let’s face it, nearly everything in our lives we have little-to-no control over.

Of course, that’s not to say we should feel something other than deep sadness over pain, loss and other adverse circumstances. It is proper to feel these emotions, and you do not want to shut them down or cut them off, as that would be a form of squandering the now.

Yet, think about all of the times we do squander the now by not paying close enough attention to our own minds.

We get mad when someone cuts us off on the freeway. We get upset if the barista gets our coffee order wrong. We become angry because one of the stocks we own slides after the company announces downbeat earnings guidance. But, if you realize that it is your reaction to these things which is the cause of your sadness, and not the actual events themselves, you realize that with a little effort, you can alter your mental state.

The first step in doing this, at least for me, is recognizing that thoughts are the root cause of all of our emotional states. Indeed, the ideas you have in the now are what is affecting you right now. So, if you can consciously identify those thoughts, process them and either let them go, change them or integrate them for future use, you will be much better off when the inevitable wave of life’s sadness slams into your own shore.

By knowing your own mind, and by cultivating a self-awareness capable of identifying thoughts as the root cause of all discomfort, pain and pleasure, arousal and peak experience, you can avoid squandering the now.

Instead, you can embrace the now for what it is, and you can become better at dealing with the good, the bad and the ugly — because life is replete with all of these elements, and that isn’t going to change.

So, do not let your head wander its way into despair. Take control of your thoughts, which one can do via practices such as mindfulness meditation and other active efforts to recognize the content of one’s own mind.

By recognizing the “you” in there, and the content of your inner life, you will put yourself on the path to making sense of the kind of day I had yesterday, and the gloriously happy days I know I will experience in the future — and everything in between.

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Nothing Left to Lose 

Come on and we’ll sing, like we were free

Push the pedal down, watch the world around fly by us

Come on and we’ll try, one last time

I’m off of the floor one more time to find you

And here we go, there’s nothing left to choose

And here we go, there’s nothing left to lose

–Mat Kearney, “Nothing Left to Lose” 

The spirit of this great song is timely for today’s theme of being rebellious toward government edict. So, sing and dance like you’re free… because you are.  

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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