Grow Your Portfolio the Intelligent Way

Of Masks and Men

By Jim Woods
  • Of Masks and Men
  • ETF Talk: Escape Inflation’s Grip with This Equal Weight Materials ETF
  • A Curious Conversation in Three Parts
  • Steinbeck on Sadness

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Of Masks and Men

The mask.

It has become the must-have accessory of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, right now, I would venture to guess that you possess more than one style of mask, and perhaps a few masks that brandish a logo of some sort — either a corporate identity, a sports team or a political message.

You probably also have masks with various levels of protection. I have three-ply surgical masks with N95 protection, and I also have a few of the bigger N95 surgical masks that I was fortunate enough to procure early in the pandemic.

I have a white mask, a red mask, a blue mask and multiple black masks. I mean, one has to color coordinate, right?

I also have my own branded masks, complete with the logo from my lifestyle and podcast website, Way of the Renaissance Man. These, too, have space for the N95 filter inserts. I mean, you have to look good and be protected, right?

Your editor in his studio wearing a mask. And no, I don’t usually wear one indoors.

Unfortunately, the mask has become a lightning rod of sorts for people on the various sides of the polarized politics of this pandemic.

For those who are militant about continuing the lockdowns and those most vigilant about wearing masks, the notion of shedding the facial accessory when coming in contact with others is social heresy. There is even a term used by this group to describe those who don’t follow social protocol by wearing a mask 24/7, and that term is “Maskhole.” I will let you connect the dots here as to what that means.

Then there’s the other side of the issue, which is those people who have mostly eschewed the mask everywhere save for the absolutely necessary times where government or businesses have strict rules demanding it. This group is equally vigilant about not wearing the mask as a matter of social protest and government defiance. Call it an act of civil disobedience, if you will.

Now, for most of the last 12 months, the mandating of masks has been both the literal and practical law of the land. Yet, that mandate has changed recently, as Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana and North Dakota are the latest states to have ended, or that will very soon end their respective statewide mask mandates.

These states now have joined 11 other states — Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee — that never required face coverings statewide.

The good news here is that due to a combination of falling COVID-19 rates (including lower hospitalization and death rates), the rollout of what is now three vaccines in use, and the number of people who are likely to be resistant to the virus due to prior contraction, many states have determined now is the time to release citizens from the mask mandate and liberate businesses to invoke their own policies regarding the safety of their customers.

I am of the opinion that individuals must be responsible for their own actions. That means we all need to choose the best way to keep ourselves and others safe during this pandemic.

I’ve said this multiple times over the past year, but the reason why I wear a mask in public isn’t that the president says I should, or because my governor says I must. I’ve worn a mask this past year because it is in my own rational self-interest to stay safe and to not jeopardize the safety of my fellow man.

Now, however, with viral conditions starting to improve, and with a return to economic and social “normal” very close, we all can soon begin easing the restrictions we have lived under for over a year. That is going to be a big relief not just from a personal standpoint, but also from a broader societal aspect.

The reason why is because humans are social creatures. We survive and thrive by interacting with others. And we flourish when those interactions are mutually beneficial, and when the peaceful and profitable exchange of ideas, goods and services is able to flow freely.

Let’s hope the ultimate removal of masks from our post-pandemic world can usher in a new era of post-pandemic, benevolent human interaction. I know I will be doing my small part to help foster this effort, and I hope you will, too.

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ETF Talk: Escape Inflation’s Grip with This Equal Weight Materials ETF

While hope for many investors remains pinned to a strong economic recovery from the damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the specter of inflation surfacing has thus far remained in the background.

After all, inflation has remained low for many years and many people’s memories of the effects of this economic phenomenon have grown dim with the passage of time. However, some market analysts, including Moody’s Analytics Mark Zandi, have started to sound the alarm.

With the pandemic starting to wind down, the arrival of a new stimulus package and the presence of pent-up demand, these individuals have argued that the coming months will see a sudden surge of demand and spending on the part of consumers that the market is unprepared to receive. Not surprisingly, this grim news has led some investors to search for safe havens in which to park their funds.

One such source may be the Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight Materials Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) (NYSEARCA: RTM). RTM tracks an index of American materials companies. Interestingly, the fund’s managers use an equal-weighting strategy to assemble this ETF’s portfolio. While this decision favors mid-caps over both industrial giants and smaller public companies, a side effect is that the portfolio’s volatility remains stable.

Some of this fund’s top holdings include Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX), Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS), CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CF), Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. (NYSE: MLM), LyondellBasell Industries NV (NYSE: LYB), Avery Dennison Corporation (NYSE: AVY), WestRock Company (NYSE: WRK) and Vulcan Materials Company (NYSE: VMC).

This fund’s performance has been relatively strong, even when including the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 9, RTM has been up 5.84% over the past month and up 10.27% for the past three months. It is currently up 9.80% year to date.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

The fund has amassed $589.28 million in assets under management and has an expense ratio of 0.40%.

In short, while RTM does provide an investor with a chance to avert the effects of inflation, 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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A Curious Conversation in Three Parts

Want to know what happens when a Renaissance Man is put in the interview spotlight by two of the nation’s leading business consultants?

Well then, you’re in luck, as Part I of a three-part interview with Gabe Bautista and “Dr. Speed Selling” John Paul Mendocha, from the Position to Win Podcast, is available right now.

In this episode, we talk about my personal and professional history, why my diverse background helps me pick stocks and identify market trends, what moved markets in 2020, and more importantly, what’s likely to move markets in 2021.

I suspect you’ll enjoy listening to this first of three episodes with my friends John Paul and Gabe as much as I enjoyed speaking with these two brilliant gents.

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Steinbeck on Sadness

“A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”

— John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”

An overwhelming sense of sadness can be life-crushing, perhaps much more than any exogenous cause of disease. And though we have to battle the germs, we must also fight our inner demons, as they can do more harm than anything.

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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