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  • Writer's pictureJoe Cardello

An Ever Changing World

February 22, 2024

Whether we like it or not the world is changing.

Often, we don’t notice change. Many of us skip along the surface of life going from one busy task to the next without slowing down and purposefully observing, feeling, and reflecting on what we are doing and why we are doing it.

To notice more and to be open to different perspectives and possibilities, it is important to take certain actions purposefully. For me, some of the actions are:

  • No social media and no television news. The algorithms reinforce bias (negative or positive), and TV news is negative because that is what sells. Limit reading of newspapers to what I need to know. Restrict violent and disturbing images.

  • Travel to different places and encounter new people. Engage others with different values, political views, food, and culture.

  • Practice quiet stillness (contemplation and/or meditation) to allow time for just being present and observing. Focus on my own body, breath, and environment.

As many of you know I recently drove round trip from Connecticut to Colorado. The trip has multiple purposes:

  • August Wealth has many partners, clients, and friends in Colorado.

  • Skiing, snow, sunshine, and mountains provide a completely different environment to the CT coastline.

  • Different exercise for bodily health and exposure to high altitude.

  • Driving across the country with short stops in different cities showcases differences between people and places.

All these changes provoke subtle changes that have an impact on body and mind. It is hard for me to disrupt my daily routine, but it is worthwhile because the net result is becoming more observant of my surroundings when I am outside of my comfort zone. I am no scientist, but I believe the science of the amygdala (the part of your brain that recognizes new stimuli, fight, or flight) supports this. My perspective is broadened, my mind is more open, and I can recognize beauty and possibilities that I would not otherwise have been able to see.

A rambling of what I noticed in a new environment:

• The limitations of electric cars and their networks.

I love my Tesla, but it broke down (after having been in the shop for a month to fix the issue). Fixing an electric car is not easy apparently. In the middle of Pennsylvania, Tesla offered to tow us (my dog Cooper and myself) to the nearest Tesla service station which was 2 hours away. It took an additional 2 weeks to fix the car. In any case, to complete my trip, I ditched the Tesla and purchased a “mild” hybrid from a traditional car manufacturer instead (thanks to JM for the recommendation). A true 600+ mile range! Very pleasant result.

• The food scene and graciousness of people in Omaha, NE.

All I can say is WOW! I was pleasantly surprised with how gracious, friendly, and hospitable everyone was. Go there for the people and the food is my suggestion. I have been 3 times now, and I desire to go back often. Recommendations if you are there:

  • LeBouillon–some of the best classic French food anywhere.

  • Yoshitomo (or Ota if you can get in) – Omakase menu (at Yoshitomo) was arguably the best Japanese food I have ever had, and the least expensive. This includes Tokyo, NYC, and London. Don’t take my word for it; read this review from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpos maha-sushi-dave-utterback- ota-yoshitomo/

  • Jay Bros Taste of Inda–This place is a truck stop in Omaha, NE. I had to include it because the food was so good, and it was so unique. Had it not been recommended to me by the manager at Le Bouillon, I never would have walked in (after having seen the outside). Apparently, there are many truck drivers in the USA of Indian descent. This place serves outstanding food (and Indian grocery) between Omaha and Denver. I am glad I experienced it because it didn’t feel like I was in the USA at all.

• The growth and excitement of Denver, CO.

The city is full of young people, growth, excitement, and outdoor pursuits on its doorstep. I was originally not a fan during my Covid visit, but this place has grown on me.

Restaurant Recommendations:

  • Kawa Ni-My good friend Massimo has done an amazing job at this innovative Japanese bar/restaurant. We have one in Westport, CT but the Denver, CO location has upped the standard! There is a buzz unlike most other places I visited; it’s just fun and it’s great food. A well- deserved success for such a hardworking and great all- around person.

  • Alma Fonda Fina– Innovative Mexican food in a small setting. Chef Johnny Curiel and his wife Kasie sold most of what they owned to finance this start up restaurant; I am so glad they did. I bet this guy will be quite a well-known chef soon. Lots of love going into your food and experience here.

Aspen-Snowmass, CO - fantasy land for global wealthy.

Aspen-Snowmass is a truly a unique place. Gorgeous scenery, amazing skiing, cosmopolitan, world class restaurants, great public transport, a unique mix of working class and ultra-wealthy. It’s never too crowded because there are four mountains to ski with the most varied terrain anywhere in the world. The airport is 10 minutes or less from either village or ski mountain. The year-round people we are lucky enough to know are just so generous and welcoming, and they know how good they have it. We are lucky to know them. Most are not the super wealthy, but they live a great life in a landwithincrediblygoodservices (education, food, music, arts, biking, and skiing). Much of it comes at a ridiculously steep cost; it is arguably the most expensive place on the planet, but it can also be navigated without sending you to the poor house.

Too many good restaurants to mention, and too expensive. However, I can suggest the buffalo wings at Zane’s Tavern (Snowmass or Aspen). Cheap and some of the best I’ve had anywhere. Great place to watch a game.

•Cooper’s favorite stop (our 12-year-old yellow labrador); Chicago, IL.

Chicago has been getting a bad rap recently because of crime and taxes. However, I was impressed on a short visit to this city that I hadn’t been to in many years.

Cooper especially liked the River Walk. Sunny day, cold, and super friendly people. So many people love dogs in this town (or at least they loved Cooper). They stopped to pet him, take pictures with him, and were generally happy to be out in sunshine by the river on a Saturday afternoon. Great experience for both of us! Some interesting people and friendly conversations. Only one restaurant (recommended by Johnny from Alma Fonda Fina):

  • Avec (WestLoop)–I was on my own and told the waitress that it was my first time at Avec. Owner, Edward Seitan came over soon thereafter to welcome me and get to know my story. Such an interesting, friendly, and welcoming person, and we became fast friends after 2 hours of conversation at his restaurant! Chorizo stuffed medjool dates and the Spanish mackerel are a must order; so unique, so delicious. Edward is also a dog lover, and we will support his charity in the future: Bark4Compassion. I sometimes think that dogs can teach us more about being a good human than human beings can (I know my wife Michelle would agree). Thank you for your service, Edward!

I love being around people that are passionate about their mission, who try to perfect it, and who want to share it with the world. The great ones want you to be a part of it because they love it so much. Money is not the motivation; financial success is the result of all the love they put into it. So many of these people have experienced the American Dream, and I feel fortunate to have spent some time with them. I hope we can succeed in our mission of helping families navigate the complexities of finance and investment as well as some of these restauranteurs succeeded in bringing joy to many through their love of food, wine, and service.

If you have read to this point, thank you for allowing me to describe my journey and observations. My life is richer because of these experiences, and it has nothing at all to do with money!

But money is what we do here; hence I must impart some observations about financial markets!

Entire commentaries can be written about each topic below; thus, I am going to keep these observations (and questions) brief and broad:

  • AI investing has become very popular. It reminds me a little of the tech market in 1999/2000 when the internet and mobile internet were the next “big” thing. Well, they were (and still are) pretty big things. However, remember that most of the companies ended up going bankrupt. I do not know which companies will do well for the next 10 years (as AI develops), but I do remember being told I had to own: Qualcomm because every mobile phone will need their technology, and Cisco because the internet would need their networking equipment. If you bought these “obvious” winners back at the beginning of 2000, it took about 20 years to recover your money in the case of Qualcomm, and you still haven’t recovered your investment in Cisco. None of this is a forecast about what will happen with any particular “AI” company shares. However, it is a cautionary tale. Consider:

    • Protecting and growing your wealth over the long term regardless of what company names happen to be in fashion.

    • Predicting that AI is going to be a game changer is not the same as picking the winners that will achieve your objective above. It’s never easy, and there is no sure thing!

    • There is likely a lot of money to be made in many areas of AI. Many companies are working at disrupting the current market winners right now to get a piece of the action. The game will change; I don’t know how, but it always does.

    • The price you pay for a company’s future cash flows matters (a lot).

    • I am not making predictions about the future price of any particular company, but when you are making (or losing) vast amounts of money in the markets, my advice is to try and understand why you are making (or losing). Nothing lasts forever.

Ozempic (weight loss drug) and others like it are also extremely popular investments. Again, there is good reason why. These drugs are game changers for many health afflictions. The same rules above apply. Consider:

  • How much of the projected future growth in earnings is already reflected in the price being paid for some of these companies?

  • Will another company eventually provide a better solution?

  • What if the longer-term impact and side effects of these drugs are not as benign as expected?

The USA has attracted an enormous amount of capital relative to the rest of the world. Some of this is warranted, but I am cautious that it should be nearly 64% (it’s current weight) of the weighting in the MSCI All- country world index. There are some likely distortions being created. For example, as my friend, Cameron Crise from Bloomberg points out (Feb 20, 2024, column) in his comparison of Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk (2 of the biggest winners in the weight loss drug game). Despite 2025 Earnings per share growth for each firm (relative to 2022) being nearly identical, and Novo Nordisk enjoying more revenue growth, you’ve been rewarded substantially more for owning Eli Lilly despite similar or even slightly inferior revenue performance.

I have written previously about the flow going into the top market cap companies in the S&P500 index, and that there may be distortions building up in the system. I am not negative or bearish on the stock market because of this, but I do strongly suspect that there are opportunities in some companies relative to others when we look over longer time horizons. We invest with the goal of growing (and preserving) wealth over time, and we are somewhat less interested in which companies help accomplish that goal for us. It is important to point out that we own popular and large market cap names through diversified ETFs in the portfolio. However, as I have explained previously, our process reduces concentrated positions in companies once the uncertainty becomes too high. We try and identify and invest in companies that have small margin for error if we are wrong but make substantially more if we are right. We constantly monitor our current investments (they continue to meet our standards) and scour the market for new investments we think are worthy of adding.

Housing prices appear to be out of reach of most people in many markets. We talk with many young people that are being outbid or are generally panicked that they will never own a home. Our advice? Relax, you will very likely own a home eventually, but it doesn’t need to be right this second! I understand that the younger generation likes instant gratification and rewards (we all like a nice dopamine hit), but anyone over the age of 20 probably understands that short term rewards of pleasure (gambling, drugs, shopping, and any excess consumption) are not always in their best interest in the long term.

  • I won’t recap the multitude of articles which show that buying a house is not affordable for many people presently, but renting is an excellent alternative in the near term. I hope I can prevent some of the younger generation from overextending themselves at the wrong time. It can be a disastrous and unnecessary decision. I may write a future commentary on the optionality, liquidity, mobility, lower costs, and flexibility of renting in the short term instead of buying. I constantly suggest that they can continue to earn money, save money, invest, and grow wealth in the meantime. When they have more wealth, they can buy the “right” house for them, and there may be more supply of houses in the future to choose from. Perhaps more on this last point about supply of housing in a future piece.

  • I didn’t buy my first home until I was 32. The financial conditions for buying in London were so good in the late 90’s that I ended up owning 3 homes in greater London (thanks KS). This attractive environment for home purchase occurred because London house prices fell for a few years in the early 1990’s. When the right time to buy presented itself in the late 1990’s, people were either unable financially or too afraid at that point to buy a home; so, they rented at the wrong time. To give you an idea of how obvious it was to buy:

    • I purchased an investment property with 5% equity and 95% fixed mortgage. The rent I earned was double my monthly mortgage payment. It wasn’t a difficult decision to buy!

    • The mistake I made was not buying 10 more of these. My friend did buy 10+, but he wishes he bought 100.

In admiration of the USA:

Here is a statement you may not often see these days, but because of my travels and observations I am more convinced than ever:

The United States is one of the best places on the planet to live, work, and raise a family. I do not think anywhere else in the world comes close for most people.

Many regular consumers of social media, political news flow, and NYTimes readers may think I’m crazy, but I am confident in my rationality. I have lived and visited many countries across the globe, I am a dual citizen of the US and the United Kingdom, and based on the evidence that I gather:

  • More immigrants continue to want to come to the USA for its freedom and opportunity than most other countries.

  • As a nation, most of us are tolerant and compassionate of all people (including everyone that receives this commentary by direct email). I find most people (regardless of political viewpoints) to be kind, compassionate, and tolerant of others.

  • We are more willing than other countries to help others less fortunate through charity and volunteering.

  • We provide support to people looking for their piece of the American Dream, and we do not look down on people because of their race or socio-economic status.

  • We are helpful for no other reasons than to make someone else’s life easier.

  • We are entrepreneurial and dynamic.• We think more broadly, more idealistically, and we think of possibilities without limits.

  • We view challenges as something to overcome. If there is will, there is a way.

  • We are resilient.

Like every other country, the USA has lots of problems and room for improvement. Poor leadership especially in Congress, homelessness and poverty, depression (especially from self-inflicted loneliness), drugs, and many other issues are prevalent. Yet we continue to move forward, and I am hopeful that more good will come.

However, improvements are unlikely to happen on your time frame, nor in the way you think or want it to happen. Progress may be messy and chaotic, but we have a system of laws that we fight to protect and uphold because they are worth fighting for. We will likely have to fight to protect our friends globally to gain and/or protect some of these same freedoms. We do not trust one leader, one party, nor one mafia boss to run things the way they think is best. WE trust THE PEOPLE.

Some US Citizens (usually because of silly politics) talk about moving to a different country or a better way of life, you probably have the means to do so because you made it in America. However, for most people trying to make a better life for themselves, this is the place!

As an immigrant from Senegal mentioned to my wife and son in Los Angeles recently: “I love America. Anything is possible here. People are not racist towards me because of where I am from or the color of my skin. I can tell you that in______ (a country I will not name but is capitalist and democratic), they treated me as a nobody, and I was looked down upon because I’m from Africa. That does not happen here.”

This is just one person, but he feels this way because others in the USA made him feel this way. He is grateful for that feeling, and he is grateful for the opportunity being granted to him. Most of us are grateful that he is here as well!

Many of you might be cynical reading this (USA and non-USA especially), but I cannot help myself. These are just my observations. I am not blindly patriotic; I see the many ills the USA causes in the rest of the world.

But, if you are dismissive of people that you view as intolerant, ignorant, selfish, anti-environment, pro- life or pro-choice, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, crazy, Republican or Democrat, or any other label or judgement you may place on them, please consider that many of these people, can be as kind, generous, charitable, and compassionate as you are. That’s the beauty and the paradox of the United States.

I hope we all can appreciate all that we have been given a little bit more. That will move us toward the improvements we all seek.

“If you give thanks when everything around you is falling apart, that act of giving thanks helps you to hold things together, and it helps you to hold yourself together as well.”

Professor Thomas G. Casey

i Investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Stratos Wealth Advisors, LLC and August Wealth Advisors are separate entities.

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