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Gratitude and Perspective

July 2, 2020

I sometimes think God (or a power in the universe beyond our human comprehension) must have a chuckle at us humans scurrying around on earth trying to grab as many possessions as possible. Most of the time, we use our energy to hang on to a way of living that is conditioned by what people around us value. The reality is that we cannot acquire and control anything for more than a fleeting moment. God must laugh because he is aware how silly it is, and deep down within us, most of us will someday realize how silly it is too. We value success and riches as if that will bring us happiness or contentment, but there is a problem with using most of our energy in that pursuit. We will soon have to give it all away: our cars, our houses, our societal norms, our systems of government, our money.

Deep down, I believe we all understand that the only part of life that truly lasts is love and relationships, but it is easy to lose sight of this. I know very well how easy it is to take that for granted, and that is why I spend so much time in meditation. This time to reflect is essential to allow me to re-focus on gratitude for what truly matters, and how I can use all my energy toward helping others. This sounds easy, but it is hard, and I suppose that is why we call meditation, “practice”. It takes a lot of work; especially when you have as many faults as me!

I know my notes are philosophical, and hopefully that does not put you off. It is integral to my approach to life, markets, and my work. There would be no August Wealth Advisors without it.

I was inspired to write this particular note because of the views of the poet, Wendell Berry that someone sent me:

“It is astonishing, and of course discouraging, to see economics now elevated to the position of ultimate justifier and explainer of all the affairs of our daily life, and competition enshrined as the sovereign principle and ideal of economics. . . .   It is impossible not to notice how little the proponents of the ideal of competition have to say about honesty, which is the fundamental economic virtue, and how very little they have to say about community, compassion, and mutual help. . . . For human beings, affection is the ultimate motive, because the force that powers us, as [John] Ruskin [1819–1900] also said, is not “steam, magnetism, or gravitation,” but “a Soul.”. . . [1]”

These words reminded me of where people’s focus remains on the virus we continue to cope with globally. Most of what we see and read focuses on the negatives, but as I said from mid-March to today, there are many positives. Communities came together, people helped one another, they spent more money locally instead of on travel, and they spent less time working to gather material possessions and more time with their family and friends (at a distance).

Social media will feed information that reinforces our own viewpoint instead of focusing on shared viewpoints. There is no money in drawing your attention away from what you are comfortable with! It perpetuates an environment of us vs. them, of Democrats vs. Republicans, of Color vs. White. Politicians play the same game; if keeping an economy closed helps you get votes, you come out strongly against re-opening economies, if opening an economy and business get you votes, you come out strongly to open business.

People get distracted by all this noise instead of focusing on what matters. I do not believe that world leaders or anyone really want people to die of Covid, or that they want people to lose their livelihoods so they cannot take care of their families. They are politicians, and to get elected, they must cater to their audience. Just like the NYTimes or the WSJ cater to their respective audiences.

This morning, I found the NY Times headline interesting: “US added 4.8million jobs, but virus surge looms”. I read the Times every morning because it is a very important news source, but I am vexed at the tone of the reporting sometimes. Their section in “Tracking the Coronavirus” is very useful, but I wonder why the focus seems (almost) solely on new cases of Covid (today +87% change in 14 day trend) instead of new deaths (-28% change in 14 day trend). I suppose they are catering to their own bias and views. I asked myself the question, could the headline have been: “US Added 4.8million jobs, more signs of economic recovery”, and another: “Despite rapid increases in infection rates, new deaths continue to decline”?

My positive outlook is not suggestive of a world without problems; there are always problems, but it helps me see both sides of a story, and to see the emotion at the extremes. In order to listen appropriately to all sides, the emotion needs to be recognized and tempered.

My views on markets remain unchanged (and very simpleminded). Please see my previous notes on the website if interested in the market commentary section:

- There has been a lot of money created, and it’s already in the hands of people that will spend it. They may spend it in ways that are different than usual this summer, but they will spend.

- There is very likely to be more money coming because we remain focused on economic damage of the virus. Republicans and Democrats will bicker over what that looks like, but the number will probably have another “T” for Trillion in it!

- For any changes to my views, I will be watching to see if positive sentiment becomes more dominant, especially if volatility in the equity market gets back to levels seen in the beginning of March.

I hope you and your families have a wonderful Independence Day Holiday weekend. My advice is not to be downtrodden about the lack of fireworks and parties, but to express gratitude for the sacrifices that people made and make in order to give us the opportunity to live in a country as free and diverse as the United States.

Joe Cardello

Investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor;  DBA August Wealth Advisor

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