What investors can learn from cyclists

06 N1203P58005CMay is National Bike Month. Of course, millions of Americans enjoy biking, so there’s reason to celebrate. But even if you’re not much of a rider, you can apply some of the guidelines and lessons of bicycling to other areas of your life — such as investing.

Consider taking some of these ideas for a spin:

  • Tune up your portfolio. When bicyclists tune up their bikes, they adjust their brakes, clean and lubricate the chain, tighten nuts and bolts and check the tire pressure, among other tasks. Such a tuneup keeps their bikes running smoothly and reduces the chances for breakdowns. And by “tuning up” your investment portfolio, you can help it stay in line with your goals and risk tolerance, while also preparing it for a “breakdown” in the financial markets, in the form of sharp downturns. To tune up your portfolio, look for ways to increase diversification, which can help reduce the effects of volatility, and watch for investments that may have chronically underperformed or are no longer suitable for your risk tolerance. You might be better off selling these and using the proceeds to invest in new opportunities.

  • Know when to shift gears. Bicyclists move into higher or lower gears in response to changing road conditions and elevations. As an investor, you, too, may need to shift gears, or adjust your investment strategy, when your personal financial environment changes. So, for example, in the years immediately preceding your retirement, you may want to move some – but certainly not all — of your investment dollars from growth-oriented vehicles to income-producing ones. That way, you can lock in some of the gains you may have achieved while lowering your portfolio’s overall risk level. This is important because once you reach retirement and you need to start withdrawing from your retirement accounts – which essentially means liquidating some of your investments — you don’t want to worry too much about having to sell when prices are down. However, keep in mind that, even during retirement, you’ll need some growth potential in your holdings to help yourself stay ahead of inflation.

  • Protect yourself. Smart bicyclists always wear their helmets — they know that an unexpected bump in the road could cause a dangerous spill. And on the journey toward financial security for yourself and your family, you can also expect that some hard knocks could come your way — which is why you need the proper protection. To safeguard your family in case anything should happen to you, you must have the appropriate amount of life insurance. And to help ensure your financial independence — and avoid becoming a potential burden to your grown children — you may want to consider some type of long-term care coverage, which can help cover many of the costs of a lengthy nursing home stay. You could choose a long-term care insurance policy or a “hybrid” policy, which combines long-term care protection with the death benefit of traditional life insurance. A financial adviser can recommend the option that’s most suitable for your needs.

You may want to observe National Bike Month by taking a few rides yourself. But in any case, making these cycling-inspired moves can help you keep rolling along toward your financial goals.

It’s a wonderful world

Have you noticed? Lots of things have been happening lately. Like Dick Halloran told Danny Torrance at the Overlook Hotel, “not all of them was good.” Kind of hard to avoid the Corona Cooties on the TV or in the produce section of the grocery store. But there have been some good things that have occurred that should give all of us hope for a brighter day tomorrow, or maybe Autumn 2021. So, let’s focus on the good stuff for the moment. Recall what Johnny Mercer once sang: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive/ Eliminate the negative/ And latch on to the affirmative/ Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between/.”

What is the most positive thing you can clutch to your bosom in this plague time? Consider Dear Leader’s best buddy North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Lots of gossip about Kim and his status as to whether he is healthy, lying in a permanent vegetative state floating in Hollandaise sauce or taking the dirt nap. As of the writing of this column’s assault on the intelligence of both my readers, to quote Winston Churchill, Kim’s health “is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The usual unreliable sources have it that Kim took America’s Dear Leader’s advice and tried the Clorox cure to get out of Corona’s grasp. The Clorox didn’t work out so well. Allegedly the insertion of an ultra-violet lamp into a southern orifice of the North Korean didn’t bring Kim around. Some sort of cardiac surgery was then attempted on the portly prince of communism, which also seems to have gone askew.

So, what, you ask, is positive about Kim’s medical misfortune other than it may be a bit more difficult for him to launch ICBMs at America while he is enjoying a coma? The good news, and excellent news it is, is that you are not the cardiology surgeon who operated on Kim. Kim does not seem inclined to be forgiving of much of anything. A botched heart surgery is not something Kim would take lightly if he ultimately survives. Things are quite likely to be bad for the surgeon, the surgeon’s family, the surgeon’s village, the surgeon’s neighbors, the surgeon’s dog and the surgeon’s goldfish. You may rejoice in the fact that you are none of these entities. Whatever sort of day you are having, no matter how stressful, it’s gonna be better than the surgeon’s day and anyone or anything connected to the surgeon.

There are other good things to be happy about. Consider following day brighteners as the late Ann Landers would counsel. While sheltering in place, the dogs playing poker are continuing their card games. The Bull Dog’s bluff has been called. He lost, and the other dogs at the table are convulsed with laughter at his pair of twos losing to a full house. Gotta love dogs playing poker.

The governor of Georgia is taking medical advice from his new science advisor, Rasputin, who told the governor to open up the tattoo parlors,and  hair and nail salons. If you are in need of an emergency tattoo (and who isn’t?) you can hie yourself down I-95 to Georgia and get a battleship tattooed across your chest. Thank you, Gov. Brian Kemp, on behalf of “Your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be tattooed.”

Our old college buddy Flounder did not throw up in front of Dean Wormer. He threw up on Dean Wormer. Every time I see that scene in “Animal House,” tears of joy well up in my eyes. If you can think of that event and not laugh, you, my friend, do not have a heart. However, I know a surgeon in North Korea I can refer you to who is looking for new patients.

Unfortunately, the Clorox cure, the magical healing month of April, rectal internal lighting, and hydroxychloroquine turned out to be ineffective remedies for Corona. Dear Leader has instructed the CDC to cease trying to fix the boring and apparently insoluble problem of providing enough Corona tests. Instead, the CDC has been directed to look into the possibility of whether Slim Whitman yodeling songs could be used to destroy the Corona virus, which was so successfully done to destroy Martians in “Mars Attacks.” Many people are saying, “Sir, the Slim Whitman songs ‘Indian Love Call’ and ‘Paloma Blanca’ could be simultaneously played at full volume by all of the world’s radio stations and all Alexa and Google smart speakers, thereby causing the Coronavirus to explode.”

Dr. Birx will head up the Slim Whitman task force. She was last heard yodeling, “Una Paloma Blanca/ I’m just a bird in the sky/ Una Paloma Blanca/ Over the mountain I shall fly.”

 Now, don’t you feel better already? Put on a happy face and smile brother, smile.

Don’t bet against the House

02 N1908P58009CLadies and gentlemen, step right up and place your bets. In Las Vegas, Nevada, every smart gambler knows it’s not a good idea to bet against the House (Casino). The House is always bigger, more intelligent and has a lot more resources and staying power than you do. Hence, it will ultimately win. Or, more appropriately, you will eventually lose. This could be where the phrase “you should know when to quit” originated.

Many Americans are currently feeling that local, state and national governments are betting against the House as we wrestle our way out of the grip of this nasty COVID-19 pandemic. In this case, the House is America with its God-fearing inhabitants, who strongly believe in the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. It would be a sucker’s bet to wager on any person or group of people who, regardless of title or position, ignores and disregards the freedoms upon which this country was built. Yet they do.

I hope that by the time you read this article that North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, has figured out that it’s time to quit acquiescing to half-truths and partisan gamesmanship and open up North Carolina’s businesses so people can get back to work, and more importantly, get on with their lives. Cooper, along with dozens of other governors and mayors across the country, is betting against the American people (the House) when it comes to subjecting them to the Draconian rules and regulations that have accompanied the “sheltering in place” edicts. What are they thinking? Or, are they thinking at all? Thank God we have a competent U.S. Attorney General in William Barr, who believes his job is to enforce the U.S. Constitution and protect the rights of American citizens. What’s really scary about this situation is that he is protecting us against the governors and mayors and bureaucrats across the country who have taken the same oath of office he did.

What are these people thinking? Are they so greedy, self-absorbed and drunk with power that they are oblivious to their obligations and responsibilities as elected officials? Are they so desperate that they are willing to lie, cheat and destroy our country just to gain power and authority over the American people? Well, it sure seems that way. We have witnessed far too many situations where government actions lack logic and lack common sense. Need examples? In New Jersey, where liquor and hardware stores are deemed “essential,” the governor, Phil Murphy, bans church gatherings. He even went as far as having 15 Jewish men arrested at a synagogue in April as part of coronavirus quarantine enforcement. When a reporter asked him if he was concerned about violating people’s constitutional rights or if he had heard of the Bill of Rights, he replied, “That’s above my pay grade ... I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we
did this.”

What? He wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights? Free speech? The right to assemble? Freedom of religion? And, this is a governor?

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had a similar brain cramp when he gave the executive order to limit outdoor social gatherings and activities and classified protesting as “nonessential activity.” Again, being drunk on power must be the only explanation for declaring the First Amendment as “nonessential activity.”

Hopefully, Cooper will follow the example of the more pragmatic government leaders and free North Carolina so people can go back to work. Then businesses can open back up and people can  start earning a living again and getting their lives back.

 The American people are smart; they are not willing to sit back and allow their constitutional rights to be trampled. You are betting against the House if you think Americans are going to accept or tolerate government drones flying overhead, digital surveillance or being told what to do, where to be and when to be there. The last 50 days could almost be a sneak preview into what it would be like living in a socialist or communist country. Bernie Sanders followers should feel proud.

With nearly 30 million people collecting unemployment and Congress taking a pass on working, I think we may not be able to buy our way out of this. The only solution is to let Americans do what they do best — work. Otherwise, if we keep throwing money at this problem, the cure could end up being worse than the disease.

Don’t bet against the House. Americans are tough and resilient. We are going through a rough period, fighting off two diseases. One, for which we are working on a cure, is on the surface. The second is from within our government. It is a disease caused by power, greed and selfishness of those we elected. The cure here is easy and much less complicated — we unelect those who have become diseased and replace them with people who genuinely want to make America great again.

Don’t bet against the House.

Thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

They broke the mold

A mighty oak tree fell last week when longtime Cumberland County Senator Tony Rand met his maker.

Rand was a political animal from the get-go and had the skills of a master. His mind worked like a lightning bolt, giving him the intellectual heft to see needs and to make change. His quick wit and Southern charm gave him the honey to make change palatable even to those who opposed it. He could skewer a colleague on the Senate floor with a smile, telling someone to go to you-know-where in such a way that the victim looked forward to the trip. One of my favorite Rand quips comes from a Senate debate involving a senator from Johnston County. Said Rand on the Senate floor, “Now it might be that all the judicial wisdom of western civilization resides in Johnston County, but I doubt it.”

He understood and was a decadeslong player in big-dog politics in North Carolina, but he never lost sight of what would build up and enhance the lives of everyday people. He could play hardball, and he could and did fight hard for resources, programs and laws that would help North Carolina rise and prosper.

His legacy in Cumberland County is all around us, including increased resources for Fayetteville State University and Fayetteville Technical Community College, Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Cape Fear Regional Theatre and the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra. Our community still uses 910 as our area code in part because Tony Rand suggested to the Utilities Commission that soldiers in combat zones already knew 910 and could remember it when calling home. It was the Greensboro metropolitan area that changed to the 336 area code, not Fayetteville. Goodyear remains in our community because he championed incentive legislation that encouraged the company to stay.

Rand’s fingerprints are visible in every community in North Carolina as well. He advocated for and secured funding for early childhood education, the UNC system and the UNC health care system during his legislative career. He created a formula for funding public education in low-wealth counties, including Cumberland, Hoke and Robeson, to help put their students more on par with students from wealthier school systems.

His more than two decades in the General Assembly earned him friends from all ages and walks of life — from presidents to prison guards, from generals to gofers. He treated each of them with respect and good humor, and they loved him for it. He never forgot that he grew up in small-town North Carolina and was grateful.

With his sense of perfect timing, Rand resigned his Senate seat in late 2009 and went to work using his legal skills as chair of the North Carolina Parole Commission. He then applied his knowledge of the community college system to workforce development at FTCC, and in what was a closing-of-the-circle moment, he served as Chair of the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission.

Establishing a lottery in North Carolina had been a long-running and highly controversial issue for years. On the day it finally passed the General Assembly in 2005, I was barely into my second term in the North Carolina House, and for reasons I no longer remember, I decided to pop into the Senate chamber to watch the lottery debate. Sen. Rand was running the show, of course, and with an in-depth knowledge of legislative rules and procedures coupled with exquisite political timing, he engineered a tie vote. The tie was broken with a quick “aye” vote from then Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, a Rand friend and ally, and — presto! — North Carolina had it’s own Education Lottery.

A newbie senator turned to me and said, “Margaret, you and I are here playing checkers, but that guy is playing chess in 3-D with a blindfold.”

Amen to that.

Tony Rand’s was a life well and fully lived and much enjoyed.

Changed for the better

11 aw creative fI TKWjKYls unsplashLife’s been weird, right?

I don’t know how else to start this article. What do you say? What is there left to say? I don’t even want to really talk about it any more, if I’m being honest.

Quarantine has been weird; social distancing has been weird. The world — the literal whole world — being shut down has been weird. I guess since this is being published, I should use a 50-cent word and say its “unprecedented,” but let’s be real.

This. Has. Been. Weird.

And heartbreaking. Devastating. Frustrating. Intimidating. Scary.

There will most likely never be another time in our generation — so we pray — where doing absolutely nothing can help save the world.In a society that is used to things changing in an instant, we’ve gone from moving a hundred miles an hour to moving at a snail’s pace as we’ve waited for COVID-19 to pass us by. Waiting is not our strong suit. 

We’ve lived seemingly invincibly for so long, thinking nothing will touch us here in America — no wars on our turf, no major catastrophes, no major economic downfall — yet here we are, stuck with the great equalizer — rich or poor, tall or short, young or old, no one is immune. 

For me, it has been a break. I’ve been very fortunate to have the privilege to work from home, and my husband has been able to continue his job. My son has been at home with me instead of daycare, and my dog now favors me over my husband because I get to take her outside so much more and give her treats. For me, it is a big win.

For others, this pandemic has hit them hard — so hard, they may not recover for a  long while, which brings me back to my first thought. What do you even say?

 Just one piece of dumb advice, if you haven’t done it already — don’t cut yourself quarantine bangs. Put down the scissors, Judy. It just isn’t worth it. You’ll end up looking like you feel and right now — that is, unreliable. Just wait for your stylist or barber, not that I know from experience. Dear God, help me.

But on a more serious note, I had a realization in all of this that I don’t want this not to change me. I want to remember and honor the elderly. I want to remember that everyone is going through something, so I mind my words and my impatience. I want to spend more time at home. I want to spend less money on nonessentials. I want to cook more at home. I want to remember that whether I realize it at the time or not, my actions do affect the people around me, even people I don’t know.

I want to remember that just because someone is famous, it doesn’t make them a hero, and that advertising and Hollywood don’t own me. I want to remember what it's like not to hug my family so I’ll never pull away or take another hug for granted. 

 What is normal anyway? Whatever it is, it's overrated, overexpected and just plain over. I’m done with normal. I want keep some of this weirdness and be changed for the better.

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