July: America’s Birthday 2021

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

July: America’s Birthday

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Photo by Luke Stackpoole

Americans have been fighting for our freedom since 1776.

As America’s birthday is approaching its 245th birthday, I’ve been thinking. These days, I have trouble watching the news, local or national; I suspect you do too. We’ve reached a point in our society where front porches have been replaced by back porches, we hardly see or talk to our neighbors as the world moves faster and faster each day, social media and the rest of the internet seems to divide us, and let’s not forget all this COVID stuff. Even the mere mention of politics can cause fierce debate and hot emotions among friends and family. Even as I write this, I suspect I might be offending someone with the subject of this post: America’s Birthday. Our independence.

After my own birthdays, I often find myself reflecting on how quickly each one came and went, reviewing the highlights, the lowlights, and the things I want to accomplish between each birthday. This got me thinking about my history classes in elementary, middle, and high school. I can hardly remember that far back (I’m dating myself here)—but I truly don’t remember when I last read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States. Recently, I decided that this Fourth of July, I’m going to pause to reread those essential documents. I want to revisit what our founding fathers wrote and refresh myself on what we learned in our history class all those years ago.

America is special, even with all the challenges we might see or experience in our daily walks of life. Independence is a common theme in my daily conversations. I feel the freest when I’m in the middle of nowhere: in the mountains, in the woods, on a gravel road, sitting in a fishing boat in the Icy Straits as endless amounts of whales dot the water around me, or walking a cornfield in search of that redneck bird. As far as possible from the tallest buildings that usually surround us, one with nature. For me, that’s the independence I strive for as I celebrate America’s Birthday.

Happy Birthday, America, and here’s to many more.

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Being Impactful with Your Money

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Being Impactful with Your Money

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

My grandparents owned a local grocery store in St. Paul. They lived through the Great Depression, and they passed along many core values from their experience, but most important among them was to always make sure your neighbor has food. They never let their neighbors go hungry, even when they didn’t have enough money to pay.
When I was growing up (and some of you might argue I haven’t yet), I worked at Baker’s Square during high school, college, and a couple of years after that. I know what hard work is and what it’s like to cook in a hot kitchen in the dog days of summer. But cooking wasn’t the hardest position there. Not even close. The most difficult (and yet most important) position in any restaurant is the dishwasher. It’s a gross, wet, and smelly job. Even thinking about this, I want to start bringing my own silverware when I eat out.  

One consistent and hardworking dishwasher at the Square was Brian. A grown man working to provide for his family, he’d gone back to school to study seminary, and at times I know he was hungry. Not just once, but on a number of occasions, I would see him eating food from the bus tubs full of dishes that had just been cleared away from where customers were eating.   

There I was, surrounded by food, and Brian was eating from strangers’ plates. Whenever anyone saw him eating food out of the bus tubs, I would make him a fresh meal of his own. I should have paid for it, but I didn’t. We did, after all, receive a 50 percent discount on our food, and even as a high school kid, I had the money. I simply told Brian the extra food was a mistake. But it wasn’t.

Looking back on this experience gives me pause, because I know I wouldn’t handle it the same way now. Sure, this time I would pay for the food—but I’d also make sure this proud, hardworking father had food for himself and his family. That’s one core value I try to pass down that I hope my kids will incorporate in their lives.  

Today, Mrs. Anderson and I are currently focused on helping those who are hungry. We invest a portion of our life energy and resources in helping others, and we’ve consolidated our giving so that we can be even more impactful in the areas we want to be impactful in. We used to give to a host of organizations throughout the year, but now we’ve selected only a few, so that we can be the most impactful.

Developing a gifting/impacting plan allows us to freely give away thousands per year, knowing we are impacting others with our wealth. Some of my favorite meetings throughout the year are those where I help clients give their money away. We’ve incorporated this into their overall planning, allocating a portion of their treasures each year for gifting in ways that align with their core values. 

For some, the thought of giving money away is stressful, while for others, giving brings them great joy. The truth is, giving money away isn’t always easy, even when we know we can afford to do it. This makes sense: our life experiences helped to shape our attitudes toward our finances. We may have enough money now, but that may not have always been the case, and somewhere in the back of our minds is that little worry: “What if I end up needing that?”

But being impactful with your money isn’t just about donating to a non-profit organization. It can also mean impacting your family, friends, or someone you don’t even know. Our world revolves around money, like it or not. I’d like to share a few ideas that I’ve seen implemented over the years for sharing our money with others.  

Your list might look a little different than mine, and that’s OK—we’re different people. Personally, we’ve focused our giving on organizations devoted to food, mental health, and four-legged friends, as well as our church.

Non-Profit

There isn’t a non-profit around that can’t use more money to meet its programming needs. The good news is that you don’t need to spend big dollars to be impactful. Rather, contribute a meaningful amount toward something you are passionate about.

Over the years, I’ve looked for ways to help our clients be as impactful as possible with their resources. So many of you have taken my advice and narrowed down the number of non-profits you give money to. More than a few of you have told me, “Brett, you’d be so proud of me. I’ve thrown away all but five of these year-end requests.” Excellent! Those five organizations will receive a greater amount of money than they would have otherwise, which will have a greater impact on each one.  

To make your dollars go even further, think outside the box. Non-profits love being able to generate new donors or increase current donors’ gift amounts by offering matching contributions. Many organizations receive dollars from larger organizations specifically allocated to help increase donor contributions. When making a contribution to an organization, call and ask if they are currently running a matching program or plan to run one soon. It’s great when you can double your contribution by being willing to match the donations of others.

(Mrs. Anderson believes we should just give regardless of a match, and we do—and let’s be real, I’m not always in charge—but I always try to make the call first. I’m happiest when I’m able to double my gifts, and so are the non-profits!)

Here’s another example. Recently, a client of mine was asked to fund a new critical staff position for a non-profit organization for one year. After brainstorming on how we could help the organization financially, we decided that instead of my client fully funding the position, they would offer to match a second donor for half. It took about a week for the organization to find another donor willing to match the contribution, but it happened. Shortly after, I sent the funds off at the client’s request. Isn’t that cool? 

(Maybe you’re thinking I’m all about being a do-gooder, but let’s not overlook the fact that I use my Marriott Rewards Visa card for our monthly tithe. Points with Marriott and God, all at the same time? I can’t be the only one!)

Family

Some of us wait until we are gone to give money to our loved ones, while some prefer to begin the process a little sooner. Whatever the case, I am not suggesting that you give all your money away today. How we each choose to impact our families can vary greatly. For example, family Christmas gifts might become things like the joy of travel for the entire family (and no longer involve the stresses of shopping for that sweater). You might even volunteer at your local non-profit together and leave a donation when you’re finished.

Another way to be impactful is to help fund your kids’ Roth IRA accounts when money is tight on their end. Many times, our kids need more help as younger adults than they will later in their lives. I have a hard time recalling the physical gifts my parents bought me over the years, but I do remember the times they’ve helped me and the events we shared.
 

When you have your financial house in order, it can feel so good to help others in your own meaningful way. You don’t have to worry about giving freely, and you are able to impact others with your treasures. If you’d like to discuss developing a gifting strategy, please drop me a note. 

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Coronavirus & Your Money

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Coronavirus & Your Money

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

First off, there have been weeks of headlines about the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, markets have been caught in a volatile pattern of surges and retreats. Here’s what you should know:

Why are markets so volatile?

Obviously, disease outbreaks are hard to predict and come with a great deal of uncertainty that can make investors nervous. In addition, this is particularly true after a period of record market gains.

Furthermore, as the epidemic spreads beyond China, investors worry that it could cause serious disruptions to trade. Then, it would impact the interconnected global economy.

How long will the volatility last?

Well, it’s hard to say. Though the human cost of an outbreak like Coronavirus is tragic, it’s unclear how widespread the economic fallout will actually be. For instance, we can’t predict what markets will do. However, this isn’t the first time we’ve grappled with market reactions to an epidemic.

Here are some examples from previous outbreaks:

Chart source: CNBC, Yahoo Finance

Unfortunately, the past can’t always predict the future.  Although we were not prepared for a virus of this caliber, we can refer to historic data. First, markets reacted to epidemics with panic selling. But they recovered after the initial outbreak. This coronavirus should be no different.

However, epidemics don’t happen in isolation. Above all, underlying economic and market fundamentals will influence how investors react long-term.

Then, pullbacks and periods of volatility happen regularly, for many reasons.

Whether the cause is an epidemic, geopolitical crisis, natural disaster, or financial issue, markets often react negatively to bad news and then recover.

Sometimes, the push-and-pull can go on for weeks and months. This can be stressful, even when it’s a normal part of the market cycle.

Lastly, the best thing you can do is stick to your strategies and avoid emotional decision-making.

Why?

Emotional reactions don’t lead to smart investing decisions. In other words, the biggest mistake investors can make right now is to overreact instead of sticking to their strategies.

P.S. Reading too many headlines? Having trouble keeping calm?

Just give me a call at (651) 337-1919 and I’ll be happy to help.


Chart Source:

S&P 500 performance during outbreak:

S&P 500 performance six months after outbreak: Yahoo Finance. 6-month performance between open of first trading day of the month after end of outbreak to adjusted close of final trading day of the sixth month.

SARS: April 1, 2003 – Sept 30, 2003
MERS: Dec 3, 2012 – May 31, 2013
Ebola: March 3, 2014 – Aug 29, 2014
Zika: March 1, 2016 – Aug 31, 2016

Risk Disclosure: Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

This material is for information purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security. The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made regarding accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of any information. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision. For illustrative use only.

Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500®) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. Indexes are not available for direct investment. The performance of the index excludes any taxes, fees and expenses.

Federal Stimulus Check Article

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Take a Sabbatical – Life Lesson 48 of 50

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Take a Sabbatical

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Photo by Diego Jiminez

While attending Augsburg College in my youthful days, I noticed that many of my professors would occasionally take a sabbatical. This means taking a break from their usual academic pursuits. They worked on their books, furthered their research, or traveled the world.

What if you could get away from it all and clear your head, all while moving your career forward and gaining perspective on your future? Seem too good to be true? Well, I want to let you in on a little secret. You don’t have to be a professor to take a sabbatical.

The benefits of taking a sabbatical

We work so hard during our best years, hoping we’ll have the time, money, and energy to travel in our golden years. We sometimes forget to focus on ourselves in the here and now. Whatever your career or walk of life, there are very good reasons to take time off from your job and your daily life. You should do this before you retire, to focus on your own growth.

Make time for backburner projects

We all have “someday” projects in mind, things we tell ourselves we’ll do just as soon as we have the time for them. A sabbatical is the perfect way to carve out the time to jumpstart a new research project, make headway on a stalled-out manuscript, or conduct that research we keep putting off.

Refresh your goals

Sabbaticals are like supercharged vacations: they get you out of your day-to-day. They get you into a more relaxed state of being. This frees your subconscious mind to make deeper connections with your work and your purpose.

We all need time away. Making time to put everything on hold, slow down, and focus on yourself and your career will let you return with renewed purpose and motivation.

Gain a global perspective

While any time away offers important benefits, take the opportunity to travel overseas if at all possible. Prioritize this especially if you’ve never been outside the country before.

Traveling offers a rich opportunity to gain insight into other people’s lives. Interacting with people from other cultures and backgrounds is an incredible source of new experiences and new ideas.

Get out there!

A sabbatical has very real benefits for everyone, regardless of your business or walk of life. Over the course of your career, try to take a sabbatical or two to travel the world, write a book, or have new adventures.

If you have a strong financial foundation, this sort of travel is entirely within your reach. And if you don’t, now is the perfect time to start building one.

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Attitude Reflects Leadership – Life Lesson 47 of 50

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Attitude Reflects Leadership

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

attitude reflects leadership

Have you seen the movie Remember the Titans? In one powerful interaction between a football player and his captain, this player sums up team leadership dynamics in just three simple words: “Attitude reflects leadership.”

If you’re not familiar with the movie, let me set the scene. The team captain is chastising one of his players—Big Ju—for his lack of team spirit. This captain just can’t understand why his player has such a poor attitude toward the rest of his teammates.

Big Ju’s terse retort doesn’t just explain how attitudes trickle down from the top; it’s a demonstration of the principle. He feels disrespected by his teammates and captain, so he lacks respect for them in turn.

This is no surprise to any of us; we all know that leadership is a top-down process, and the culture of every company starts with its leaders. But here’s something you may not realize: regardless of your position, your attitude and interactions with others have the power to impact those around you.

The Truth

Let’s face it: life can be challenging. Even when we tell ourselves to stay positive, a positive attitude isn’t always easy to maintain in the face of life’s greatest challenges. But you don’t have to be a CEO to cultivate an attitude of leadership, base your daily interactions on mutual respect, and start to change the culture for the better.

What’s the difference between a thermistor vs a thermostat? One indicates the temperature and one sets it. Which do you want to be?

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“Trust Me”: Don’t Trust It – Life Lesson 46 of 50

ST. CROIX INSIGHTS

Don’t Trust People Who Say “Trust Me”

BY BRETT ANDERSON/ST.CROIX ADVISORS, LLC

Photo by Joseph Chan

I’m not sure I can articulate this correctly, but whenever I hear someone say “trust me,” I immediately become skeptical. It’s like an immediate red flag in my head, and my knee-jerk response that comes to mind is, “Why should I?”

Don’t tell me to trust you—make me trust you. Show me through your words and actions that you’re a person of integrity. Until you demonstrate why I should give you my trust, I’m not going to take your word for it, so don’t even bother.

The word “trust” is so overused in today’s world that it has become almost meaningless. When every shady huckster you meet wants to fill your head with effusive guarantees for products and services of questionable quality, how can any of us hope to recognize when our trust is really deserved?

Food for Thought

You’ll rarely hear me say “trust me”—I won’t insult you like that. I know that trust is something I have to earn over time. You’ll either end up trusting me or you won’t, but you’ll do it for your own reasons, not because I told you to.

I encourage you to be introspective with this one. Catch yourself when you say it next, and follow it by asking what your true intentions are. It is perfectly okay to be skeptical of others who use words as comfort rather than take action. What can you do to prove that you are trustworthy? What can someone else do to prove it to you?

Next Life Lesson

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