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The Intersection of Investing and Politics.

In the wake of the election, many of our clients have shared with us thoughts and concerns about where the country is now, and where it’s headed.

As you might expect, those feelings have run the gamut, from outrage to relief, from hope to fear.

As an investor, I have studied the markets historically and am quite aware of what can occur. I am also aware of our human history, and that we are equally capable of monumental displays of creation, compassion, cruelty, carelessness and carnage. As an adviser, I’ve seen investors collectively behave irrationally at both extremes as well, mired in panic and exuberance.

While I have been working in finance for almost 20 years now, I’ll admit I’ve never seen a political environment quite like this. I doubt many of you have either. Some of you have asked me my opinion directly, especially lately, on some of the headlines and what they mean, and how I “feel” about them. Many of you have also wondered how I manage to talk to such a broad swath of political affiliations within our client base (which is true -- it covers the spectrum).

So, I thought I’d provide some perspective today.

Investing is a very personal thing. My role as your adviser is actually much larger than headlines or policy, and yet it is quite simple. Your goals are my focus; they are the signal through the “noise”.

My friend, Carl Richards, boiled down the role of a real adviser on Twitter quite nicely:

 

For some of you, your “why” is something like fully funding your child’s (or grandchild’s) higher education. Others feel their children should be more responsible for funding their own pursuits. Is either wrong? Nope.

And that’s where most of our work resides. That’s where most of our time and energy is spent.

My job, as your adviser, is to help you meet your goals and provide you with information to help you make informed decisions. The world is an immense palate of possibility from which we can paint your picture. Our job is to protect you from irrationality (and charlatans), to help you deepen your whys and why nots. True financial advice is actually based on timeless (see: apolitical) values.

I see our role as being your middle; your informed, rational voice. And, despite how you may feel about the last eight years or today, history has provided enough context to help me show investors, like you, what is likely, even if this (and every next) time does feel different.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never seen domestic politics fill so much of our collective psyche. My Facebook feed looks like it was simultaneously sponsored by Fox News and The Huffington Post. If I’m honest, lately, at times, your questions about my feelings about all of this have felt like a sort of litmus test.

Not one to hide in the shadows, I guess I feel it’s time to invest some of my time helping you to understand more about who I am, and where our advice and insights come from.

I am not aligned with any party specifically. My allegiance is to sound, fair policies and promoting the ideal of our country’s motto: E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one.”

I have voted the political spectrum: democrat, republican, libertarian, and independent. I view my non-partisan stance, frankly, as an asset, not a liability.

In the case of the media and its role in our politics, it’s more important than ever to realize that their job is to get readers and viewers; and hopefully still report the truth. They can and do misstep in reporting that truth. Sadly, reporting has become a faster, and sometimes more careless approach for the sake of being "first".

Thomas Jefferson spoke on the importance of the press,

“No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

I also believe neither major party over the last fifty years has earned the right through their actions to be trusted at face value anymore. Both have corporate interests and special interests firmly in their pockets.

So, how do I “feel” about things?

My basic approach to developing any stance I have in the political arena is this: seek to learn more about any position I do not understand and present the facts as I understand them. Should those facts change, so too, should my opinion.

Active participation and discourse combined with mutual respect is the key to a better democracy. If we disagree, we should be able explain why we do, without calling someone a name and hopefully we can agree on the facts and respect the principles that color the lens in which we see those facts -- and find the middle. I’ve disagreed with many things our country has done in its long (and recent) storied past, and disagree with some of the policies I’m seeing put in place currently.

But, I also think my “feelings” should not cloud my logic and reason as your adviser in helping you reach your goals.

It’s important to recognize that when it comes to our financial advice to you, our logic is this:

Despite world wars, civil wars, incalculable numbers of scandal, inhumane acts of terror, fear & discrimination, riots & protests, war crimes & genocide, oppression, depression, recession, famine & plagues, social injustice, “bad” presidents and “good” presidents…

This is what our market has done over the long arc of history in the face of all of those moments; it finds the higher ground.

Scott Bell, founder