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Of Messages and Messengers

Flying in a Paper AirplaneFinally, finally — 30 years after its release — I plunked down (figuratively) my $1.99 to watch Clint Eastwood direct and star in the film White Hunter Black Heart. In case you’re not familiar with the movie, it is a fictionalized telling of the experiences of the screen writer (Peter Viertel) who was on-site before and during the initial filming of the 1951 movie African Queen, a film which still endures as a personal favorite of mine. In particular, it focuses on the behavior/antics/misdeeds/misanthropy (find your own word-fit) of the director of African Queen, John Huston. He was an individual who was charismatic and repulsive all rolled together.

John Huston wrote, directed, or starred in some of my favorite movies of all time: The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Key Largo, Chinatown, Cannery Row, and more. He was indisputably talented in the art and craft of film making, but he was reputed to be completely insufferable to work with.

White Hunter Black Heart presents a main character that is pompous, narcissistic, and not only self-centered — but completely self-focused. I am left to wonder if his lack of regard for the feelings and needs of anyone around him was willful or somehow innate to his being.   Such is the quandary of narcissism, I guess. Thankfully, most of us will never know.

Investors: Don’t confuse the messenger with the message

Huston was represented as a personality of extremes. His obsession with shooting an African elephant before shooting the movie (which he was paid to be in Africa to do) endangered the movie project itself, the finances of the picture’s backers, the livelihoods of its cast and crew, and ultimately the very lives of those recruited for the safari.

At the same time that this man was so ruefully inattentive to those closest to him, he also created insightful and nuanced pictures about the human spirit and condition. I just don’t get it. How can one so callous create art with such depth of feeling?

For everyone — including investors — I believe the point is, perhaps, to not confuse messengers with the message they are delivering.

Looking In The DistanceWhen the future is impossible to see

 “Impossible to see, the future is.” – Jedi Master Yoda

This is an uncertain time in the stock markets – granted, all times in the stock market are uncertain –– but this may be a particularly uncertain time. What will the elections bring us in November? What taxation, fiscal, and budgetary policies will emerge as a result? What will happen with the current pandemic and our ability as a society to go back to traditional models of work and socialization? Will some industries fundamentally and permanently change?

While these questions linger, the stock market tested all-time highs in July and fixed income yields were at historical lows. What to do with one’s investment dollars today? Now is not a time for panic, no more or less than today, no more or less than during other uncertain times in history such as the World Wars, Great Depression, the social unrest of the 1960s, and so on. But you’ll find that certain messengers seek to take advantage of a panicked thought process… or simply don’t even know what message they’re trying to deliver.

Not every messenger can be trusted

During times like these — radio, television ads, and even infomercials are full of loud and polished pitches that may be assuring you of “safe” investments “that won’t go down” in value. They’re leveraging the panic in hopes their true message (or lack thereof) is not revealed.

Be careful out there. A smiling face and quick wit can hide a dark heart. Stated another way, the message might not match the messenger. Granny was right: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Caution SignNow is the time for caution, not fear

Too often, investors let fear rule their decision-making process. Too often, they listen to the messenger (promising untold riches and cure-alls) instead of the message. But there are some rules of thumb to avoid this while weathering these times of uncertainty.

But that’s my situation; you need to be sure what works for you. Not only for your financial needs over the rest of your investment horizon, but also for getting a good night’s sleep.

And while you’re at it, keep your heart and your spirit… light.

August 2020

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. Investing involves risk including loss of principal.

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