Thank you for taking a few minutes each month to sit down and read my thoughts about investing. I have the privilege of writing to you based upon my experience and employment as a Financial Advisor at Allen & Company of Florida. So let’s get to the subject matter for today: The stock markets have been a bit volatile lately. Have you noticed? It’s hard to find lifestyle-sustaining income from bonds and CDs these days. Have you noticed that too? Yes, I thought so. The question I have heard most often recently is, “What do I do now?” The deep downturn in the stock market in 2008, and the bursting of the tech bubble during 2000 to 2002 are still fresh enough in our minds to give us angst about what might come next. When the stock market declines, none of us, me included, like opening our monthly investment statements. To get through these times, there are two things I believe you must keep in mind during stock market downturns. At some unknown point in time, they will come again. And at some other unknown point in time, they will pass. As you read those two thoughts, please commit to memory the twice-used word “unknown”. As we know, the future is very hard to predict. We cannot expect to have a successful investment plan if it is predicated upon the false assumption that we can know when the good times and bad times in the stock market will come. So that takes us back to the question of what should we do now. The answer, of course, is, “It depends.” Where are you in life? Are you a 20-something that has your first full-time job and just starting out? Are you a married couple with 2.58 children, a mortgage, college bills ahead, and retirement is two or three decades away? Did you just receive a windfall from a relative or a settlement of some sort? Are you retiring soon? Are you retired now and worried about out-living your assets and the rising cost of health care? Obviously, the answer as to what to do now is different for all of these people and their unique life situations, however, the starting point for each is the same. We must create a plan. The importance of a lifetime plan for your finances cannot be understated. Investing without a plan is at best an interesting exercise in mathematics, at worst it can destroy your hopes and dreams for the lifestyle you have spent a lifetime building. A financial plan starts with identifying three basics things: what you own and what you owe, your financial goals and concerns, and your estate or legacy wishes. From this starting point, and with the excellent computer-based tools available to us today, you and I can create a life-long financial plan that is unique to you and your situation. This plan then lets us know how to invest for the long term to meet your goals. We will talk more in the months ahead about the details of such a plan, but for now, remember this: Have a plan! Since 1932 Allen & Company of Florida, Inc. has provided financial planning and wealth management services to the communities we serve. An employee owned firm that continues to remain true to its guiding principles; place our clients’ interests above all else, and never lose sight of personalized service. Headquartered in Lakeland, Florida, with operations in Winter Haven and Viera, Allen & Company is Florida’s oldest investment firm.