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A Behavioral Approach to Investing

Using Scientifically Engineered Models

Perspective

Where you personally sit often determines your assessment of a situation. That is certainly the case with the economy.

A lot of focus has been put on the 2020 election – for good reason. The economy is often the top issue for most voters. Over the past 20 years we've seen both Republicans and Democrats have a shot at improving the economy. COVID has certainly magnified this focus. The US economy had a record drop in the 2nd Quarter and a record jump in the 3rd quarter, which has masked the underlying problems we as a country are facing.

The orange bars are the "official" numbers. The blue line is the 1 year change. This gives us a better perspective of how the economy is doing. Note the dashed line. This is the long-term average. For 20 years our economy has struggled to exceed the long-term growth rate. This is highlighting that something is wrong with the economy.

This chart provides some perspective. The economy is back to 2017 levels, about 4% down from the high. For at least 15 years I've talked about structural issues with our economy. COVID has magnified those issues. Some parts of the economy are back to all-time highs while others are down much greater than 4%.

We truly have a K-shaped economic recovery, but we've had problems for quite some time, well before COVID.

A big part of the imbalance is our two deficits – trade and budget. Too much money is going towards other countries and to pay back our debts. This has created a large wealth divide that has morphed into a social and even a generational divide. I've written about that extensively.  

While most of the readers of this blog live in the upper-part of the K-shaped economy, many of us know somebody in the lower-part. Their experience comes from a completely different perspective. Here's one of many tragic stories from that part of our economy.


Last Wednesday, our 22-year old son Tyler was killed in a motorcycle accident. I won't even begin to describe the emotions we've felt since then. One of the things we've talked about often is how hard Tyler fought to try to make a life for himself. He was part of the lower part of the K economy. He had ADD and struggled in school even when medicated. College wasn't going to be for him. It took enough to just help him along to high school graduation. He initially didn't want anything to do with education after high school.

Tyler worked fast food jobs and then security jobs. None of those jobs provided consistent hours. None of those jobs had benefits (thankfully the Affordable Care Act allowed him to stay on our health insurance plan). None of those jobs gave him any sense of security. That was enough for him to realize he needed a trade. He really liked the idea of welding. We helped him find, enroll, and pay for a welding program.

For 9 months Tyler drove 40 minutes each way 4 nights a week to earn a welding certificate. The school had offered job placement as part of the $10,000 certificate program. Literally ever single job opening they sent him required 3 or more years' of experience. The school told him he should apply for the shipyards. Over 300 people applied for the 25 openings. We told him he should apply to any jobs regardless of experience. We lost track of how many jobs he applied for without any response.

As frustrated as he was, Tyler started trying to piece together enough income to make a living. Twice jobs he was hired for started with a promise of 40+ hours a week only to have the hours fluctuate between 15 to 45 depending on the week. He ended up working at 2-3 different restaurants just to make enough money to cover rent, insurance, gas, and food. Then COVID hit.

Tyler was lucky enough to keep his jobs, but he was down to about 10 hours per week. Co-workers and friends were telling him he could make more on unemployment, but Tyler had too much pride to do that. He wouldn't take any money from us to help. He just kept trying to piece together some income on his own. His landlord did help him out by waiving rent for several months. Mom of course made sure he came over for dinner as much as possible (when he wasn't working) and sent him home with plenty of leftovers.

In the last month Tyler's security job at Walmart (enforcing the mask mandate) that had him working 40-50 hours was cut to about 15 hours a week – most of them on weekends. He decided to go back to McDonald's where they had openings for the breakfast shift. His girlfriend also was able to get a job there on the same shift. They were killed on their way to work when somebody else on their way to work turned in front of him on a highway.

One of the things we talked about often the last 5 days is the anger at how hard the boy was working just to get by. We are so proud of his work ethic and how he refused to accept handouts. He did the things people say you should do to "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" and make a life. We'll never know if he would have made it, but there are millions of people like Tyler in our country living in the bottom half of the K.

I'm not suggesting we just hand them money, but there has to be a better system to educate, train, and then EMPLOY younger Americans. Doing so will make America a much stronger country. Previous generations had plenty of jobs that did not require college or experience. We need to find ways to come together as a country to solve these problems.

I don't know what the answer is, but a small part of the way we plan on honoring Tyler is to create a scholarship program for kids in high school who want to pursue a trade: The Tyler Hybiak Memorial Fund.

The Tyler Hybiak Memorial Fund was established in 2020 to honor the life of Tyler Scott Hybiak. The fund is designed for high school graduates who want to pursue a trade. Too often, young adults who choose not to attend university are left behind in our economy. The fund will reward recipients annually and work with area businesses that are willing to hire and train high school graduates in their industries. Those young people who receive a trade certificate often cannot find opportunities for employment without significant experience in the field. The Tyler Hybiak Memorial Fund will help connect recipients with opportunities for employment and growth.

Many of you have asked about flowers, cards, or gifts. We'd like you to hold off on any of those and instead set aside something for the fund. Information on the Tyler Hybiak Memorial Fund and ways to donate can be found at: racerty34.org.

Side note on the fund's website url: Tyler was always a daredevil. He wanted to race motorcycles, but we wanted something a little safer. We chose kart racing (along with BMX). He for whatever reason chose the #34. For the longest time every username he ever created was racerty34. Even other usernames he added a 34. We had such great family memories during our racing years. Here's one of our favorite pics:

My brain is obviously in a cloud. I will always hurt. A part of us was ripped away far too soon. When your first child is born you wonder how could your heart love anybody more than you love that one. Then your second is born and your heart just grows and you learn it has the capacity to love this one just as much. We had six kids taking up a portion of our heart, with two amazing additions to our family through marriage, and now a grandchild (with another one on the way in a month or two). Reversing this process is devastating. That portion that you thought could never grow to contain another is now an empty void. We are so blessed and thankful for our amazing family. We know we will continue loving, laughing, crying, competing, performing, arguing, and all the things we did before while we forever mourn the loss of the great big teddy bear who would drop anything to do something for his family or his friends.  

From a business perspective, this is a sad example of why we are adamant about our behavioral approach. Every trading decision is pre-programmed so anybody can step in and make any necessary trades. I couldn't imagine having to analyze the election results and the market reaction. From an operations perspective, our technology along with E*Trade's allows our team members to step in while we take some time to clear our heads.

We appreciate all of you who have already reached out to us. Your prayers are certainly necessary and appreciated.

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New Kent, VA
Jeff joined SEM in October 1998. Outside of SEM, Jeff is part of the worship team at LifePointe Community Church where he plays the keyboard and bass guitar. He also leads a small group Bible study.