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Monday Morning Musings - Week 12

It's rare I'm at a loss of words. After watching the violence unfold across the country over the weekend, it's not that I'm at a loss of words I just don't know how to put them together into something that is coherent. Racism is wrong. We should all be angry at the amount of racism in our country. I'm not condoning violence, vandalism, and theft, but I do have empathy for a large portion of our country who is rightfully angry that racism still exists in far too many places of our country.

This obviously isn't new. We've seen violent protests for decades. While I would like to believe things have improved in our country, the killing of George Floyd shows we haven't gone far enough. Peaceful protests have been ridiculed in the past and have not worked to move our country forward enough. Being quiet against racism is not enough. Most non-white Americans have a story about a scary interaction with a law enforcement officer or ignorant people threatening them simply because of the color of their skin. This doesn't mean all cops are bad. Most are incredibly brave Americans who put their lives on the line everyday. I'm saddened that a few bad actors can put all of them in a negative light. That said, I'm shocked by the stories I hear. Not read, but hear from friends and colleagues about their own personal experiences. I'm not talking about 10 or 20 years ago, I'm talking about this happening within the last year.

Kids learn racism from somebody. They aren't born that way. Watch any kids at a playground. The color of the other kids' skin doesn't matter. Your kids are watching and listening. They learn how to treat others from you. This needs to stop.

I'd encourage you to take a look at this video from our new colleague Edward Dudley. Ed is doing some amazing things in numerous communities across our country to help build businesses and relationships. My heart breaks for him and all people who look like Ed. I'm taking his challenge. No American should feel like this. This needs to stop.

-Social Cycle Predicted This: I love our country and believe we will heal and become a better place. Many of you have heard me talk about the social cycle over the last 10 years. We are in the final of the 4 stages, which is always the ugliest stage. Part of this stage is tearing down the beliefs, institutions, organizations, and everything that helped create the huge chasm between the haves and the have nots. The most popular article I've written on the topic is "The Consequences of Political Polarization." It barely touches the surface.

Looking at some of the more recent posts on the topic, two of them looked at the how much the median household income has lagged relative to corporate profits. Certain groups became quite wealthy over the last 30 years while the average American did not. While not mentioned specifically, the income by race is even more striking. Wealth inequality creates instability. Socialism isn't the answer as the articles say, but there are things that can be done.

A Troubling Trend
There are at least 15 candidates already lined up to compete for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. The early entrants have either self-identified as Socialists or a lighter version of the economic strategy of taxing the “rich” at increasing rates to pay for new social programs for those “…
Two Lost Decades
This week we learned the Median Household Income of Americans [https://www.census.gov/content/census/en/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.html] finally surpassed the 2007 peak. Inside the report released by the Census Bureau was a long discussion of the “lost decade” for most Americans. Masked…

-How Our Brains Process Information: A couple weeks back Cody wrote an excellent article looking at how our brains process information when we don't have a lot of data. This applies to all things, especially as you read and share opinions about the protests. Challenge your previous thoughts and beliefs, especially now.

How our brains are adapting to COVID-19
I am a big history nerd who enjoys thinking of how things were back in time and how people may have lived through certain events and why. The thing about history is it’s impossible to accurately view the proper response to these things because we know what the outcome is. Through the lens of the p…

-Where is your fruit? Our pastor had already planned to teach this weekend on the "Fruits of the Spirit" in Galatians. What struck me as I scrolled through social media this weekend was how Christians have either been unacceptably silent  or worse illustrating far more "deeds of the flesh" in their posts and comments. I'm challenging all Christians to check their hearts and ask what their actions illustrate.

Regardless of your beliefs, the whole world would be a better place if we showed EVERYBODY love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If you are a Christian and want to make a bigger impact for God's kingdom, I'd encourage you to look into Biblically Responsible Investing. Here's a look at some of the recent impacts our Biblically Responsible Investments have made:

Cornerstone Impact Update
The Cornerstone Portfolios launched earlier this year to help investors align their investments with their Christian values and impact God’s kingdom. We understand there are some grey areas, and we won’t find a fund manager that perfectly aligns with everyone’s values; however, our goal is to work w…

-Market Environment: The Monday Morning Musings started 12 weeks ago as a platform for me to list all the things on my mind regarding the market, economy, and overall situation in our country. I've tried to fill it with some lighthearted content, memes, gifs, and videos, but Ed is right –we can't just ignore this. That said, I know this is a market related blog. I'm actually surprised that the market is looking to open higher this week. Wall Street really doesn't seem to care about the pain going on in our country, which is part of the problem. I understand it is "forward looking", but the violence this weekend is a SYMPTOM of the underlying DISEASE in our country.

The market is still significantly overvalued, but the momentum could continue for awhile. Investors seem to be looking at the improvement from the "worst case" scenarios that caused concern in March and not what the economy will look like when this is all over. We're likely to have double digit unemployment well into 2021. Businesses will continue to fail. Companies will default on their bonds. Corporations will struggle to get their earnings back to 2019 levels. The market is pricing in not only a return to normal, but an economy that exceeds where we were at before COVID19 in just 18 months from now.

We'll start getting some April economic data this morning. I'll try to get some of the updated data in this week's Chart of the Week. For now, check out our market/economic update posted last week:

Just Guessing
Being a data driven, scientifically-minded investment manager, we’ve always been uncomfortable making decisions that did not have a solid basis. Our study of behavioral finance and market history, as well as nearly three decades of experience managing money tells us our brains often can play tricks …

-Our Children (or Grandchildren) are Watching: We were blessed to have 6 kids. We started (too) early as parents, which has allowed us to be very young grandparents. Our almost 3 year-old granddaughter is such a joy to be around. She was the star of our "Just Guessing" video last week. She loves coming to our office and really loves spending the night at Grandma and "Papa's" house. Since the quarantine started Corryn and Dustin have been taking the twins for one weekend a month and we've then done the same with Aurora on a different weekend. It's been a welcome reprieve for all parents. Yesterday morning I was reading the Wall Street Journal and she said, "I want to read with you." I told her to grab a book, but she said, "no I read your newspaper".

Kids will mimic the behavior of their parents and grandparents – both good and bad. Keep that in mind whenever you're interacting with the next generation. Regardless of their age, they are listening and watching. Change starts with you.

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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.