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Author: Minich MacGregor Wealth Management

Financial Planning Bucket List

How is your summer going? We hope you’ve been able to find ways to beat the heat while still having fun in the sun!

Summertime is when many people, retired or not, focus on checking items off their personal bucket list. Visiting that country you always wanted to visit. Hiking that trail that’s been calling your name for years. Mastering the art of gardening, competing in a local BBQ contest, getting to a 15 handicap in golf. The goals that bring you the most satisfaction. The milestones by which you measure personal progress. The activities that add true richness to your life.

Recently, though, several new clients have come to us with a similar frustration: They don’t feel like they have the resources — or the time — to actually do what’s on their bucket list. They don’t feel like they’re on track to reaching their goals.

This is a very common feeling for people of all ages and walks of life. Often, those who feel this way fall into one of three groups.

The first group is those who feel like they must wait for retirement to do almost anything on their bucket list. They are so busy hustling, so busy trying to work, save, and invest for the future, they often wonder if the future will ever come. They wonder if their most cherished dreams will have to be put off until an age when they are less physically able to enjoy them.

The second group is those who have very specific retirement goals – but retirement always seems to be moving further away even as they get older. They wonder when and whether they’ll actually be able to retire. They wonder if retirement is just an illusion.

The final group is those who are retired…but have found that, so far, retirement isn’t everything they thought it would be. Maybe their expenses in retirement are higher than they anticipated. Maybe they feel wary and unsure of spending any more money than they absolutely have to, because they’re afraid of outliving their savings. Either way, they are not spending their golden years traveling the world, cycling on that new electric bike they’ve always wanted, or even learning new skills.

As financial advisors, let us say it unequivocally: No matter what your goals are or what group you fall in, nobody should have to feel this way.

Fortunately, you don’t have to. There are always methods for ensuring you remain on track to your dreams. Savings and investment strategies for both short-term and long-term goals. Having a good financial plan, when you come right down to it, is about finding ways to achieve the items on your bucket list….and leaving no stone unturned in your efforts to do so. Before and after retirement.

You use, when it comes to your bucket list, there is something we fervently believe:

“If you can dream it, we can help you do it.” 

For instance:

Create a beautiful garden. Start a new career. Ski for 100 days a season. Volunteer in the inner-city neighborhood where you grew up. Finally, finally use all your frequent flyer miles. Create a world that consists of nothing but a hammock, a pitcher of lemonade, and a stack of John Grisham novels. Raise horses, goats, or chickens. Participate in guided tours of all the ancient wonders of the world. Open your own bed and breakfast. Trek to the Himalayas. Visit every national park. Learn to scuba dive. Visit every major-league ballpark. Relax. Go on a Safari in Africa. Move to a college town and take all the classes you skipped 40 years ago. Write movie reviews for the local weekly. Climb a mountain. Rent a barge for a canal tour in Europe. Invest in startup companies. Coach youth soccer, baseball, and basketball. Drive from Alaska to Patagonia. Run the Boston marathon. Play as many of Golf Digest®’s top-100 courses as possible. Play in a garage band. Play bridge for money. Just play! Go on at least three cruises a year. Act in community theater. Learn to play the piano. Read Russian novels. Run for local political office. Absolutely nothing. Give back to all of those who helped you. Do all the things you’ve been afraid of—skydiving, bungee jumping, and hang gliding. RV along Route 66 with your spouse and your dogs.

You get the idea. The point is that your bucket list shouldn’t just be an idle dream. It should be active pastime.

So, as we move into the second half of the year, ask yourself:

Am I doing any of the items on my personal bucket list this summer?
Do I feel like I’m on track to reaching my goals?

If the answer to either of these is “No,” or if you feel like you fall into any of the three groups we mentioned, here’s what we propose: Let’s chat. We can look at your goals, and what you’re currently doing to achieve them. We’d be happy to give a second opinion on how to make your bucket list part of your present instead of letting it languish in the distant future.

Financial planning is about more than just throwing money at the stock market. It’s about living the life you want to live. It’s about dreaming a dream…and then finding ways to actually do it.

Please let us know if we can ever provide more assistance in helping you achieve the items on your personal bucket list. In the meantime, we hope you have a great rest of your summer!

Q3 Financial Checklist

In 2004, a NASA pilot named David Oberhettinger was flying himself and two passengers toward Palm Springs in California.  Just as he was about to radio the nearest airport for permission to land, a “dense black smoke” began to fill his cockpit.1  It was immediately clear what was wrong: An electrical fire had broken out in his plane.

Nobody wants to panic at 8,000 feet above the ground.  Luckily, Oberhettinger kept his head and immediately swapped his Descent for Landing checklist for the In-Flight Electrical Fire checklist.  It listed five specific steps for averting disaster: (1) Master Switch to Off (2) Other Switches (Except Ignition) to Off (3) Close Vents/Cabin Air (4) Extinguish Fire (5) Ventilate Cabin.

As Oberhettinger later described it, completing the checklist “took maybe 90 seconds.” 1  The rest of the flight was a smooth, uneventful landing.  For Oberhettinger, the crisis “hardly caused a significant increase in heart rate, because I just followed the checklist.” 1 

There is a real power in checklists.  They can prevent us from panicking, or from having to rely on our memory more than we have to.  They prevent us from making the wrong decision at the worst time.  And while the checklists we create as financial advisors don’t usually involve the life-or-death drama of a pilot checklist, they are vital all the same.

With that in mind, we’ve created a new checklist specifically for the third quarter of the year.  This checklist has six steps.  Don’t worry, they’re not difficult!  You may have handled some already.  Others may not even apply to you.  But each task is important in its own way.  Put them all together and you will be more likely to enjoy a smooth and uneventful flight towards your financial goals.  And while you won’t be able to complete the checklist in 90 seconds, 90 days should be more than ample.  As always, if you need help or have questions about any of these, please let me know.  In the meantime, we hope you have a great third quarter…and a wonderful summer!


Q3 Financial Checklist for 2024

Tip: Print this out and stick it on the fridge or somewhere else it will be seen.  That way, you can check off the items one by one as you complete them! 

  • Reprioritize Your Goals

    With the year now half over – where did the time go? – you may find that you have already accomplished some of the goals you set for yourself this year.  Others may be behind schedule; some may still just be words on paper.  That’s okay!  Working towards our goals should always be a marathon, not a sprint.  That makes this a good time to reprioritize your goals.  Do you have new goals that you didn’t have in January?  If so, write them down. Are there older objectives that need to be given more attention?  If so, determine where they need to be placed on your schedule.  By doing these things, you can ensure that the back half of 2024 is as productive and fruitful as possible. 

  •  Fund Your Child/Grandchild’s Education

    It’s summer vacation now, but Back-to-School season will be here before you know it.  If you have any children or grandchildren whom you want to ensure receive a higher education, use Q3 to either set up a new education funding account or contribute to one you already have.  From 529 Plans to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, you have many options to choose from.  The key is choosing the right one for you, and then contributing to it consistently.  Please let us know if you need any guidance on this – we’d be happy to help!

  •  Check Your Credit Reports

    Credit reports aren’t just for getting loans – they’re a handy early-warning system for fraud and identity theft.  A good rule of thumb is to check your credit reports at least once per year.  If you haven’t checked yours yet in 2024, now is the best time to do so.  Be on the lookout for recent changes that don’t look familiar to you as well as “hard inquiries.”  This is when a business checks your credit report because they received a new application for credit or services.  These can impact your score and stay on your reports for two years or so.  They can also show you when people are trying to use your information illicitly. 

  •  Review Your Beneficiaries

    If you’ve had any major life changes – or if anyone in your family has – it’s a good idea to conduct a “beneficiary audit.”  Is everything still accurate and up to date?  If not, adjust your will and estate plan now so that your loved ones will always be taken care of, and your legacy ensured. 

  •  Pay Off Any Debts Incurred Earlier This Year

    It’s not uncommon to rack up debts during the first half of the year.  From vacations to home renovations to new purchases, it’s easier than ever to reach for the nearest credit card.  There’s nothing wrong with that – so long as those debts don’t linger and grow.  Pay them off now, if possible — or at least make a dent — so they don’t weigh you down as you work toward your long-term goals. 

  •  Evaluate Your Auto-Pay Bills

    Finally, if you’ve placed bills on autopay, be sure that the card or bank account the various companies have on file is correct.  Review whether certain bills have gone up, and whether there are less expensive options to consider.  And be sure to cancel any subscriptions you no longer need!


“Why do I love checklists? Because in 2004 a checklist helped avert what could have been some serious unpleasantness. And because rather than letting my imagination run amok to my detriment (otherwise known as “panicking”), effective use of checklists allow me to direct my imagination to more productive purposes.” 

— David Oberhettinger, former NASA Pilot and Chief Knowledge
Officer Emeritus at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory1

1 David Oberhettinger, “Why I Love Checklists,” NASA, appel.nasa.gov/2015/08/26/my-best-mistake-david-oberhettingers-why-i-love-checklists/

Election Misconceptions

The noise can be deafening. It seems to come from everywhere, all the time. It can cause headaches, frustration, even anxiety. Sometimes, you wish you could turn it off altogether.

No, we’re not referring to whatever music the kids are listening to these days. We’re referring to the noise surrounding the upcoming presidential elections.

Election season is one of the most important aspects of our political system, but there’s no doubt that getting through it can be stressful. All of us, at some point, will wonder things like, “What if my preferred candidate doesn’t win?” “Who is my preferred candidate, anyway?” “Does so-and-so really mean this?” “Did so-and-so really say that?” “What’s fact and what’s fiction?”

One thing you shouldn’t have to worry about is how the elections will affect the markets. Every four years, many misconceptions arise about the impact of presidential contests on your portfolio. These often lead to unnecessary anxiety for investors. As financial advisors, our goal is to ensure our clients feel confident about their financial future, not worried. That’s why we send educational messages like this one. Let’s explore three common misconceptions about election season and the markets.

The first misconception is that presidential elections lead to down years in the markets. It’s understandable why we might feel this way. When we look back at past elections, the first things we remember are probably the controversies, uncertainties, and negativity. Election years feel volatile in our minds and memories, usually because there’s so much drama and so much at stake.

But statistics prove this misconception is a myth. Since 1944, there have been twenty presidential elections. In sixteen of those, the S&P 500 experienced a positive return for the year.1 In fact, the median return for presidential election years is 10.7%.1 Of the four election years that saw a negativereturn, two did occurin this century – in 2000 and 2008 – but on both occasions, the nation was either entering or in the midst of a significant recession.

Now, we do sometimes see increased volatility in the months leading up to an election. If we just look at how the S&P 500 performed from January through October in a presidential election year, the median return drops to 5.6%.1 That’s not bad, but it is nearly 50% lower. This suggests the uncertainty over who will triumph in the election – and the debate over what each candidate’s policies will mean for the economy – does tend to have at least some effect. Then, as the victor is announced and the picture becomes a little clearer, volatility tends to subside, and investors move on to other things. So, in that sense, election season does matter, but nowhere near what the media may have you believe. Elections are just one of the many ingredients in the gigantic stew that is the stock market…and they’re far from the most important.

The second misconception is that if one candidate wins, the markets will plummet. This narrative is, frankly, driven by pure partisanship. The fact of the matter is that the markets have soared under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Naturally, they’ve occasionally soured under both parties, too. Since 1944, the median return for the S&P 500 in the year after a presidential election is 9.8%.1 Since 1984? The median return rises to over 24%.

The reason for this is because of that gigantic stew we mentioned. You see, the markets are driven by the economy more than by elections. By the ebb and flow of trade, the law of supply and demand, by innovation and invention, by international conflict and consumer confidence. And while the president does have an influence on all this, it’s just one of many, many influences. As a result, the markets are far more likely to be affected by inflation and whether the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates than by the election.

When you think about it, the markets are like life. The course our lives take isn’t determined by one gigantic decision, but by the millions of small decisions we make every day. The same is true for the markets. We don’t know about you, but we find this comforting.

The third misconception is that we have no control over any of this, and thus, no control over what happens to our portfolio.

It’s true. We can’t dictate who the president will be. We can’t determine how the markets will react. But what we can control is what we will do. And that, is a mighty power indeed.

There’s a reason we began this email by referencing noise. As investors, one of the keys to long-term success is filtering out the noise and focusing on what reallymatters. You see, the goal of all political campaigns – and the media that covers them – is to create noise. That’s because noise provokes emotions. Fear. Anxiety. Anger. A greater emotional response leads to more clicks, more views, more shares, more engagement…and, yes, more money. It’s understandable why campaigns and the media want these things. But what we must guard against is letting those emotions drive our financial decisions. Emotions promote the urge to do something – buy, sell, get in, get out, take on more risk, less risk, you name it. They prompt us to make short-term decisions to alleviate what is, when you think about it, a short-term concern.

A presidential term lasts four years. But the goals you have saved for, and the time horizon you have planned for, lasts much longer than that. That’s why our investment strategy is built around the long-term. It’s designed to help you not just tomorrow, or next month, but years and years from now. It’s designed so that the president of the United States, as important as he or she may be, is only a passing mile-marker on the much longer road to your goals and dreams.

As we approach another election, keep this in mind: tune out the noise. Be aware of these misconceptions and avoid them. Our team is here to answer your questions and provide any assistance you need. If you’d like help planning for your financial future, give us a call. We’re always here to help.

Have a great summer!

1 “Election year market patterns,” ETRADE, us.etrade.com/knowledge/library/perspectives/daily-insights/election-stock-patterns

5 Financial Regrets

This is about common financial regrets. It lists five specific regrets that many people have, three of which were found to be especially common in a recent Forbes study. The infographic also covers how to avoid these regrets, and we you can help.

Questions You Were Afraid to Ask #13

The only bad question is the one left unasked. That’s the premise behind many of our recent posts. Each covers a different investment-related question that many people have but are afraid to ask. In our last post, we discussed what it means to invest in commodities and how regular investors do so. So, without further ado, let’s break down:

Questions You Were Afraid to Ask #13:
What are the pros and cons of investing in commodities?


As we covered in Question #12, a commodity is a physical product that is either consumed or used to produce something else. For example, corn, sugar, and cotton are all agricultural commodities. Pork, poultry, and cattle are livestock commodities. Oil, gas, and precious metals like gold and silver are commodities, too.

A commodity is generally seen as an alternative investment. Traditionally, large institutions and professional traders are the most likely to invest in commodities, but regular people can, too. Like every type of investment, though, there are both potential benefits and risks that come with commodities. Some of these are very specific to commodities.

First, let’s look at some of the pros of investing in commodities:

Diversification. As you know, all types of investments will rise and fall in value at different times. That’s why it’s important that your portfolio consists of diverse asset classes, each driven by different factors. (Financial advisors like us refer to this as having low correlation, meaning price changes in one asset don’t affect the price of another asset.)

Typically, commodities have a low correlation to stocks and bonds. Every type of commodity is affected by different economic factors. Most of those don’t usually affect, say, stocks. For example, while changing interest rates can have a major impact on stocks, they don’t have a direct effect on cotton prices. And though a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico can dramatically impact oil prices, it usually doesn’t mean much to the overall stock market.

For these reasons, investing in commodities can add valuable diversification to your portfolio.

Diversification is important because it can help cushion your portfolio from major volatility. If one asset class takes a hit, the others could help compensate. However, it is important to note that diversification doesn’t eliminate risk.

Hedge Against Inflation. During periods of high inflation, the price of most consumer goods and services will go up. While that can make for an unpleasant-looking receipt at the grocery store, it can be a boon to commodity investors. That’s because the price of many commodities tends to go up with inflation. As a result, investing in commodities can help “hedge” – or lessen – the risk of investing in other asset classes that may be negatively affected by inflation.

Potential for Significant Returns. Commodities can also – potentially – produce meaningful returns. Certain types of commodities will occasionally rise drastically in demand, taking their price up with them. As a result, investing in the right commodity at the right time can certainly help investors generate a significant profit!

Of course, that same potential is also behind some of the downsides to investing in commodities:

Volatility. Commodities can be extremely volatile. As you’ve no doubt seen, the price of any commodity (say, oil, or gold) can fall remarkably fast if the demand for those products falls far below their supply. For these reasons, you should only invest in commodities if you can afford to take on the…

Multiple Risks. As we mentioned, all types of investments come with risks. However, the risks associated with commodities are particularly large and varied. For example, some commodities – especially agricultural ones – are vulnerable to weather. Others can be affected by natural disasters, military conflicts, or changing government regulations. While these same factors can certainly drive prices up, they are also just as likely to drag prices down if the wrong conditions arise. Furthermore, investors have no control over these types of risks…and they are notoriously difficult to predict in advance.

No Income. Finally, commodities do not produce any income for investors the way bonds or dividend-paying stocks do. So, investors seekingincome – especially retirees – may find that the pros of commodities are just not worth the risks when it comes to fulfilling their needs.

In the end, there’s simply no “one size fits all” type of investment, and that’s especially true of commodities. While they can be a viable fit for some portfolios, every investor must look carefully at whether commodities are right for their needs, and whether the risks associated with them are more than they can afford.

So, now you know the “how” and the “why” of investing in commodities. In our next few posts, we’re going to demystify common investment–related jargon you may hear bandied about by the media. In the meantime, have a great month!

Questions You Were Afraid to Ask #12

The only bad question is the one left unasked. That’s the premise behind many of our recent posts. Each covers a different investment-related question that many people have but are afraid to ask. In this post, let’s cover a specific type of investment that people often wonder about:

Questions You Were Afraid to Ask #12:
What does it mean to invest in commodities?


In an investing context, a commodity is a physical product that is either consumed or used to produce something else. For example, corn, sugar, and cotton are all commodities. We generally refer to products like these as agricultural commodities. Pork, poultry, and cattle are livestock commodities. Energy products, like oil and gas, are commodities, too. So are precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum.

A commodity is generally seen as an alternative investment. Alternative investments are called that because they trade less conventionally than more traditional stocks and bonds. Despite this, many people find the idea of investing in commodities to be an attractive one. For some, it’s because it makes more intuitive sense than owning shares in a company (buying stock) or lending money to an organization (buying bonds). There’s something tangible about the idea of investing in things we see and use daily. By comparison, stocks and bonds can feel a little more abstract. For others, investing in commodities is a way of adding even more diversification to a portfolio.

That said, the question of how to invest in commodities can be an overwhelming one. Most people – including experienced investors – don’t even know how to get started! So, let’s discuss some of the potential ways to invest in commodities. Then, in our next post, we’ll cover some of the pros and cons of this particular asset class.

The oldest and most basic way to invest in commodities is to physically own them. This is what traders have been doing for most of human history. Person A buys a herd of cattle from Person B, and then sells some or all of them to Person C, hopefully for a profit. Person X buys a stack of gold bars from Person Y and then sells them to Person Z. You get the idea.

This, of course, is still done today. But for most retail investors – regular folks like you and me – taking physical ownership just isn’t feasible. When you buy commodities, you must also have a way to store them. Unlike stocks and bonds, commodities take up space… usually a lot of it! You must also have a way to deliver the commodities to and fro. You’d also want to purchase insurance on the product in case something went wrong. And of course, you would need to have a lot of technical expertise to know how to trade those commodities for a fair price.

For these reasons, most investors choose one of two avenues: Buying stock in companies that produce commodities or by investing in commodity-based funds. Let’s start with the first.

Let’s say you wanted to invest in a certain type of precious metal that you feel will rise in value in the future. Obviously, for reasons we’ve already covered, you don’t want to own the metal itself. So, instead, you buy stock in a company that specializes in mining or extracting that particular metal. Should the price of that metal go up, it’s quite possible that the stock price for the company that specializes in that metal will go up, too.

Another way to invest in commodities is through commodity-based funds. You may remember our previous post on the different types of investment funds. Commodity-based funds are very similar, except they are centered around specific commodities. The fund may be comprised of a number of companies that specialize in the commodity. Some funds may even purchase and store the physical product itself if they have the means to do so. Either way, these types of funds – which can be mutual funds or exchange-traded funds – can give you exposure to whatever commodities you’d like to invest in.

There is another way that some investors participate in commodities called future contracts. These are “contracts in which the purchaser agrees to buy or sell a specific quantity of a physical commodity at a specified price on a particular date in the future.”1 So, let’s say an investor purchases a contract to buy X barrels of oil for $75 per barrel at some later date. By doing so, they anticipate the price of oil will rise above that, so their price affectively becomes a bargain. Then, when the specified date arrives, the investor accepts a cash settlement. This means the investor is credited with the difference between the initial price they paid and the current market price. This is instead of receiving physical ownership of the oil. Of course, if the price of oil goes below $75 per barrel, the investor would have to pay back that difference themselves.

Commodity futures are a complex topic, and to be honest, individual investors rarely turn to them. They are more often used by institutional investors like commodity-based funds.

So, that’s the how of investing in commodities! In our next post, we’ll get more into the why by discussing the pros and cons of commodities. As you know, all types of investments come with risks, and commodities are no exception. They’re certainly not right for everyone!

In the meantime, now you know what it means to “invest in commodities.” We look forward to diving even deeper into this topic in our next post.

1“Futures and Commodities,” FINRA, https://www.finra.org/investors/investing/investment-products/futures-and-commodities

The Watch List

Here at Minich MacGregor Wealth Management, our team has a “watch list” of economic factors, market data, and ongoing storylines that we keep an eye on.  Sometimes, we move some items up or down on the list, depending on the impact we expect them to have on the markets.  By doing this, we can ensure that you stay current with what’s going on. 

Recently, a few items have dominated our watch list that we want to update you on.  While the markets have had a good year overall – the S&P 500 gained 10.2% in the first quarter alone1 – they were somewhat more volatile in April.  That’s largely due to three factors: GDP, inflation, and what both mean for interest rates.  So, with your April statement soon to be in your hands, we figured it was a good time to explain how these factors are affecting the markets.  

Let’s start with GDP, or gross domestic product.  GDP is the value of all the goods and services produced in a given period.  Typically, a rising GDP indicates a healthy, growing economy.  Here in the U.S., GDP growth has been positive for seven consecutive quarters.  In fact, on April 25, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the economy grew by 1.6% in the first quarter of the year.2  But then a funny thing happened.  When the news came out, the markets promptly slid. 

Now, at first glance, this might seem counterintuitive.  After all, isn’t the economy growing a good thing?  If so, wouldn’t the markets go up on that news?    

The daily movement of the markets is always driven by a variety of factors.  In mathematics, we know that 1+1 always equals 2.  In physics, we know that e=mc2.  (Don’t ask us to explain why, though.)  But the markets are not governed by consistent laws.  They are driven by data, yes, but also by the context surrounding that data…and by the emotions that context provokes. 

In this case – and likely for the near future – there is a lot of context to consider when trying to parse any economic data.  In this case, the context is as follows:

While the economy expanded in Q1, that growth was much lower than economists thought it would be.  Most had forecast the nation’s GDP – the value of all the goods and services produced in a given period – would rise by around 2.4%, not 1.6%.2  And the Atlanta Fed had estimated a 2.7% gain.3 

This disparity between forecast and results was largely due to lower consumer spending.  While spending did increase in Q1, to the tune of 2.5%, this was also lower than economists estimated.2  A small decrease in exports and a slight increase in imports also dragged GDP down for the quarter.    

That brings us to the second factor, inflation.  On the same day as the most recent GDP report, the BEA also reported new data suggesting inflation may remain “sticky” for the foreseeable future.  The Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, which measures the change in the prices of goods and services purchased by all consumers in the U.S., rose by 3.4% in Q1.  That’s a big jump from the 1.8% mark we saw in Q4 of 2023.2 

Normally, the fact that the economy grew at all would still be cheered by investors, if for no other reason than what it might mean for the third factor: interest rates.  As you know, the Federal Reserve has kept rates elevated for the past two years to help bring down inflation.  Since higher rates typically lead to less borrowing and lower spending, they are effective at cooling prices down.  But when the rate hikes began, many experts thought they would also cause the economy to decline

So far, that hasn’t happened.  So, investors figured that lower inflation, combined with a strong economy, would prompt the Fed to start lowering rates in the spring or early summer.  (This expectation is one of the main reasons the stock market has performed so well over the last year.)  But with inflation trending higher again, it’s now unlikely the Fed will cut rates anytime soon.    

For investors, though, all this data suggests a new potential problem: stagflation

While inflation is never easy, the pain has been cushioned somewhat by the fact that our economy has continued to grow at a healthy rate.  But what if prices remain high while growth becomes stagnant?  That’s stagflation.  It’s rare, and to be clear, we’re still a long way from that.  But Q1’s lower-than-expected GDP, combined with an uptick in inflation, now makes it a possibility our team has added to our “things to watch” list. 

So, what does this mean going forward?  Well, it’s important to remember that, while the markets move around like a motorboat, affected by every rock and wave, the overall economy turns like an aircraft carrier.  The data we see from one quarter may not make its true effects known for months to come.  So many outcomes are still in play.  The economy may slow just enough to bring down inflation without stopping altogether.  (That would be the Fed’s preference.)  On the other hand, new factors may lead to the economy accelerating again in Q2 or Q3 while also keeping prices high.  (In other words, a continuation of the status quo.) 

It’s impossible to predict which way the ship will go.  But what we can do is track which way the markets are trending now and then follow the rules we’ve established for your portfolioIf our signals indicate we should be offensive and look for opportunities, we’ll do that.  If they indicate it’s time to play defense and focus on preserving your money, we’ll do that.  In the end, it’s these rules and signals that will govern our decisions…not parsing every economic report, and certainly not emotion. 

As always, our team will keep you apprised of what’s going on in the markets and why.  We are constantly monitoring the items on our watch list and will continue to do so.  So, if you ever have any questions or concerns, we are always here to address them.  Have a great week!  

1 “Stocks close out 2023 with a 24% gain,” CBS, www.cbsnews.com/news/stock-market-up-24-percent-2023-rally/
2 “GDP growth slowed to a 1.6% rate in the first quarter,” CNBC, www.cnbc.com/2024/04/25/gdp-q1-2024-increased-at-a-1point6percent-rate.html
3 “Stagflation fears just hit wall Street,” CNN Business, www.cnn.com/2024/04/26/investing/premarket-stocks-trading-pce-stagflation/index.html

The Pale Blue Dot

On February 14, 1990, the Earth was being watched. 

The object watching Earth was small; small enough to fit inside a four meter-large cube.  And it was distant, being over 3,000,000,000 miles away.  It is even farther away now—in fact, it recently became the first man-made object in history to venture into interstellar space. 

It was the Voyager 1 spacecraft. 

Voyager 1 is a probe built by NASA, launched in 1977 to study the outer Solar System.  Its primary mission was to study the planets Jupiter and Saturn and their various moons.  Having accomplished this, the probe is now winding down its secondary mission, which is to study the distant regions beyond the planets before it loses power and becomes destined to drift through the Universe as a mute, lonely messenger until the end of time. 

But this post isn’t about Voyager.  It’s about Earth. 

On that date in 1990, Voyager 1 had completed its primary mission.  Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer, and author, asked NASA to turn the probe’s camera around to take one last photograph of Earth and the other planets.  Between February 1 and June 6, Voyager took sixty still images.  Each image contained about 640,000 individual pixels, and as the probe was so far away, it took about 5½ hours for each pixel to reach Earth. 

The most famous of these photographs was of our home planet—now just a pale blue dot amidst the infinite blackness of space. 

If you’ve ever seen this photo, you know what a stirring, thought-provoking image it is.  Imagine our great, grand planet … filled with life, oceans, mountains, deserts, forests, and cities, reduced to nothing more than a speck.  It serves to illustrate just how small we really are compared to the unceasing vastness of the Universe.  But it also serves another, more powerful purpose. 

April 22 is Earth Day, a celebration of our planet, of nature, and of the importance of protecting the environment.  Hundreds of thousands of people will observe the event in their own way, but many more will probably fail to remember that Earth Day exists at all.  After all, there are already so many holidays demanding our time, our attention, and our money.  Most of us probably don’t even get Earth Day off from work.

And yet, we wonder if we wouldn’t attach more importance to Earth Day if we all took a few minutes, once a year, to simply look at that pale blue dot.  Because there’s something else the picture illustrates, something we should all remember. 

Take a minute, to pull up the picture on your computer.  Search for “pale blue dot” on Google® or go to this address at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot to see it directly.  After you look at the single pixel that is our planet, gaze around the edges of the image.  What do you see? 

Nothing. 

Of course, we know that the Milky Way galaxy isn’t empty.  It’s bursting with stars, cosmic rays, solar wind, clouds of dust, asteroids, comets, and even other planets.  But it contains no other life, not that we’ve found.  The closest planet potentially capable of supporting life is so far distant, it would take millions—millions!—of years to get there.  That’s longer than our species has even been alive. 

Until further notice, we are alone. 

Our pale blue dot is just one of billions in the night sky, but it is unique.  We are on an island amidst a dark, silent ocean.  An oasis inside the barrenness of space.  A single, precious garden surrounded totally by desert. 

What the pale blue dot photo really shows is that our planet is significant.  It’s all we have.  It shelters us, sustains us, provides for us, and entertains us.  If there is another world richer and more beautiful than ours, we’ve yet to find it. 

In short, we’ve been given the greatest gift of all. 

This is why Earth Day is important: because it’s our chance to reflect on what we can do to truly deserve that gift.  It is our chance to reflect on how we can protect it, because it certainly needs protecting. 

This April 22, we invite you to celebrate Earth Day.  Even if you do nothing else but feel the warmth of the Sun on your face, smell the flowers in bloom all around you, and ponder the depths of the night sky, it will be enough.

And as you celebrate Earth Day, ponder the words Carl Sagan left us about our precious, pale blue dot. 



Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (Ballantine Books, 1994)

On behalf of all of us here at Minich MacGregor Wealth Management, Happy Earth Day!