Trump-World

Inside this feeble brain resides a significant amount of skepticism.  Perhaps from age or maybe the result of life’s encounters – the result is there is a difficulty in accepting anything at face value.  Especially when it’s a moving target – otherwise known as a changing story line.  Another case in point is the curious case of ZTE (ZTCOY) which exploded into our consciousness in major form this past week due – in no small part – to tweets from the president.

To set the stage, ZTE agreed to enter a guilty plea and pay a fine to settle a 2017 case that they violated export sanctions by shipping products with US components to Iran.  On April 16, 2018 the Commerce Department enacted a ban on American companies conducting business with ZTE for seven years  as a result of ZTE allegedly breaching said settlement.  In addition, the US military had previously raised concerns of potential espionage by ZTE’s equipment on or near military bases.

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The First Job

My granddaughter got a job.  Her first job – outside of babysitting.  She’s finding that responsibility now has a much broader meaning with planning, scheduling and developing her work ethic.  She’s certainly experiencing a rude awakening insofar as her sleep schedule is concerned.  Gone are the days of Snap chatting until the wee hours of the morning and being able to function at peak performance.

While she doesn’t have a burning desire to obtain her driver’s license (preferring to be chauffeured), she’s one of the first in her peer group to become employed.  While some of her friends were looking to become summer camp staff, her ordered list of priorities included:

  • Air conditioned
  • No cleaning of bathrooms
  • Preferably, not food service
  • Starting wage greater than minimum wage
  • Slight schedule flexibility regarding school events

These goals were met and a job offer provided during her very first interview.  Ever.  (If you can’t tell, I’m a proud grandpa)  🙂

Since she is Gen-Z kid, I had to do a little research on her nature and whether it is atypical for her generation.  In George Beall‘s Huffington Post article, the eight characteristics compared, (Gen-Z to millennials), fit her to a T.  While this job may only be fleeting (likely entrepreneur?), I was flat out shocked that she received Day 1 eligibility (auto enrolled) to her companies’ 401K with a 50% match.    Back in my day there was a two year wait for  eligibility.  Talk about a game changer.  She may experience a roll-over years before I ever did.

The one negative is the limited selection for investment options, but I consider the match an offset to this.  Plus there is profit sharing.  As a private company there are no stock purchase options.

If you ask her, she’ll swear I always look to profit from all the angles.  She could only shake her head and groan when I pointed out her retirement plan was provided by a subsidiary of Great-West Life which in turn is 66% owned by one of my companies – Power Corp. of Canada.

Proxy Time!

It’s the time of year when winter is but a memory (for most of us), taxes have been filed and proxies are filling our mailboxes.  As I review the filings and determine how to cast my votes, I’m struck with one of these off-the-wall thoughts that hit me every now and again.  I wondered how much was earned – and the margins derived – via the annual proxy season. I didn’t delve into the number of trees sacrificed though I’ll wager it’s fewer than before electronic transmissions.

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An Historic Day

marchlifeToday saw worldwide protests to demand that student’s lives and safety become a priority by ending gun violence and mass shootings – starting with schools.  The movement, born of tragedy, has morphed into a cause not dissimilar to the ones I saw during the Vietnam war – sans violence.  These protests seek to place the spotlight on Congressional inaction and President Trump’s failure of leadership to prevent further violence.

In a surprising twist, these students have already succeeded in gathering the support of at least one leading Republican donor, perhaps dampening the hopes that this issue would subside prior to the midterm elections.  Now this issue (among others) could be a front-and-center talking point ranking up there with NRA scorecards and contributions.  Perhaps the conservatives that supported Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 will rue that decision as the tables could be turning.

At the very least, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are gaining an invaluable civics lesson which crosses all the societal divides currently plaguing America today.  If their efforts gain further traction, we could be witness to a generational change agent over the long term.

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Picking Winners & Identifying Losers

It has been said many times before that attempting to time the market is a fool’s errand. One approach common with Dividend Growth Investors the one taken by DivHut which is to  “…invest in a consistent and systematic manner. Over the long haul, being invested and staying invested in the stock market gives you the best long term odds of success.”  The benefits are consistency, removing emotions and dollar cost averaging while the disadvantages – particularly if fully invested – is the reduced ability to take advantage of “one day sale events” which are becoming more common.

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Dividend Increases & a Buy

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Each week I catch up on blogs, comment on a handful and generally learn a thing or two.  On occasion I take issue with a post (or a portion thereof) – and provide a (hopefully) meaningful comment.  The most recent being Lanny’s post which included, the lines:

I don’t know about you, but the dividend increases keep coming in hot, right off of the Tax Cuts, Jobs Act!  and Let’s just say tax reform has continued to be nice, as it relates to dividend increases.

The rationale for my comment being – assuming all of his US company increases were a result of the tax plan, this would be a 12.45% increase.  Not shabby by any means but a far cry from his reported total of 20.13%.  The difference being his foreign holdings which weren’t beneficiaries of a tax cut but of strength in ore prices and China shipments.  My quibble is not the numbers – only the presentation of the tax bill being a panacea for businesses.  It may well be, however the rules are still being written and the jury is still out.

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Snake(like) Investors

Being in bed following a minor medical procedure yesterday brought me full frontal to the shenanigans playing out on the ‘news’ shows.  Edited clips framed to curry favor depending on the audience is the rule.  No longer can we – the consumer – decide whether a story is right or wrong without blatant editorializing.  As Sammy Davis, Jr. aptly stated in reference to The Huntley–Brinkley Report, “My only contact with reality. Whatever I’m doing, I stop to watch these guys.”  (Life magazine, 1964).  Or as Warren Buffett writes in his recent letter, “… media reports sometimes highlight figures that unnecessarily frighten or encourage many readers or viewers.”

My contact with reality was found in the (probably edited) recitation by our president of the lyrics to a song in his speech to CPAC members.

“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in
The Snake by Oscar Brown, Jr., 1963

Applause erupted, a pregnant pause ensued, before he mentioned the words “immigration”.  I really thought he was referring to himself for a minute.  But it does provide a decent lead into this weeks’ post.

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