October 21, 2019

Newsworthy: A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Author: Marty Moore, CFP®

 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a biographical drama centering on the life of Mr. Rogers and his relationship with a certain reporter whose life was changed after their chance meeting will be released next month on November 22nd.  The movie stars Tom Hanks as the beloved Fred Rogers.  I’m not an avid movie-goer but this is one I intend to see.

Mr. Rogers once said:

“I’m very concerned that our society is much more interested in information than wonder – in noise, rather than silence.”

Boy, does that ever ring true in today’s society.  We’re constantly plugged in – to our phones, tablets, laptops, radios and televisions.  Sometimes I think about how few minutes during the day that I am not connected to one of these devices, sometimes more than one at a time!  There’s a lot of good and positive to how we use all this technology but it’s not all good.  I do believe we need more silence, more time to think … and wonder.

My dad was a lot like Mr. Rogers.  He died before cell phones became ubiquitous, and not long after personal computers started showing up in our offices and homes.  He relished sitting on the back porch, sometimes reading the newspaper but often sitting alone deep in thought.  I doubt a cell phone would have distracted him.  Not even a tight Washington Redskins game in the fourth quarter could keep him glued to the TV.

I’m thankful that I might have inherited a splice of my dad’s temperament gene.  I believe it has helped me to be a better financial advisor.  It has helped me to keep my emotions in check during times of distress when the markets are down 20% and clients become nervous about what the future holds.  An inner calmness doesn’t have any real connection to a market recovery, of course, but it does allow for clearer thinking; to step out of the emotional storm to allow reason and rationality some space to become part of any decision and the decision-making process.

The markets are doing okay at the moment, but we are now heading headlong into what will surely be a long lasting and intense political storm leading into the presidential election next year.  After watching much of the Democratic debates recently I couldn’t help but wonder how Mr. Rogers might view politics these days.  You might think he would just ignore it all, but I don’t think so.  His TV show personality revealed little of his depth of character and the wisdom he possessed that I’m sure the movie will bring out.  I feel sure he would be the type that would want to understand both sides, much like my dad did.  My dad was a lifelong Republican and he could be staunch in his views, but he wasn’t close-minded.  He was willing to listen, and he would try to understand opposing views and perspective.

I came across the following graphic recently and found it to be interesting, and instructive.  It’s a very busy illustration of the major media outlets plotted on a graph that spans the ultra liberal to ultra conservative spectrum as well as where the particular source falls on reporting standards, from the purely sensational clickbait to the more complex, fact-based (short on opinion).  It’s from the website Political Calculations.  Where they have placed the various outlets is surely subjective (opinion) but I don’t find much fault here.

 

 

As I studied this, and thought about the implications, I immediately hoped I wasn’t spending all of my time in one of the lower corners.  But there’s no best place, or right place, to be.  I’m thankful that I live in a country that allows us the freedom to choose left or right.  But I also know that I will be better educated and can only be confident in my views by spending time on both sides of the political divide.

I can’t picture a politically partisan Mr. Rogers.  What would that even look like?  I’m quite sure he would be ‘above the political fray’.

 

Boy! can we be wrong sometimes

In a recent Washington Post opinion piece by Arthur Brooks entitled “You’re probably making incorrect assumptions about your opposing political party”, Mr. Brooks points out the following survey findings.

A 2017 study in the Journal of Politics found that the average Democrat thought more than 40% of Republicans earned more than $250,000 per year.  Just 2% earn that much.

The same survey found that Republicans believe that nearly 40% of Democrats are LGBTQ.  The actual number is just 6%.

The non-profit group More in Common found that the vast majority of Republicans believe that properly controlled immigration is good for the country, which may surprise many Democrats.  They also found that a strong majority of Democrats think that the U.S. should NOT have an open border policy.  This is contrary to what most Republicans believe of the Democratic side.

We really do have ‘more in common’ than we might think.

Another interesting finding from the More in Common study also showed the effects of how much media was being consumed about politics.  Watching and reading more about politics should make us more informed and more educated, right?  Not so.  Here’s what they wrote.

People who consume news media “most of the time” are almost three times as inaccurate in their understanding of others’ views as those who consume news “only now and then”.  This is almost certainly a function of partisans’ compulsive consumption of media sources that support their existing biases.  Your political IQ is probably higher after watching reruns of “Full House” than an hour of political TV shows.

Spend some time in both the upper and left-hand quadrants.

But what if the president is impeached?

What will happen to the stock market?  We don’t have much precedent to go on.  Impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon began in May of 1974.  He resigned in August.  In the 1-year following Nixon’s resignation the S&P 500 gained 6.4%.  In the 1-year following the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 by the House, the market gained 19.6%.  (source: BTN Research)  It’s a small sample size and there were other things going on that surely affected the markets at the time.

Impeachments and otherwise, there are always things to worry about.  It seems we’re always on the cusp of the end of the world as we know it, at least when it comes to the financial markets.  Michael Lewis, best-selling author who wrote about past financial calamities that we’ve had in this country in books such as The Big Short, Flash Boys and Liars Poker, once said:

How many times does the end of the world as we know it need to arrive before we realize that it’s not the end of the world as we know it.

Stop and smell the roses

So, spend some time listening to and trying to understand the other side of the political divide.  Set aside some time for just thinking… and wondering.  Don’t miss out on the wonderment that our world has to offer.  It’s there, but seldom found on our phone screens, the internet or our favorite TV news show.

If you know where to look, and not look, it truly can be a wonderful day in the neighborhood.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

 

Marty

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