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Margaret Starner

Margaret’s Musings

Here’s where you’ll find Margaret Starner’s thoughts and insights on developments that shape your community, your world – and your portfolio.

Margaret Starner

In the Chinese art of Feng Shui, the red door brings luck and positive energy to those who live behind it. Throughout our website, the red door is your portal to Margaret's Musings. “Red Door with Tassel” photograph appears courtesy of Julie Masterson Photography.

| December 23, 2011 – All I Want For Christmas... |

"All I want for Christmas is my Two Front teeth" sings Kendall, my 7 year old granddaughter...and in time we know Santa will deliver. If only all future events were as simple and predictable as growing teeth!

In 2011, the world has become about as unpredictable as I can remember. Around the globe, dictators have been displaced and or rejected, public opinion has driven corporate decision-making in an unprecedented way, (witness Netflix and Bank America trying to change services/raise fees…only to backtrack due to Twitter/Facebook outrage), the Euro is dubious and natural disasters normally reserved for movies have become real and frequent. While the daily headlines give much cause for worry....many good things are happening too. Unfortunately, the headlines seem to spend precious little time focusing on good news, and perhaps more importantly, new ideas. Our politicians have dug their heels into their respective positions...but the future isn’t just about raising taxes versus reducing social services. The debate should be about creating growth and jobs that are meaningful.

In terms of the future, I can’t say what the next 6 or 12 months will hold, however, Scott, Bruce, and I are still strong believers in America’s growth story. The country has faced daunting problems before…and has always come out stronger. Though it doesn’t always feel like it, the United States experienced positive GDP growth throughout 2011...the best holiday gift we can hope for is that our politicians get out of the economy’s way.

Speaking of gifts, my grandkids always send me a long "wish list" at this time of year. On that note, I thought I would share my list:

  • More of us will listen and support the politician who will tell you the truth even if he/she can’t promise you all you want
  • More of us will have the courage to support leaders with a vision for the future and not just point the finger at all that is wrong
  • We could develop a nation of children who love learning
  • A customized health delivery system that is cost effective for all
  • A rewrite or update of regulations to be consistent with technological advances and less barrier for growth while still protecting us from corruption
  • My grandkids will learn to speak Chinese

I also asked Scott and Bruce what were their wish list for the future...

Scott’s wish list:

  • A franchise QB for the Dolphins
  • A winning season for the Dolphins
  • An NBA championship for the Heat
  • A return to majority rule in the US Senate, not 60 votes rule
  • Some politician, any politician who will actually ACT on modernizing, revising, updating our entitlement programs, not just talking about it during a campaign
  • An end to politicians having to raise close to $1 billion to run for President – a true waste of money

Bruce’s wish list:

  • The US Banks settle all of the litigation against them in an equitable manner for all parties involved…so they can get back to lending and helping the economy
  • The newly cooperative government and banking institutions institutes a program that allows borrowers who have been current on their mortgages since 2008 to refinance at today’s rates, regardless of their home equity
  • For our elected officials to agree on a simplified tax code and begin to balance our federal budget
  • The United States decides to adopt a single time zone, making trans-continental travel significantly easier
  • To not get eaten by the huge bear who attacked our trash cans last night

The Starner Group is ending the year on a good note despite the volatility and chaos in the bond and stock market. The branch is just completing a large expansion of the office which means the Starner Group will soon have larger space to work, shout, yell and collaborate. Also, the latest additions to our staff this year are Danielle Martinez and Lauren Francis. You will hear their friendly voices when you call. Please check our website for their profile.

Lastly, some of you may have thought Bruce was referring to a metaphorical stock market "bear" in his wish list. As you can see inside red circle in the picture below, that is definitely NOT the case...

Our holiday gift to our clients and friends is a contribution to Teach For America in the MS Delta.

In closing, I hope this holiday season finds you all well, happy, and enjoying time with loved ones. We look forward to seeing all of you in the New Year.

| December 8, 2011 – Taking time to be thankful...Happy Thanksgiving |

Thanksgiving has arrived...time for cooking, families and friends getting together, and a special day to pause and reflect on the many gifts of life for which we take for granted.

I had really hoped that for this Thanksgiving we would be giving thanks to the Super Committee for their commitment and energy to crafting a solution to the long term financial health of our nation. Regardless of political beliefs, this is a nation where compromise has been the pillar of strength for stability, change and growth. Thus, I begin this Thanksgiving with some disappointments. Likewise across the waters, the Europeans can’t seem to agree on much either except they are in deep financial waters. Leaders are being ousted at a rapid rate. Loss of trust in and flight from sovereign debt will make almost any economic reform extremely difficult within the troubled countries. There are yells from many corners for the ECB to begin printing Euros so that Greece, Italy and the like can get to the business of getting their nations finance in order. For now, this all hinges on whether the Germans agree.

These economic and political challenges are the headlines. However, beneath the headlines there are many who offer optimism for change and growth. And on this Thanksgiving, I am thankful that many of our brightest and youngest are working on solutions for health care and educational reform. I would like to share two personal examples...

As many of you know, I have the good fortune to be on the John T. MacDonald foundation board, a grant-making organization that provides seed money for new ideas in wide range of health related activities. Through our support we have been able to follow the progress of our initial grants in the field of Genomics and genetics at the University of Miami. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the recipients of one of our grants – Drs. Margaret and Jeffrey Vance. Their research is dedicated to using the very latest in cutting-edge technologies to map DNA and identify genes involved in human diseases, and thus improve our ability to diagnose, intervene, and prevent many human illnesses. The cost of mapping one’s DNA is dropping rapidly from very expensive to affordable. The benefits are enormous from customizing drug treatments to early prevention of dreadful diseases. This kind of cutting edge technology is repeated in many areas of health. We are on the verge of many breakthroughs in health research.

On a more grass roots note, I give thanks for the relationship that I have with the teachers we support at Teach for America (TFA).

Recently, I had a talk with Maryann, a TFA teacher in my hometown of Shelby, Mississippi, whom Roger and I have sponsored for three years. Her experience has been full of challenges, rewards, and disappointments. Of course, if her job were easy, we wouldn’t need TFA at all. She shared with me the papers her math students had written on "My Relationship with Math". Some of the essays were humorous and some were serious...however what struck me was their emotional connection that math was an integral part of their daily lives. One wrote that math at times is unfriendly and unapproachable and another wrote that they loved their relationship with math as a friend that helped make good decisions. Of course, as financial planners, math is equally important to us, as it serves as the foundation for helping us track our client’s progress towards their goals.

Maryann also spoke about how she has been heartened by the many parents who take time to meet with her to help their children despite their economic challenges. These parents know they are lucky and thankful to have someone like Maryann in their school to teach their children, even if for only a few years.

However on some of our calls, she is struggling with difficult students ("I feel like I am the warden at the local state penitentiary"), frustrated with the rigidity of testing requirements enacted by people who have never taught, angry with complacency toward poor or mediocre leadership, and above all, how after almost 3 years of dedication, so little has changed. Progress is so slow. She wonders if TFA can ever make a meaningful difference helping a few students at a time. While it is too early for her to see, I know she has students and parents who will forever be thankful that Maryann was their teacher.

Over the past three years, Maryann has changed and learned much. She has experienced intimately how much wealth our county loses when we have poor leadership and teachers who don’t have the passion or ability to teach and motivate. She also has witnessed the cost of ignorance to a whole region and to a generation of children. Her passion to make a difference is only stronger - despite her daily disappointments. She has a strong voice and that will make for change, eventually. I say "thank you" all the time to Maryann and all TFA’s for their passion and commitment. I only wish our politicians would learn as much from adversity...or could be even half as focused as Maryann on doing what is right, rather than what is expedient.

Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the end of high school and college football season. I am thankful that I grew up loving both high school and college football...that was what we did every Fall in MS. We were the Shelby High Tigers and Friday night football was the driver of the week. I never missed a game and even played in the Shelby High marching band. Many of our arch rivals in nearby towns had Chinese quarterbacks...and those were often our toughest opponents! While Shelby High has changed much since my spirit and the marching band are still important. Maryann tells me that maybe 25% of the high school students today are in the marching band.

After high school, I recall how excited I was to attend every Stanford football game on Saturday afternoons wearing my red skirt and white sweater. Win or lose, going to football games was a fun part of my college life. And while Stanford doesn’t have a history in football as illustrious as schools like Notre Dame or USC - winning a game and beating Cal is still an annual topic of discussion with my former class mates.

Roger and I were married at the Stanford Chapel by Reverend Minto, the chaplain at the time. We had to schedule our wedding so the Reverend could make it to the football game. As soon as he said "I pronounce you...." he scurried off the podium in his robe and quickly jumped on his bicycle to make it to the stadium in time for the kick off. Last week, we celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary...though sadly, Stanford was beaten by Oregon, likely killing our chances for the Rose Bowl. Still, I am thankful that Stanford has had a great season, and that our quarterback, Andrew Luck, looks to be the consensus number one pick in next year’s NFL draft.

As always, please continue to call us with any and all financial questions….and, if any of you haven’t had a chance to vote for Bruce in the American Way Road Warrior competition, please take a moment to do so -- Just click on this "VOTE NOW" link to vote and read Bruce’s entries -- you only have a few days left before voting closes! Bruce will be donating 200,000 miles to MS Delta Teach For America should he be the Grand Prize Winner. The contest ends on Nov vote now.

We at the Starner Group wish you all the best this Thanksgiving!! Thank you for being our clients, friends, and colleagues.

| October 28, 2011 – Happy Halloween |

As is often the case, this Halloween brings us both tricks and treats. On the trick side – the terrible threesome -- market volatility, European crisis, and the "do-nothing" congress -- has been exhausting and trying for even the most resolute of investors. Thankfully, this October rally is shaping up to be a nice treat for those who maintain a long-term perspective.

Speaking of treats, I decided that this Musing should be more fun and a treat. After all, our children and grandchildren are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to dress up and gather as many goodies as will fit in their bags. Why shouldn’t we adults get a few goodies of our own? In that spirit, I will share three informational goodies I recently received:

  1. Chinese Numerology and Feng Shui: From Jeff Saut and a number of friends...
    • Chinese numerology, and Feng Shui, for 2011 suggests this year we are going to experience four unusual dates: 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11 and that’s not all.
    • Take the last two digits of the year you were born, and the age you will be this year, and the result will add up to 111 for everyone! This is the year of MONEY.
    • Also, in this year, October will have 5 Sundays, 5 Mondays, and 5 Saturdays. This happens only once every 823 years.
    • These particular years are known as Moneybag Years. The proverb goes that if you send this quip to eight good friends, money will appear in the next four days. Those who don’t continue the chain won’t receive any money. It’s a mystery, but it’s worth a try. (despite my heritage, don’t know if this is true).
  2. Simplifying the national debt: From a client...

    I love it when complex things are simplified so that we can all understand. Check this out....less than 60 seconds.
    • United States Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
    • Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
    • New debt: $1,650,000,000,000
    • National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
    • Recent budget cut: $38,500,000,000

      Now, remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget.
    • Annual family income: $21,700
    • Money the family spent: $38,200
    • New debt on the credit card: $16,500
    • Outstanding balance on credit card: $142,710
    • Total budget cuts: $385

      Sorta brings the issue "home" doesn’t it?
  3. From the press:

    Forbes recently published a great article about Raymond James. Read it here:

    Forbes - "Raymond James not missing a beat under Reilly"

Well, I think that’s enough musing for today. Enjoy Halloween. If any of you have pictures of kids, grandkids, or even yourselves in costume, please send them along! And, as always, please don’t hesitate to contact us with any and all of your financial questions.

| September 1, 2011 – Happy Labor Day and Goodbye Irene |

Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer and "Back to School" time. Much of this Musing will be dedicated to my thoughts on education, but first I wanted to briefly share the history of Labor Day for those of you who are interested.

So how did Labor Day become a holiday anyway...

Labor Day became a federal holiday in the United States in 1894. The country was still reeling from the Pullman Strike, a violent conflict between railroad employees and the railroads. Over a four day period, approximately 125,000 workers went on strike, effectively crippling the railroads. Eventually, President Grover Cleveland ordered the US Army and US Marshals to break up the strike. They were successful, but not before 13 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded.

In an attempt to close the rift with labor, Cleveland proposed Labor Day become a national holiday. Congress signed the legislation into law just six days after the strike ended.

Back to School

So, that is the history of Labor Day… but to be honest, I am far more interested in discussing the future of our labor force. As we all know, millions are still without jobs. Though our labor force is a major national resource, many jobs still go unfilled due to lack of workers with skills in math and science and in some cases basic reading and reasoning. There is a general consensus that greater focus on improving educational results for our children will help build a workforce that can maintain a strong and vibrant working economy….however, not much has been said about educating or re–educating the current work force. I am encouraged by corporations who have innovative programs for training teenagers to work on high tech equipment in their plants. We should consider tax incentives or rebates to companies who will do the retraining. Despite the deficit...any long term growth strategy should include a large investment in educating and re–educating the current work force. Frankly, anyone who is collecting unemployment for more than 1 year should be required to do re–training. Many of the old jobs are not coming back.

I am much more encouraged about the future of our children in school – I guess because I have grand children who love learning and also because of my support of Teach For America (TFA). I just returned from a trip to Shelby, MS where I had dinner with the current teaching corps. Their enthusiasm and commitment to making a difference for their students continue to give me hope. I was delighted and surprised at the number of former TFA corps members who have chosen to stay in the MS Delta and are now employed by the local school districts either as teachers or leaders. Additionally a number have stayed and are now working for non–profits to improve prospects for jobs in the Delta. Some of their efforts will work and some won’t. Still...I am could I not be given the quality of these young people.

And now the investment market....

As I write this Musing, August 2011 stands to be the worst August the stock market has seen in 10 years, with the S&P 500 down nearly 6%. Though this decline was painful, you may be surprised to know that the S&P 500 is only down ~2% for the year. If any of you had a chance to listen to our recent conference call with Raymond James’ Chief Strategist Jeff Saut, you know that we remain constructive on the equity market...while recognizing that our politicians are a bit of a wild card in the short–term.

As I write this Musing, August 2011 stands to be the worst August the stock market has seen in 10 years, with the S&P 500 down nearly 6%. Though this decline was painful, you may be surprised to know that the S&P 500 is only down ~2% for the year. If any of you had a chance to listen to our recent conference call with Raymond James’ Chief Strategist Jeff Saut, you know that we remain constructive on the equity market...while recognizing that our politicians are a bit of a wild card in the short–term.

As I close this Musing, I want to briefly acknowledge those of our clients who have been impacted by Hurricane Irene. I know some of you have been without power for days...while, somewhat implausibly, those of us in Miami skirted the threat entirely.

On a personal note, next week Roger and I will be taking a river cruise from Budapest to Bucharest. Again I was honored to be one of the Top 50 Women in Wealth in 2011. Click the link for the entire list.

Please enjoy the last unofficial weekend of summer...and as always, don’t hesitate to contact us with any and all financial questions…or just to let us know what you did this summer!

| August 5, 2011 – Markets Tumble on Signs of Weakening Global, U.S. Economies |

Stocks fell sharply yesterday around the world, accelerating a widespread decline that began as the United States approached the August 2 deadline for averting default and then resumed with even more intensity after a brief rally when a debt/budget deal was reached in Washington. On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 512.76, or 4.31%, while the broader S&P 500 dropped 60.27, or 4.78%, and the tech-oriented Nasdaq declined 136.68, or 5.67%.

At yesterday's close of 1,200.07, the S&P 500 has now slumped almost 12% from its April 29 closing high of 1,360.14, putting the market into what Wall Street considers a "correction" - generally defined as a pullback of 10% to 20% (declines greater than 20% are considered bear markets). For perspective, the market experienced a 16% correction in the summer of 2010 before rebounding after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced the monetary stimulus policy widely referred to as QE2.

Although investors were cheered that the U.S. did not default, their focus quickly moved on to intensifying concerns that leaders both here and abroad have not done enough to address weakening economic growth both in the U.S. and globally. In the U.S., recent economic reports have raised fears that the U.S. economy might be in danger of tipping over into a recession. In Europe, a second major rescue package for Greece did not reassure investors, who have begun to focus on the debt problems confronting the much larger and more important economies of Italy and Spain. Investors there drove British stocks down 3.4%, while in Germany, the DAX index dropped 3.4% and in France, the CAC 40 closed down 3.9%.

Yesterday's action shows that investors are fleeing so-called "risk assets" such as stocks in favor of other asset classes they perceive as safer. Upcoming reports on U.S. employment and other economic trends will play a large role in determining whether investors can regain their confidence in the near-term. On that note, today's jobs report exceeded expectations, indicating that fundamentals may be at odds with investor confidence.

I want to assure you that we are following the markets closely and will of course continue to do so. While declines of this nature are obviously a matter of concern, it's also very important not to overreact. If you have any concerns about the current investment climate, please give us a call.

| July 29, 2011 – Debt Ceiling Musings |

"When all is said and done, more is said than done" – Lou Holtz.

I am not sending this quote because I am celebrating that we will have football this season. Nor am I sure this quote originated with Lou Holtz, the former Notre Dame head coach. Rather, I think Coach Lou's quote perfectly sums up the current debate over the national debt ceiling, which is the subject of this Musing. I warn you in advance that I plan to keep my thoughts brief – I can only add so much to the 24/7 news coverage and hundreds of articles being churned out daily on the subject.

That being said, I have witnessed many political battles during my life, however the current debt ceiling debate ranks right up there as one of the most frustrating. The discussions have been many, messy, and somewhat unbelievable. Of course, that is democracy...a system that is often messy and always allows everyone to speak their viewpoint. Still, I wouldn't trade it for any political system in the world. The current dialogue is critical...clear lines are being drawn between the parties. These lines will serve as valuable input for the electorate for the upcoming 2012 elections. Unfortunately, this voter is frustrated that we are seeing far more politicking than intelligent compromise. I fear that next week's deadline for raising the debt ceiling only serves to limit our leaders' ability to have rational and deliberate discussions.

Certainly, little doubt exists that the US must re-examine spending and commitments, as well as our tax policies. Any compromise reached by congress and the president should result in a positive game plan for growth and security for the foreseeable future. Luckily, there are no shortages of good ideas and any solution will involve some pain...I only wonder if anyone in Washington is listening. ...So let's hope that Winston Churchill was correct when he said..."Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

We have heard from many of you recently...obviously, most are worried or curious about the debt ceiling discussions. As always, Bruce, Scott, and I are happy to chat and share our thoughts on the current environment. In times like these, we continue to try to "block out the noise" and focus on fundamentals. I encourage any of you who are concerned – whether clients, friends or interested parties – please give us a call with your particular questions. We continue to monitor your portfolios diligently. And we like hearing from you.

| June 29, 2011 – Hello Big Apple!! |

Monday we will celebrate our nation's 235th birthday. My family will also be celebrating the 11th birthday of our oldest grandchild, Micaela, and the 13th wedding anniversary of our daughter, Dana. As many you know, we typically celebrate in California at Micaela's house, but since that house is in the midst of a renovation, I decided to take the entire family (all 10 of us!) to NYC for the July 4th weekend. This is essentially the first Big Apple trip for all of my grandkids and they have each made a wish list of sights to see. The Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building top their lists�funny as these were the same sights that I wanted to see on my first visit. Sadly, this year we won't be enjoying my dad's barbeque sauce and ribs, a ritual for as long as I can remember...instead, I do plan to take a bottle of the sauce for anyone to dab on their breakfast eggs...or whatever.

In other news, we just returned from our annual corporate trip with Raymond James leaders – Chairman Tom James; CEO Paul Reilly; and President Dennis Zank. Our trip this year was to Whistler and Vancouver, Canada....most beautiful scenery imaginable. Each morning we met for breakfast at 7 A.M. to discuss issues of the firm and the industry. Additionally, the firm has a highly successful subsidiary, Raymond James Ltd., Canada – much of their research is on natural resources and related industries. As a result, a number of their analysts spoke about the impact of mining, timber, and agriculture on related industries and the global markets. I thought the most interesting talk was about the competition between food, fuel, and feed for agriculture products. Though this is not the venue to explain the presentation in depth, I came away more convinced than ever that the U.S. should not be subsidizing production of corn and ethanol.

In other news, I was honored to once again be selected for Barron's top 100 Women Advisors list. This year, I was also featured in a short article. See link here:

Barron's Article

Lastly, over the years, I have collected a few interesting July 4th facts�I thought I would share them with you�please feel free to forward me others:

  • John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.

  • Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national animal but was outvoted when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson chose the bald eagle.

  • Over an estimated 150 million hot dogs will be consumed on July 4th. That's roughly one dog for every two people in the United States.

  • Calvin Coolidge is the only U.S. president born on the 4th of July. He was born in 1872.

  • "Nothing important happened today." – Diary entry by King George III on July 4, 1776

  • James K Chow, my father and creator of our famous barbeque sauce, was born on July 4, 1917

  • Micaela Cacho- Negrete, my first grandchild, was born on July 4,2000.

  • Dana Starner, my daughter, married Kenji Hashimoto on July 4, 1998.

From all of us at the Starner Group, we'd like to wish you a happy and healthy July 4th.

P.S. As an FYI, Scott, Bruce, and I will be attending the annual Raymond James Summer Development conference from July 12-July 15. This educational conference provides us with an opportunity to get the latest thinking from various industry experts and investment professionals. We always come back invigorated and full of potential ideas to evaluate.

| March 17, 2011 – The Earthquake, Tsunami, and more..... |

We all woke up this past weekend to the news of the Japan earthquake. The images were something out of a Hollywood disaster movie. According to the news, this is the most intense earthquake in over 100 years. Speaking of "most" intense, I think these last few years have been filled with more "mosts" than many of us can bear...the most brutal bear market in decades....followed by the most intense market rally in decades...the most destructive tsunami in memory...the most rapidly growing budget deficit in US history – the list goes on and on.

As I reflect on these events, I can't help but think about the tragedy (both human and financial) that many of them have brought. Beyond that, though, I also think about how the vast majority of these events seemingly came out of the blue, catching so many people by surprise. Could proper preparation have made these events more manageable? Is it even possible to plan for the unknown? If so, how does one allocate resources between the needs of today and the potential needs arising from a crisis tomorrow? For some, such as the people of Haiti, no choice exists – their collective resources were insufficient to raise the populous from poverty before the Earthquake. Japan, on the other hand, is a far wealthier country – and many contingency plans were in place. For instance, nuclear reactors were immediately shut down once the earthquake hit. Unfortunately, the damage was so extensive that these plans were insufficient – as the threat of nuclear meltdown continues to loom.

From a financial perspective, Scott, Bruce, and I grapple with how to prepare our clients for the unknown every day. I am sure that most of you have heard one of us say "diversification is a proxy for not knowing." In other words, we preach highly diversified portfolios because we freely admit that we don't know what we don't know. To illustrate this fact, let's look at the events of the past few months. Back on January 1, how many people were predicting the massive protests and government turnover that has left the Middle East in such turmoil? Certainly, if anyone had, they would have loaded up on Oil futures, which have dramatically increased in value since the beginning of the year....until the earthquake hit...when they fell dramatically on fears that Japanese oil consumption would plummet.

Of course, financial preparation is more than just portfolio diversification. It includes prudence and risk control. We are strong proponents of properly-used insurance...whether it is term life insurance for our clients with young children or some form of long-term care insurance for our clients nearing middle-age.

Certainly, preparing for the unknown is an important part of financial planning...but even more important is planning for the known...and this is an area where so many people fall surprisingly short. For instance, I am constantly amazed by the number of people who forego proper retirement planning...either because they view it as a distant reality they can address at a future time, or simply because they prefer to focus on immediate gratification.

Fortunately, Planning is what we do every day for our clients. Too often we are learning that the "unlikely" and" outliers" occur. Bad things happen!

So, besides the obvious reasons, why is preparing for the known so important? Because...if someone is unprepared for the known, they will have no foundation/safety net to manage and survive the unknown. As bad as the situation in Japan is - and it is becoming worse by the day, I think most of us would agree that Japan is likely to recover much more quickly than Haiti. In other words, their preparation for the known puts them in a much stronger position to manage the unknown.

I watch Japan's unfolding struggles with sadness and a tinge of fear about the radiation. Having survived Hurricane Andrew, I know firsthand that enduring and rebuilding will take even more strength and resilience.

I end this Musing with a tribute to St. Patrick's Day. And also to mention that I was honored again in Barron's Feb 21 issue as one of the Top 1000 Advisors which are listed state by state.


Margaret C. Starner, CFP®
Senior Vice President, Financial Planning

| February 2, 2011 – My 30 Years & Farewell to the Tiger and Welcome the Year of the Rabbit |

January 6, 2011 marked my 30th anniversary with Raymond James. I recall how I showed up for my interview and no one knew I was arriving in the corporate office in St. Petersburg, Fl. The office was in a small building that resembled a home from the outside. Not knowing what to do with me, someone in Corporate Finance was asked to show me around until someone could be found to conduct the interview! Being unexpected turned out to be a "lucky" meeting as the folks I met that day became an important network for my success.

My timing was good. The country was experiencing galloping inflation, taxes were very high, and both were a drag on wealth creation.... creating great demand for financial planning. Plus, 1982 marked the first year of the bull market that ran until 2000.

Also in 1981, I received my CFP designation. In those days, planners were basically unknown and to many, planners were insurance peddlers or tax shelter promoters in disguise. In fact, Forbes magazine featured a monkey on one of their covers basically claiming even a monkey could be a financial planner. Ironically, I joined Raymond James at the end of the Year of the Monkey. Fortunately for me, the CFP has become the designation of choice for many who want a game plan for their financial life.

To receive the CFP designation, in addition to taking and passing rigorous courses in tax, insurance, estate planning, investments, and data gathering/organization, one must be in practice for 3 years and sit for the 2-day long CFP board exam, which routinely features pass rates in the low 50% range. I am proud to announce that Bruce Cacho-Negrete just passed the CFP board exam in November 2010 (51% overall pass rate). Now, we have three CFP's in the Starner Group to serve you. For perspective, fewer than 63,000 CFPs exist in the United States. In the past year, we have also had a complete change in our staff. We now have Alex, Josh, and Alicia. Again, please visit our web site to find out about them.

The Chinese New Year begins February 3rd. Our Feng Shui sources tell us that while still bumpy, the Rabbit Year (rabbits do hop up and down) will be a much calmer year than the Tiger. Still, the Tiger ends upon a high note for most of us who were born in the Tiger year (I am a Tiger!). At the same time, she is going out roaring as we witness the unusual snow storms in the Northeast and riots in Egypt.

While the Chinese believe in education, wisdom and hard work, they also believe that luck plays a huge role in wealth and health. Chinese New Year's is the most important holiday celebrated in China and most of the rituals are about enhancing your luck for the year. However, if you review the rituals, most really boil down to displaying good habits and being a good person. The rituals are made more fun by having a great feast and the celebration is not just one day but for 15 days. After all, it takes time to prepare for good luck!

Some of the rituals are:

  • Clean the entire home to get rid of all the things that are associated with the old year. Sweep away last year's bad luck. This must be done before New Year's Day. No cleaning on New Year's Day.
  • Pay all your debts.
  • Resolve differences with family members, friends, neighbors and business associates.
  • Buy the following:

Red envelopes (to give money to children and widowed aunts); oranges and/or tangerines; circular candy tray, flowers (especially plum blossom, peach blossom, water lily); and a new set of clothes and shoes for children, preferably something red or orange. You must have your hair washed by New Year's Eve so you will look your best all year. After all, appearance counts too!

If you are interested in knowing what the Chinese Zodiac predicts for you this year, send us your date of birth and we will send you your feng shui prognostication.

Raymond James' Annual Report is hot off the press and the title this year is "Well-Planned" which continues the narrative of a firm that not only has grown in my 30 years, but also survived the recent economic downturn. You will be able to find a copy of the Annual Report on my website under "News", available this Friday, February 4th. Also you will find a picture of me on page 12 for being on the Barron's Top 100 Women Advisors list.

Again, Happy New Year of the Rabbit!


Margaret C. Starner, CFP®
Senior Vice President, Financial Planning