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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.


| November 25th, 2015 – Stanford MIT and Happy Thanksgiving |

In the past month I had the pleasure of visiting two great institutions of learning: Stanford and MIT. The great thing about teaching and research institutions is their focus on improving the future. I am very excited to share my experiences.

My trip to Stanford...

was for my class reunion. I must brag...there are probably no other colleges that host reunions that are as fun and interesting as Stanford...so I try never to miss one. Not only do we reunite every 5 years with classmates but there are also many "classes without quizzes" taught by the top professors which we can choose to attend for 3 days. The choices are overwhelming and the challenge is picking which ones to attend. I always leave wishing for more and remembering how much I loved learning from the best.

Of the many classes I attended, my favorite was: "Disrupting Biotech: The Silicon Valley Approach". The class was taught by Vijay Pande, a professor of chemistry, structural biology and computer science. He discussed how the development of software and artificial intelligence has impacted, and will continue to impact, biotech, which is a notoriously challenging and risky enterprise.

Dr. Pande's talk was quite technical and candidly, I cannot describe the algorithms or the software he discussed. In layperson's terms, he introduced the dilemma of developing and bringing new and improved drugs to market by comparing Moore's law to Eroom's law. Moore's law implies that computer power will be 4 times faster and cheaper every three years. Eroom's law (Moore spelled backwards) implies that the cost of developing a new drug doubles every 9 years. The number of new drugs approved per billion US dollars spent on R&D has halved roughly every 9 years since 1950, falling around 80-fold in inflation-adjusted terms. Basically more drugs were introduced, approved faster and cheaper in 1950-60 than in the last 10 years. Pande believes that artificial intelligence software, combined with big data and cloud computing, can make drug trials faster and more reliable and thus cheaper. While software cannot eliminate the need for human trials, the cost of cloud computing is getting close to zero and computational power can make the trials more reliable, quicker, and less costly. This will be especially so with "personalized" drugs. My hope is that in the future, a new cancer drug could cost $3,000 or $30 per month rather than $30,000!

In a future Musing, I will share an expert panel discussion on Inequality to Equal Opportunity...a multi-perspective on a much-discussed issue today.

My trip to MIT...

was equally engaging and easier to understand and apply. I had the opportunity to visit the MIT Age Lab with a group of Raymond James women advisors. This department, founded and run by Dr. Joseph Coughlin, is the first multi-disciplinary research program created to understand the behavior of the age 45+ population; the role of technology; and the opportunity for innovations to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families. People in developed countries are living better and longer. Longevity is a new phenomenon and most of what we know is anecdotal. Dr. Coughlin says that most of us at the age of 65 will likely have 20+ good years of living...and he's interested in what and how to enhance those years. His department is supported by grants from diverse companies such as Proctor and Gamble, CVS, and financial firms such as Hartford Insurance - all interested in how to develop products and services for the aging Boomers and others to come. As advisors, we are interested in meeting the financial challenges and the new decisions that come with longevity. No doubt what we learned will become part of your financial planning...so there will be much to discuss in future meetings. And to some degree, what we learn from our planning discussions with you will become data for the Age Lab too. I am particularly excited about our connection with Dr. Coughlin and the Age Lab as his research will be an important resource for us and you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Finally...this week we will be celebrating and enjoying Thanksgiving with our friends and families. Given the tragedies and atrocities that have dominated the headlines these past couple of weeks, I would like to share an article "Choose to be Grateful, It will make you Happier".

| October 16th, 2015 – Feeling Special |

My earliest memories of interaction with a doctor are with family doctors and nurses in rural MS. And all my memories with doctors were good. After all, the shots were given by the nurses! My first memory was seeing my little sister delivered at home by Dr. White...she was the third child and at the time, my parents didn't have enough money to go to the hospital. So the doctor made a house call. Thankfully, over time, our access to health care improved. The doctors in town were all customers of our family store and my family could afford to pay. If I didn't feel well or had a wart on my hand, I would just stop by the doctor's office, tell him my problem, get treated, and go on my merry way. All of the immunizations were administered by the school nurse, who came periodically. As far as I know, all the shots were free. And since the shots were given at school there was no way to avoid the shots. This easy access continued for many years - even after my college graduation, I could still pop in to the doctor's office whenever I was in town for a visit. The bill was always sent to my family and was always paid. My youthful experiences with the health delivery system felt safe, personal, and easy. All that began to change with the introduction of Medicare in 1965 and the growth of health insurance. The delivery of health care services today seems complicated, time consuming, and certainly less personal and more costly every day. The fault is shared - some blame regulations, high cost, lack of access, advancement of medical sciences, specialization, demographics, and the power of the insurance companies...or some combination thereof. Furthermore, since Obamacare provides more people with access to medical care, the ability for providers to deliver care in the way we would like is even more challenging. And though the costs are soaring, we all want more services from our providers. In my opinion, the biggest pressing problem is how any of us or the government will be able to pay for health care and still have a high level of personal care. Now, I know that we can't go back to the country doctor model in MS (though we are seeing medical house calls make a bit of a comeback), but I still hope .....

The good news is that lots of smart people and companies are concerned about this problem and are working on solutions. Some ideas are very promising, such as the proliferation of walk-in clinics by drug stores such as CVS and Walgreens. On the CVS website, it reads...."the company is transforming health care by delivering breakthrough products and services that enable people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable, effective ways. As part of this deep commitment to public health, in 2014 the company announced the landmark decision to be the first major retail pharmacy to eliminate tobacco sales in all of its stores. To reflect this broader health care commitment the company subsequently changed its corporate name to CVS Health." I think it helps that the CEO of CVS began his career as a pharmacist. Many top ranking Walgreens executives began as pharmacists as well.

15 years ago, the John T. MacDonald Foundation (JTM) funded and created (in partnership with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine) a school-health initiative program to provide comprehensive health-care services to students from K-12 in one school feeder pattern. My childhood experience was part of my inspiration for promoting such a bold initiative. Today, I continue to promote and chair the JTM School Health Initiative committee. The program has had great success in providing a wide range of health care services right in the schools to students with limited or no access to health care. Just as important, children are learning about health and having positive experiences with health care providers at a young age. In the long run, the dividends will be a thousand-fold.

We will need many more of these little beginnings to figure out how to make affordable health care services wide-spread... and my belief is that solutions will come from little foundations like the John T. Macdonald Foundation, entrepreneurs, and companies who can profit by servicing the masses in a personal and easy way.

My optimism is supported by a recent experience with taking Roger, my husband, to the Cleveland Clinic for open heart surgery...which I mentioned in my last Musing. As an aside...thanks to the many who sent good wishes, cards, and calls. Roger has pretty much recovered...and has continued to love his popsicles. The Cleveland Clinic is a hospital of 40,000+ employees that has managed to deliver thousands of heart surgeries annually with remarkable precision while making each patient and caretaker (such as I) feel informed, special, and important. Interestingly, we only saw the surgeon twice - once at a meeting the day before the surgery and once after the surgery was completed. While we would have enjoyed more interaction with the surgeon, his able physician assistant and team made sure we never had a doubt about what was happening and made sure I understood how to care for Roger post-surgery. As a result, I became a pretty confident caretaker, despite my lack of experience. As part of the Cleveland Clinic process, Roger has online a personal portal which details everything that was done during his surgery, his medications, and even a place to ask questions. This portal can be shared with any of his other medical providers here in Miami. I didn't have to remember any of those details. Across the country, other medical practices, including many of my doctors, have adopted similar personal portals. Technology is playing a big role in not only delivering medical services, but in having an informed patient and family. These few experiences are not common yet, but are proliferating...and I do believe we will eventually see a uniquely American health-delivery system that is going to come close to how I felt as a kid in rural MS. A system that is personal, accessible, informed, and hopefully affordable.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

| July 2nd, 2015 – Happy July 4th 2015 |

July 4th is here again…time to savor the yummy ribs and chicken cooked with my Dad's special homemade barbeque sauce. For long time readers of my Musings, you are accustomed to my excitement every July 4th. This year we will be celebrating Micaela's (oldest granddaughter) 15th birthday, daughter Dana's 17th wedding anniversary…and we never forget that July 4th was my Dad's birthday too…which was celebrated every year with whomever showed up at our home on Highway 61 in Shelby, MS. He would be 98 this July 4th and the USA will be 239 years old.

We will depart from my usual Musing to bring you a special treat.....

On July 2nd, Linda Kauss, long-time Starner Group client and friend, retires from her post as the Supreme Court and Justice Department Editor at USA Today. Linda was there from the beginning of USA Today as a national newspaper. There was no guarantee the paper could succeed…now the paper is 32+years old. Given Linda's long tenure in Washington DC and the recent Supreme Court historic week, I grabbed at the opportunity to share her story with you for my annual July 4th Musing.

MCS: Linda, I am so flattered you agreed to be interviewed for my July 4th Musing. Let's start!

Tell us about when you first started with Gannett and the variety of jobs you have held over the years.

LK: I started in early 1983; just a few months after USA today started publishing. I was actually hired prior to the launch, but I was teaching a college journalism course and needed to finish the semester. At that time, USA Today was only in 4 cities, and management was slowly rolling the newspaper out across the country.

My first job was working in the "Life" section as the Health and behavior editor. After a few years, I was promoted to Deputy Managing Editor of "Life" - where I was responsible for all non-entertainment content. Today, "Life" is exclusively entertainment, but back then, it included many different topics - medicine, psychology, health, technology, etc. Eventually, management realized that having all of that "serious stuff" in the entertainment section wasn't so comfortable to the reader, so it was moved into the "News" section.

Three years ago, I took over the Supreme Court, White house, and Justice Department. However, once Obamacare was implemented, healthcare policy became such a huge subject that I didn't have enough time to cover the rest of the White House. So, my responsibilities changed to Health Care policy, Supreme Court, and the Justice department. I stayed in that job until my retirement.

MCS: I grew up in the generation that read the newspapers (at least 3 papers) every morning with my coffee and my news magazines every evening before going to bed. Today…I do the same but read fewer papers and much fewer magazines…..and I get tons of information thru social media and the internet. How has all this change impacted how you think about what and how you choose to write?

LK: When I first started, the USA Today staff was a very young crew - no one over 35. Also, unlike other papers, we had no subscriptions. That meant we had to sell the paper out of newspaper boxes every day. All anyone could see was the top half of the front page, so we had to make sure that top half was exciting. Every day we had to get people to buy again. It was a novel concept, but people eventually came around…the advertisers took even longer. We lost a lot of money those few years. Al Neuharth (USA Today founder) called it "investing." What really led us to success was when we started selling to hotels and the airlines. Also, back then, USA Today was a Monday-Friday paper, which meant we had every Friday and Saturday off. Once you passed deadline on Thursday night, you were free!

USA Today was also the first newspaper to print by satellite. This allowed us to have a much later deadline - sports fans loved that - they could get west coast scores.

Today, almost everyone prints via satellite. And even if they didn't, information is available instantly on the internet. Since this is the case, everything now has to be reported so fast and on so many platforms. Literally, everyone has to work all the time. The news cycle is 24/7 and journalists never really have time off. Reporters do a lot more today than they ever did in the past. They often take their own photos and videos; they stand up in front of TV Cameras; advertise on Facebook, etc. Editors do more too. I tweet out every story that my reporters write.

Most people may not notice it, but newspapers today have lot fewer pages than in the past. Most in-depth reporting is on line now. What you see in the papers is often what was online yesterday, just rewritten to be newer.

Today's environment is good and bad - we know there is more competition, so we are faster and more succinct, but in some subject areas, like the Supreme Court, there is so much in-depth info that we can't share it all anymore in print, so online is where you get the whole picture.

MCS: You have worked in Washington, DC for how many years? How has your or your peers' relationship changed with the political world over the many years?

LK: I have been in Washington DC for 32 years. During this time, the government has become so much less transparent. The political parties are so divided and have such a deep mistrust of the press and each other. In the past, conservatives talked much more to liberals and vice-versa. The press really benefitted from that. Now, the relationship with reporters has changed. Politicians don't need the traditional media in the same way anymore. With technology, they go right to the public on their own. Many politicians used to spend weekends in DC, but now most tend to leave over the weekends.

MCS: This has been an historic week for the Supreme Court. How does it compare to other memorable weeks?

LK: I have never been involved in something this historic. This past week affects more people's lives than anything I can remember.

MCS: We are about to celebrate the 4th of July...which is very big in my family. Do you have any memorable July 4th stories that you covered?

LK: To be honest, my most memorable 4th of July story comes from my family, not the newspaper. The year was 2002, the first 4th of July after 9/11. All week, the media had been publishing stories about the rumors of new terrorist attacks that would happen on the 4th. The biggest stories were about a potential attack on the National Mall during the annual firework display. As a result, most people planned to stay away. That year, my twin nieces (12 years old) happened to be visiting us in DC with their parents. They pleaded to go to the Mall for the fireworks. At first I said no, but they were persistent and kept telling me "we are not afraid."

As they pleaded, I thought "if they are not afraid, how can I be afraid?" So, we talked to their parents for permission and once we received it, we headed for downtown. The security was enormous and it took us a long time to get to the Mall. But once we did, it was nearly empty. My nieces wanted to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, so we did. The show was remarkable and my nieces will never forget it. I know I won't either.

MCS: I have spoken frequently that today retirement doesn't mean "retirement" in the traditional sense of our parents and grandparents. You are officially retired from USA Today....what are your next plans?

LK: We recently purchased a beach home on the North Carolina Outer Banks. For now, I am ready to spend part of the summer relaxing at the beach and tending my garden. I am thinking about getting a Master Gardener's certificate so that I can volunteer in the DC public gardens. I might also look into teaching adults English as a second language. But first, I want to go to sleep every night without turning on an alarm clock!

MCS: Thanks Linda. We have enjoyed your friendship for many years and look forward to helping you and your fabulous husband Clark enjoy the next phase of your lives.

Please note that our offices, along with the financial markets, will be closed Friday, July 3, for the Independence Day holiday. Of course, you can access your account(s) using Raymond James Investor Access at any time, year-round.

In closing…if you are in LA near Bruce's house on July 4th…please stop in for some barbeque and to see the fireworks from the top of his hill.

| June 23rd, 2015 – Scott's Journey to Omaha |

Last year, I had Bruce guest muse for us his exciting trip to Omaha Beach, Normandy. As luck would have it, Scott just returned from his trip to Omaha - although his travels were much closer to home. I'll have Scott share his story of why he journeyed to Omaha, Nebraska:

Thanks Margaret.

Last week I attended the College World Series (CWS) in Omaha, NE to root on the University of Miami baseball team. I have been a UM baseball fan since I was a kid, having attended Ron Fraser's baseball camp when I was around 10 years old and going to games at Mark Light Field with my dad all the time during my childhood. I watched UM win the CWS several times on TV, always thinking it would be a fun sporting event to attend one day.

2015 was the year I made it to Omaha for the first time and for a very special reason - to see Sam Abrams. Sam is the son of our close family friend, Lisa, and a middle relief pitcher for the Canes. As the Canes held steady in the top 10 in the nation much of the year Lisa and I often discussed traveling to Omaha if the Canes made it. Well on the "strength" of Sam's arm, the Canes won the Super Regional a few weeks back and punched their ticket to Omaha. See attached link to Miami Herald article about his magical performance and UM's advancement to CWS. A day later my travel plans were set.

I stayed at the team hotel in Omaha and sat with many of the player's families in the stands at the two games I attended. One of the nice things about this experience was witnessing the camaraderie of the players' parents. Since many of the UM players hail from South Florida, their families have attended many games together over the years and know each other quite well. In fact, the players' parents seemed to form their own team, rooting for each other's kids and supporting each other during good times and bad. This was very special to watch.

An unexpected perk of sitting amongst the families was that the ESPN camera focused on us during the game against Arkansas last Monday. Throughout the game, I received numerous texts of TV screenshots from my sons and friends showing our group on the ESPN broadcast. One benefit of the ability to pause live TV, I guess. See the picture below of us on TV as UM's Jacob Hayward knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.


Celebrating Hayward's winning run on ESPN

Although the Canes were ultimately eliminated Wednesday night, my first visit to Omaha was a great experience and a lot of fun. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Omaha. Within a few blocks of our hotel were lots of cool restaurants and bars in the Old Market district as well as TD Ameritrade Park, where the games were played. Across the street from the ballpark is the CenturyLink Center. For those of you who are Berkshire Hathaway fans, you may know this as the site of the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders' meeting. Margaret and I have talked for several years about attending the Berkshire meeting one day. Now that I have "scouted" out Omaha, maybe we will be on our way to Omaha the first weekend in May next year.

| June 12th, 2015 – Graduation Time 2015 |

Graduation time is here again. Congratulations to all parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles…and to the grads too! Of course, I know that most of our readers are not grads. So I am hoping that you will share this content with the new graduates in your lives.

George Bernard Shaw famously lamented "Youth is wasted on the young." Shaw was a famous playwright and the co-founder of the London School of Economics. He knew, as do I, that time is a precious asset. Likely, time is the most precious asset that comes with youth….and it is free! Of course, without perspective, time is hard for a young grad to appreciate. I will try to help with a story about one of the richest men in the world…Warren Buffet from Omaha.

Warren Buffet is 84 years old. His current net worth is around $73 billion, nearly all of which is in Berkshire Hathaway stock. Though Mr. Buffet has been rich for quite some time, his wealth has multiplied rapidly over the past 25 years as Berkshire's stock has risen 24-fold since 1990.

Do the math - some $70 billion of Mr. Buffett's $73 billion fortune was accumulated around or after his 60th birthday.

Mr. Buffett is, of course, a phenomenal investor whose talents few will replicate. But the real key to his wealth is that he has been a phenomenal investor for two-thirds of a century.

Wealth grows exponentially—a little at first, then slightly more, and then in a hurry for those who stick around the longest.

The lesson - time, patience and endurance pay off - is something us mortals can learn from, particularly the young just starting to save for retirement.

Advice to all grads: Invest immediately in a Roth IRA or Roth 401K. This investment will grow tax free for your retirement. If you have a summer job or internship, invest as much as you can by starting a Roth IRA. You can only invest money from income earned from working. Yes…you have to work!

Proud grandparents and parents, helping your young with a Roth IRA is an amazing gift that the government makes even more amazing by growing tax free.

My little granddaughter, Kendall, began her Roth IRA at 7 years old with income from her small modeling jobs. While she only invested $5000 when she was 7….at 5% compounded 60 years (her retirement age)….she would have $93,396. That's over $88,000 tax free too!!! And if she compounds at 7% over 60 years…the account would have $289,732….now that's getting to be real money! And remember…the growth is all tax free.

One of the most memorable and widely read commencement speeches was given exactly 10 years ago by Steve Jobs at the Stanford University commencement. It's still a must read and my favorite. (Click to read).

Finally a column "How Adulthood Happens" by David Brooks in the NY Times today…gives us hope….most really do make it…by 30!

Good luck and congratulations to all of our young new graduates. FYI - Kendall graduated from 5th grade this year and will be going to middle school…and remember she has a Roth IRA.


Congrats Kendall and her Mom!

Finally…In this week's publication I am in the Barron's 2015 Top Women Financial Advisors ranking for the 9th year.

Wishing all of you a great summer. I leave for my first visit to Toronto this Sunday.

*Barron's awards are based upon criteria including factors such as advisors' assets under management, revenue generated for their firms and the overall quality of their practices. Scenarios described are hypothetical and are provided to illustrate the potential benefits of financial planning.
**Any opinions are those of Margaret Starner and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice.

| May 14th, 2015 |

On Mother's Day, which we celebrated on May 10, I read an article where Sheryl Sandberg was asked how to best honor the memory of her young (47) husband, who died suddenly last week from a fall in the gym. Sandberg is the most famous young woman business leader today as COO of Facebook and author of the best seller, "Lean In." Sandberg's response was, "Take time to have dinner with your family." She credited having dinner with each other and their kids as a big contributor to their happy family life together (Click here for the full story). I can't think of a better gift busy moms and dads could give themselves and their family. I say this with conviction due to my own personal experience.


Sheryl and late husband, Dave

As many of you know, my parents owned and operated a grocery store in a small rural town in MS. It took the entire family to run the store. During the week, our store closed around 8 or 9 in the evening, depending on when the last customer left. On Saturdays, we were open until midnight. After closing, we had to count the money and close out the books for the week. My parents had an unspoken belief that "families who ate together, stayed together." So the family meal was always after we closed. On Saturdays, while we may have had separate suppers around 6 or so, we always had a "midnight" or late snack... whether it was my dad's homemade pizza, fried rice, or won ton soup. Generally, it was my Dad's concoction and it was always deliciously superior to anything you would find in today's restaurants. Often after the Saturday night family meal, we would drive 15 miles south to the Delta Creme Donut shop in Cleveland, MS. The cooks knew us and would let us in to buy a dozen donuts coming fresh out of the oven for the next day. Getting up on the next morning for Sunday school was not always easy.

When our two daughters were growing up in Phoenix, Roger's work was heavily involved in the maintenance and operation of a small airline. "Small" meant he had lots of odd jobs and responsibilities even though his title was Director of Engineering. Frequently, (i.e., almost always), Roger would be stuck at the office with an airplane problem. Since I was raised with the mantra, "families that eat together, stay together," I would delay dinner with the kids until he got home. My neighbors couldn't believe our girls could wait that long to eat and then get to sleep. A memory that still stands out is Dana, our youngest, would sometimes fall asleep at the table with the fork hanging from her mouth. Luckily, I don't recall the girls ever complaining, though at times waiting was stressful for me. Who wants to do dishes at 10 p.m. or midnight!! And, I recall one dinner after Roger shared a stressful day with his boss, Lise, our oldest, said, "Dad, I feel so sorry for you... you have your boss at work and Mom at home." We continued our family meals together, even with my demanding career with Raymond James. By then, the girls could do the dishes!

We shared all kinds of stories with one another including details about the work and school day. We discussed homework problems, dreams and fears, and even small things like what to wear tomorrow, etc. Today, those dinners and the many conversations are a source of wonderful memories...and a few not so wonderful, as Roger and I shared opposite political views. Our girls heard it all. I only wish I had kept a diary of our girls' stories for their children to see that their mom's joys and worries were about the same as children today.

By the time, you read this...you will all have celebrated Mother's Day in some way. I would encourage you, especially those of you with young children, to find a way to share family dinners. I guarantee eating together as a family will be the best investment of your life.

Another great investment was taking a friend who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer to the Day of Caring, a day of programs for breast cancer awareness presented by top medical professionals and service providers. My friend was overcome with fear and apprehension, as were many of us who have heard a doctor say "you have cancer." Additionally, my friend had limited resources and had purchased the least expensive health insurance...which meant her options of care, doctors, and hospitals were limited. Knowing what to do and expect was important to her navigating the health delivery system for a successful outcome. My good friend, Dr. Grace Wang, suggested I take my friend to the "Day of Caring."

Ladies, husbands, daughters, sons....if you have a loved one diagnosed or recovering from breast cancer, The Day of Caring is a wonderful source of information and friendship. You will learn the true medical facts...not what you have selectively decided to remember from internet sources and your friends. In addition to programs presented by medical professionals, there are numerous providers with activities to support treatments and recovery from breast cancer. And some are free! Did you know you can even get a free wig!! Many of the attendees were breast cancer survivors who attended to learn more but also to support people like my friend, who starts her journey towards a cure this week. Though still fearful, my friend ended the day with tons of resources and she was comforted by the fact that so many people were there to help her. She was even given phone numbers by strangers. Though I am a breast cancer survivor and have successfully recovered...I learned of medical progress and new research that has made treatment so much better today even compared to 2009. I am sure the future will be even better. What hasn't changed is the importance of being an informed patient and knowing that people love and care about you. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, I will be happy to take you to the Day of Caring next May 2016. As Benjamin Franklin said, "an investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

In closing, I would like to introduce Jessica Delgado our new service associate who is replacing Lauren Francis. We will miss Lauren who always served our clients with a smile so well. Lauren decided to move back to her home state of CA.

| April 2nd, 2015 – Tax Day and Commemorating Lincoln's Legacy |

No secret…this is tax week and likely April 15 is the most unpopular day of the year for most if not all Americans. Yet, for all our grumbling and moaning, Americans are the most compliant taxpayers in the world….even when compared to our neighbor, Canada.

Still... According to a Stanford professor, Joseph Bankman in ‘Social psychology insights could reduce tax evasion':

"Tax evasion costs federal, state and local governments more than $400 billion a year or about 17 percent of all taxes owed, according to the researchers." This evasion is paid for by higher tax rates on those who comply….you and I.

"Revamping the language of tax forms and the online filing process to make them more direct could reduce tax evasion in the United States.

For example, a suggested question on a tax form could read: "Did you receive cash or other compensation from providing services directly to customers and/or as an independent contractor? You must answer 'yes' or 'no.'"

"The difference between these two alternatives can be thought of roughly as the difference between lying through commission and omission," the researchers wrote.

"Social scientists, noted Bankman, have found that lying is cognitively more difficult than truth telling. It requires activation of additional parts of the brain, as well as the sympathetic nervous system. In other words, research shows that when one is told "please do not be a cheater" rather than "please do not cheat," people are less likely to cheat".

Another unpleasant fact for April 15 is...

Commemorating Lincoln's Legacy

Just days after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses Grant, effectively ending the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre on April 14. This year marks 150 years since that tragic event. Many of us have heard the story time and again in history class, but even all these years later, there are some little-known facts about Lincoln.

  • Lincoln signed legislation to create the U.S. Secret Service on the same day he was shot.
  • He is one of the few presidents in U.S. history to write the entirety of his speeches and remarks, including the famous Gettysburg Address.
  • He hated to be called Abe, apparently preferring to be called by his last name.
  • Shortly before the assassination, Lincoln's son, Robert, fell between a train and the platform just as the train began to move. He was pulled to safety by prominent actor Edwin Booth - John Wilkes Booth's brother.
  • Lincoln had only 18 months of formal schooling throughout his life. He was, however, a voracious learner and a self-taught lawyer.
  • In 1982, 49 historians and political scientists were asked to rate all the presidents in five categories: leadership qualities, accomplishments/crisis management, political skills, appointments and character/integrity. Lincoln ranked highest in all categories.

For the past 150 years, Ford's Theatre has stood as a silent reminder of that fateful day, but this year will be different. On the closed-off roads around the theater, street vendors will hand out small paper flags celebrating the fall of Richmond and the effective end of the Civil War, just as they did in 1865. One Destiny, a one-act play about Lincoln's assassination, will be performed throughout the day. Living historians will re-enact first-person accounts of the impact of Lincoln's life and death. And for the first time since that fateful night, a torchlight vigil will be held in front of the Petersen House, just across the street from the theater, where the nation's 16th president died after being shot while watching a performance of Our American Cousin.

To read more on Lincoln's Legacy, click on this link to the Wall Street Journal.

We at the Starner Group wish you all an easy, smooth and happy Tax Day tomorrow. Per usual, we have been in touch with many of your accountants, but please don't hesitate to have your tax professionals contact us with any questions.

| April 2nd, 2015 – Spring 2015 is Here...(almost) |

Spring has yet to find the entire east coast, but I assure you that it has been in full bloom in Miami for a few glorious weeks. Miami is full of spring break vacationers enjoying the beach, attending the Miami Tennis Open, and taking in the various music festivals. The weather is beautiful and the town is crowded with beautiful and happy people. Soon, more will be coming to celebrate the spring holiday rituals of Easter and Passover.


Miami Beach from Fountainebleau Hotel

Speaking of spring rituals, many anxious families spend early April waiting for college acceptance letters. Unfortunately, many will be disappointed - regardless of background or high school achievement. I have witnessed this ritual for many years, both with my own children and with the children of our many clients. A piece of good news for all of you parents who worry about getting your children into the "best" college possible -virtually everyone I know loved their college experience...regardless of whether they attended their first choice, last choice, or accidental choice. If my words are not comfort enough, please read this excellent article about surviving the college madness.

On the subject of high school, I recently attended the "Ignite" ceremony at my oldest granddaughter's high school in LA. In preparation for college and life, each freshman is required to pick a field of interest to consider and study. The purpose is to begin to think more seriously about one's interest and goals in life and to "ignite" a passion for lifelong learning. Additionally, each student was asked to invite 5 "adult mentors" to the event. Micaela chose two grandparents, her long-time nanny, her basketball coach, and her cousin who works and lives in Amsterdam. All five of us were in attendance, despite three of us living 1000's of miles from Los Angeles. In his opening remarks, the principal explained the purpose of inviting five adults. Research has found that children who have adults (in addition to parents), as trusted mentors in their lives tend to be happier teenagers, better students, and less likely to get into trouble than their counterparts with no adult influences in their lives. And those who have at least 5 adults do even better. He then went on to discuss what kids need from the adults in their lives...and the most important thing was to "just show up and be there." For those of us who live 1000s of miles away, "showing up" is not so easy or convenient. While I fly to LA maybe 4-6 times a year, I am always surprised by how much Micaela has grown between visits...into the young lady she is today. Our conversations can be shocking as well as enlightening. As a grandparent who wants to be involved and an "influencer," I have to figure out how to "be there" for her. And as you know, girls at 14/15 don't necessarily hang out on the phone or FaceTime with Granny. FYI - I found shopping works J and attending her basketball games.

Last week, I and many others mourned the death of Lee Kwan Yue....one of the great leaders of our time. As Prime Minister of Singapore, he took a small, poor, colony state with no natural resources and transformed it into one of the richest countries in the world, within one generation. The world is in unanimous agreement regarding his wisdom about global politics and his commitment to intelligent governance. During his long reign, I was fortunate to read his insights and his many articles and interviews. He was both practical and wise. Personally, if I had to choose his greatest accomplishment, I would vote for the "clean government" he created and intolerance of corruption. The one challenge facing the growth and development of countries is not lack of democracy as much as siphoning of resources due to corruption...i.e. Russia, China, Middle East, Africa, Brazil, Mexico...and many more I could add to the list. Please take a moment to google Lee Kwan Yue -- you will find endless articles touting his incredible achievements, wisdom, and pragmatism. Prime Minister Lee was a capitalist more than a believer in democracy. Take a look at this article by Henry Kissinger...and another regarding his pragmatism.

In observance of Good Friday, our offices will be closed tomorrow, April 3rd.

| February 18, 2015 – Gong Hay Fat Choy! |

The Year of the Wood Sheep in the Chinese lunar calendar is from February 19, 2015 to February 7, 2016. If you are born in January 2015…you were born in year of the Horse. There is some confusion to those of us who read and speak English as to whether this is the year of the Goat or year of the Sheep. Apparently, the Chinese character for Sheep and Goat are almost identical, so the animals' names are used interchangeably. The Sheep is the eighth year in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese calendar. The number 8 is a symbol of good fortune. Thus, the New Year will be a period of good fortune, peace and abundance.

In traditional Chinese astrology, 2015 is the 32nd year (complete cycle is 60 years) of the Green Wooden Sheep/Goat, and is metaphorically presented as the period of a passing summer, which represents the period of prosperity and well-being.

For a little background: The Chinese Lunar calendar originated in 2637 BC. The current New Year is 4712. A complete lunar cycle is made up of 60 lunar years that are divided into five twelve-year cycles. An animal sign is appointed to each of the twelve years in order:

  1. Rat
  2. Ox
  3. Tiger
  4. Rabbit
  5. Dragon
  6. Snake
  7. Horse
  8. Sheep – Eight is a lucky number
  9. Monkey
  10. Rooster
  11. Dog
  12. Boar

The 5 cycles are categorized by the 5 main elements: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth. The only element missing is "air". We are now in the Wood cycle.

What does Wood and Sheep mixed together bring?

The Sheep is kind, tender and sympathetic. Sheep are creative and elegant. Because of their softer side, they are symbolic of peace and harmony. The Year of the Sheep follows a tumultuous Year of the Horse, and heralds a calmer atmosphere. Combined with the timeless characteristics of Wood, the Sheep's creativity will be unleashed. If last year was the Horse's year to gallop and take off, this year will be the year for contemplating and appreciating what has already been accomplished, to think about bringing goodness to others, to take a deep breath and calmly look at what is ahead. Hence, this year's mantra is to stay on a steady path, be generous, and keep the peace.

If you have read my past year Musings, you know an important part of welcoming the New Year is to prepare for good luck and ward off bad luck. Today is the eve of the Chinese New Year….still an opportunity to make your luck!

  • Celebrate with RED… wear red clothing, write poems on red paper and give children money in red envelopes. Why red? In China, red symbolizes fire which, according to legend, drives away bad luck. (The Starner Group's conference room is a lovely red with red candies for all who visit).
  • Clean your house and yourself today. Do all sweeping/dusting or hair washing before New Year's Day as there is fear of sweeping or washing away your good luck for the New Year.
  • Pay off your debts before the New Year!
  • No lending or crying on the New Year…as it is thought that anyone who lends on the New Year will be lending or crying all year round. (this is how you keep complainers and children quiet)
  • No cutting on New Year Day as you might cut away your good fortune
  • Welcome the DRAGON – the loud cymbals and drumming that comes along with the dragons are thought to chase away evil spirits as well.
  • Use Fireworks galore - In the old days, bamboo was set on fire, the crackling flames are meant to fright the evil spirits. Modern day fireworks have taken the place of bamboo but are still thought to do the same thing.

Predictions:

  • The Sheep year is a year of favorable and positive changes. The unfolding and spreading chaos of the world for the past 3 years will finally begin wrapping up. Economic and political stability is said to be in store for world.
  • The Sheep/Goat is a symbol of peace, harmonious co-existence and tranquility. This will be the primary and fundamental mood of the year.

Interesting Facts

  • Early in 2014, Chinese parents were rushing to conceive and have their babies before the year of the Sheep. An old superstition is that it is bad luck to have a baby born in the Sheep year because according to the Chinese, Sheep's are considered meek creatures and raised for nothing but to slaughter. Children born in the year of the Sheep will grow up to be followers rather than leaders and are destined for heartbreak/failed marriages. Examples of "lucky" years would be the year of the horse, dragon and rat. Around May of 2014, Chinese health professionals said that fertility consultations spiked in the earlier months and there were many inquiries about early delivery via C-section before the start of the New Year. ..However, even though Chinese provinces and hospitals have indeed seen birth increases during "lucky" years and decreases in "unlucky" years, there is no real effect on national demographics.

  • 3.6 billion trips are expected to be made in China for New Year…often considered the world's largest annual human migration

  • 79% of Chinese residents say that the cost of celebrating the New Year will cost more than their month's pay.

Personally, Chinese New Year is about sharing and dining with family and friends. This can go on for days. We shower our little ones with red envelopes…and watch their eyes light up with each one. And it's fun to have a peek at the future/predictions and then see how many come true…and amazingly many do.

As part of our tradition, if you are interested in your personal predictions for the New Year, please respond to this Musing.

Wishing you good health (Gong Hay) and Prosperity (fat choy)!!

| February 13, 2015 – A Trip We Love to Share |

Last week, Scott, Bruce, Lauren and I attended the Barrons Team Conference in Las Vegas. The conference was a terrific learning and bonding experience for our team, especially since we rarely have time to travel off-site as a group to learn, share ideas, and have fun together too. A little secret, Lauren and I lost no money in Vegas...but guess who did???


The famous Fountains of Bellagio!

Advisory teams are still in the early stage of development in the financial service industries where there is a growing need and appreciation for comprehensive and holistic financial advice. Barron's has spent a lot of time within the industry to identify the top advisors and top teams in the country. This was Barron's fifth top team conference with about 600 in attendance from all the major investment firms in the country. Much of the content was on team development, future of teams, and how to attract and develop the millennials to be successful team members. This was also an opportunity for us to meet and learn with other top teams.

In my opinion, the conference's most impressive speaker was retired Navy SEAL Eric Greitens. Eric completed 4 tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. His speech was about why so few succeed in becoming a SEAL. Eric's Navy SEAL class began with over 200 exceptional men and only 22 graduated. Knowing "why" was critical to surviving the rigor and demands of the training. Very much like a mother or father will do anything to protect and provide for their children, Greitens personally had a need to protect his country. That "why" was his primary motivation through the nearly impossible training. He attributed the reason that so many of his classmates failed to finish was their inability to move from "me" to "we". Specifically, in order to be successful, SEALs must depend upon their fellow SEALs to always protect/care for them and vice versa. This confidence in their teammates provides them with the ability to take risks while also protecting their fellow SEALs.


Navy SEAL Eric Greitens

Though I would never dream of comparing financial planners to Navy SEALs, I am a strong believer in the "why" and "we" concepts. In terms of the "we", I was a pioneer in team development when I began the Starner Group with hiring Scott...and then Bruce....and many of you have watched us grow and develop over the past 18 years to becoming one of the leading planning teams in the country. As for the "why" - my goal has always been to help my clients achieve their dreams and wishes - and I knew that a strong team would take my practice to the next level. We try to live up to the "we" and "why" every day - for example, a core principal we use to this day, is that the three of us must agree on new strategies....and we find a way to do so. Of course, we have our share of disagreements on silly stuff - Bruce still won't eat tomatoes, I don't love cupcakes and Scott does his best to avoid Chinese food but somehow we survive. So today, you don't just get Margaret nor Scott nor Bruce...but the Starner Group as a team who collectively work together to achieve our clients' dreams and wishes. I would be remiss not to mention our "we" also includes our excellent staff -- Josh, Lauren, and Amirah, and now Stephanie, who all work exceptionally hard on your behalf.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and Monday we are closed for President's Day. The weekend in Miami is forecasted to be beautiful. I have old friends who are coming to town...so I will be with people I love in a town that I love. My heart goes out to all of you in the Boston area with more snow yet to come. Still, I wish all of you a lovely long weekend. I will be back shortly with my Chinese New Year Musing.