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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 23rd, 2016 – Happy Thanksgiving! |

I have always viewed Thanksgiving as the "kick-off" to the holiday season, which means family and friends gathering together to visit and to savor and share favorite dishes. Usually, I kick off my Thanksgiving Musing with all of the things for which I am thankful, but today, I want to focus on Sarah Josepha Hale, who can be called the "Mother" of modern Thanksgiving. I love the fact that this great holiday was started by the persistent advocacy of a woman!

Ms. Hale (October 24, 1788 - April 30, 1879) was an American writer and editor. The opening lines of her original poem, "Mary had a Little Lamb", were the first words recorded by Thomas Edison on his newly-invented phonograph, and those same words are still recited by children across the world today. Ms. Hale was a strong advocate of the United States and much of her writings had distinctly American themes. In 1846, she decided that the country needed a national holiday to celebrate the initial meal between the Plymouth Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. At the time, each Northern State scheduled its own holiday, typically between October and January, while most southern states did not celebrate at all.

Over the next 20 years, Ms. Hale petitioned five different presidents for the holiday. She finally convinced Abraham Lincoln to create a national day of thanks. Lincoln came to believe that the special day could help to unify the country in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Hale's contributions to Thanksgiving didn't stop there. She also proposed the menu, ensuring that turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes became staples of the meal.

You know how much I love data - Here are some delicious Thanksgiving tidbits to pass around the table this year:

  • Thanksgiving didn't become an official national holiday until 1941. Before then, the holiday was announced by the president on a yearly basis.
  • Over 90% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving; that's around 7 billion pounds of turkey or $3 billion sold each year.
  • Thanksgiving Day accounts for 20% of all cranberry consumption in the U.S.
  • Turducken (a de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck stuffed with a de-boned chicken) is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.
  • The diners at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 had an entirely different menu comprised of deer, fowl, cod, bass, and flint corn.

I received a nice Thanksgiving gift this Monday when Investment News named me as one of 20 Women to Watch. Inclusion to the list was based upon Leadership, Success, Drive, Mentorship and Philanthropy. Click Investment News Women to Watch to read the announcement, and then click at the bottom left "Women of 2016" to see the list of 20 women chosen.

In closing, I want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the entire Starner Group. We are truly thankful for each and every one of our clients, friends, and professional partners. We are also thankful for our families, who tolerate and support our demanding work schedules. Lastly, we are grateful to live in the United States, which we believe is the greatest country in the world.

| November 10th, 2016 – Post-Election Market Commentary |

So now we know. After a seemingly unending election cycle, there will be a new president and some new faces in Congress. But the question remains, what could that mean for investors and the markets? Though we don't know all of the answers, the Starner Group remains confident in our time-tested, diversified investment approach that has helped so many of our clients achieve their dreams and wishes. On the subject of successful investing (even in tumultuous times), we also wanted to share one of our favorite Warren Buffett quotes:

"For 240 years, it's been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start. America's golden goose of commerce and innovation will continue to lay more and larger eggs. America's social security promises will be honored and perhaps made more generous. And yes, America's kids will live far better than their parents did."

We have spoken to many of you individually, and we welcome additional phone calls to discuss the election, your portfolios, and/or your long-term goals. Speaking of long-term, this weekend, Roger and I head to sunny California to celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary!

Lastly, click this link for The political Upset of the Century, a Strategic View from Riverfront Investment Group, one of the many investment managers with whom we work. We think it is very insightful and worthy of your attention.

This information was developed by RiverFront, an independent third party. Views expressed are the current opinion of the author, but not necessarily those of Raymond James & Associates or your financial advisor. The author's opinions are subject to change without notice. Information contained in this report was received from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing always involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss. No investment strategy can guarantee success.

| October 12th, 2016 – A Call to Women |

Mothers, daughters, granddaughters, girlfriends, wives, sisters, nieces, cousins…

"To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?"

Katharine Graham, American publisher

As Hurricane Matthew threatened Florida last week, I attended the annual Raymond James Women's network conference in Orlando with about 350 other women. You may be surprised to learn that this is one of my favorite events each year. Women financial advisors are still a small minority in the industry (less than 15%) and learning together/sharing each other's experiences and challenges is both fun and rewarding. We each act as mentors, sounding boards, and cheerleaders for each other. On a personal level, this helps me to stay in touch with women entering the field and at all levels of experience and maturities. Interestingly, despite the age and seniority differences…many of us share similar visions and motivations. We want to make a difference by advising families to achieve their dreams and wishes via financial security. Which leads many of us to wonder…"why don't more women choose being a financial planner or advisor as a career of choice?" Despite my success and fame, I don't hear my granddaughters wanting to grow up to be a financial planner. My elder granddaughter, Micaela (16), wants to be a lawyer and the younger, Kendall (12), wants to be a dress designer (despite her calling me the "queen of grannies"). What have I neglected to tell them about having a career that rewards me for being an entrepreneur and for creating solutions to help families navigate through the ups and downs of life?

Well…I plan to change that!!!! I am proud to announce I am part of a group of veteran women advisors at Raymond James that plans to "change the conversation." We have pooled our own personal resources and time to form a group called the Women's Leadership Alliance to reach out to all women - at all ages and stages of life - to consider becoming a financial advisor. We are joined by many men, including our top management such as Tom James and CEO, Paul Reilly, who have also contributed their personal funds and time to support starting this dialogue with more women. We all recognize that while being a financial advisor is great career, the path to success is not an easy one and requires work, commitment, and competencies. Good news…we have the money, time and practical experience to reach out to any female who is interested in hearing what makes this a great career for women of all ages. However, we are still in the formative stage of figuring out how to proactively reach more women, as well as how to lend a helping hand to ensure they have sustainable careers.

Touch base with me if you happen to know anyone who is interested in being a financial advisor male or female, …However, I am particularly committed to increasing the number of women advisors, regardless of which firm they choose. I know that both our industry and the public will be well rewarded if the Women's Leadership Alliance is successful.

| September 5th, 2016 – Happy Labor Day |

"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Labor Day is upon us again! As such, I thought this was the perfect time to provide an update on the newest members of The Starner Group.

Some of you may remember Daniel Chapman from 2015, when he was a University of Miami student and our prized intern. After finishing his internship, Daniel spent his first semester of senior year abroad in London, and we were able to lure him back during his final semester for another internship. Daniel graduated with a double major in Economics and Computer Information Systems. He was also a UM cheerleader and the Director of Public Relations for WVUM, the University's radio station....and if you're not impressed yet, he's also an Eagle Scout!

Joining Daniel as a new member of our team is Adrian Tinoco. Adrian has earned both a B.A. in Visual Effects from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a Masters of Finance from Florida International University. Similar to Daniel, Adrian started with us as an intern, working a full-time schedule while finishing his Masters. Adrian's hobbies include fishing, sports, and food, and he even created a food blog with his siblings named "I'm Going Bananas!"

Scott, Bruce, and I are especially fortunate to have not one, but two energetic, intelligent, and technology-savvy team members.

We're also pleased that Jessica Delgado has rejoined us after her "Labor", which resulted in Leah Emily Delgado becoming the latest addition to the Starner Group's next generation.

As a reminder, our offices will be closed Monday, September 5th. We will resume normal business hours Tuesday, September 6th. Have a safe and happy weekend!

| July 22nd, 2016 – Taking the Family to Washington, DC |

As mentioned in my last Musing, Roger and I took our kids and grandkids on a Stanford Family tour of Washington, DC. The tour included not only seeing the major sites, but also lectures with a Stanford professor and meetings with many leaders in DC. The goal of the trip was to not only have fun, but also to provide both a historical perspective of DC and a look into parts of our government today A unique highlight for me was that our professor spent a day dedicated to learning about Abraham Lincoln in great. detail - visiting the Ford Theatre where he was shot, the Petersen house where he was cared for after he was shot, and to the Lincoln Cottage where he went to get away from the Capitol (his Camp David). For me, a visit to DC is always emotional and inspirational....and a good reminder when we think the world is a bit crazy...of how fortunate we are to have forefathers who were so brilliant and could conceive a nation that has survived many stresses, fears, and wars. We also visited the Air and Space museum, which was a highlight and inspiration to our kids who took today's technology for granted...until they learned that the Wright brothers first flight wasn't that long ago!

I am sure that most of you have visited DC, as have we, but this was our first in-depth visit since my daughters were in their teen years...over three decades ago. If you are among the many who are frustrated with election year politics or in despair about the world we are facing today, a visit to DC to relook at our history is a healthy reminder of how our system has enabled the country to be resilient and survive. We have always had tough times. For example, my grandkids learned that for 63 years, due to the Chinese Extradition Act, Chinese in the US had limited rights. Through it all, the US has been (and still is) a great experiment... and the experiment includes having great and courageous leaders at the right time and the collective ingenuity of our people's drive and wisdom.

Regardless of your political affiliation - meeting senators and high government officials is an awesome experience. Our kids had conversations with Senator Cory Booker and shook hands with Senator Ted Cruz. We had the opportunity to hear and chat with a number of Stanford alums....a US Court of Appeals Circuit Court Judge who was on the short list for Supreme Court judge, a former CIA Analyst, a lobbyist, and some highly-placed staff members of house and senate leaders. We also happened to be on the steps of the Supreme Court when two decisions were announced...on Texas abortion law and Bob McDonnell (former Virginia governor). Perhaps the biggest highlight of our trip was an after-hours, guided tour of the National Archives which included the country's founding documents, including the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. I was surprised at how emotional it was to see the original Star - Spangled Banner flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem.


The Original Star Spangled Banner Flag as shown in the the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

The past few weeks reminds me of a quote..."there are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen"...killings by terrorist, racial strife, Brexit, coup in Turkey...to name a few. And despite the turmoil the US stock market is hitting all-time highs. The initial reaction to the unexpected Brexit vote was impulsive selling in markets around the world. Within a few days, the market calmed and resumed back to normal trading once it was apparent the impact would be mostly a Euro-centric event. However, many of the issues behind the Brexit vote, such as immigration debates and income inequality, are apparent in all developed economies...and represent new challenges for leaders the world over.

Next week, Scott, Bruce, and I will be in Orlando for the annual Raymond James Conference. During this event, we will be meeting with company leadership and our colleagues from across the nation, sharing ideas and learning the newest thinking on how we can best help our clients. Jessica (just back from maternity leave!) will be in the office, along with Daniel and Adrian. Scott, Bruce, and I will be available via e-mail. We will also return any pressing phone calls during conference breaks.

| June 24th, 2016 – The Joy of "Decluttering" |

"Decluttering"....there is such a word...

Anyone who emailed or called me last week might wonder why I took so long to respond. Candidly, I was busy cleaning closets...and I'm pleased and proud to announce I now have closets with lots of space!

Last summer I mentioned in my Musings that I had bought a best seller book on how to "declutter" my closets of "stuff." At the time, I promised that by October you could tune in for some positive results.

Though this update is tardy, here's what happened. After reading the book, I embraced the idea that I would only keep items that made me feel good or those with which I had an emotional connection. By October, I had managed to clean my shoe closet and probably gave or threw away over 100 pairs of shoes...not sure, I quit counting. Actually getting rid of the last few pairs of shoes was not so easy to complete and the process took weeks, not hours or days. I kept wondering "What if they come back into style"; or "this pair cost a fortune"; or even worse "I never even wore it!" The book warned me this would happen - these are common thoughts that make us hang on to "stuff" that become "clutter."

Despite the setbacks, I finally finished my shoe closet. I was so pleased with accomplishing so much that I took a long holiday from cleaning. Even better, I haven't missed a single pair of the disposed shoes. Some would say I could get rid of more...especially Roger!

But the shoes were just my first step into the world of decluttering, which for clarification is not synonymous with "organizing." I can organize, quite well in fact. I just want to keep everything...so my organization entails figuring out how to store my possessions in a neater fashion. The book claims this is not progress. My mother, who was super organized and neat, rarely threw anything away. She lived in rural MS in a house that had lots of space. She organized by having the handyman build a new closet or cabinets whenever she ran out of space!

This past December, my daughters helped me take the next step towards decluttering. They gifted me three days of cleaning for my Xmas present! This was a most unusual and unexpected gift. Lise lives in LA. Dana lives in Dallas. I live in Miami. They have busy lives plus families - so this was a very generous gift of their time and while thoughtful, I didn't expect their gift would ever arrive. I was wrong. Last week, Lise and Dana were able to coordinate a trip to Miami and spent 3 days ruthlessly going through every cabinet, closet and drawer. They helped me make quick "yes/no" decisions...though I must admit the "maybe" pile also became quite large! But my daughters were vigilant, and behind their pushy directions, we boxed everything for a trip to Goodwill. Lise and Dana even made sure all was delivered so I would not be tempted to take stuff back...which was a strong probability. At night, I would dream of what I would sneak back!

You might wonder why getting rid of the clutter was so important. Frankly, I was having difficulty appreciating what I had...plus I was wasting lots of time, organizing and reorganizing stuff that was nice but really "useless" to me.

The entire decluttering experience reminded me of two things. First, I was reminded of why new clients enjoy our first presentation so much. Recall, this meeting is an organization of all financial data, including our observations. We provide a current comprehensive financial picture without the clutter of statements, tax returns, documents, etc. The organization is extraordinarily helpful toward making better decisions. The feeling of having only what you need and want is pretty liberating.

Second, I was reminded of the importance of getting professional or knowledgeable help/services, particularly as we grow older. So many of us experience feelings of guilt, or laziness when we hire someone for jobs we used to do or should be able to do, like cleaning a closet. But doing the job is not the hard part...it's the letting go that's difficult....and we need someone to make it easy to let go.

On that note, many of our clients have been with us for 25-30+ years. During their working careers, many were careful spenders and proud doers. Over time, some can't drive as well at night, trim the trees with ease...or are just plain tired of doing so. Retirement communities begin to look pretty attractive for an easier life style. I recommend that our clients should begin to add a "treat" bucket to their retirement expenses. Treat yourself to services that make your life more enjoyable or to enhance your social life.

Today, Roger and I will be taking our family (minus Bruce who has to work and Micaela who has basketball games) for a week's tour of Washington, DC...to see the White House, Supreme Court, Capitol Building, museums, Mt. Vernon and a host of other spots. Given the election year, this is an opportune time for them to visit and appreciate why we vote.

Sincerely,

In closing, June 21st marked the first day of summer. I hope all of you find some time to relax with family and maybe even to declutter. I promise you won't regret it.

| June 8th, 2016 – Teach For America |

The school year is winding down and many have celebrated their graduations and are looking forward to college, graduate school or their first real job. For many kids (including my grandkids!) that are still in middle or high school, they look forward to some relaxation, travels, and summer camps. Either way, the end of school is somewhat a celebration!

As many of you know, I am an enthusiastic supporter of Teach for America (TFA). Each year, I sponsor TFA teachers in Miami-Dade and the MS Delta and try to meet as many I can each year. Their creativity, commitment, and energy continue to amaze me, reinforcing what a difference each teacher can make. In the spirit of Time Magazine's recent article "10 Millennials who are Changing the World", I would like to feature a few TFA teachers and students who also are changing the world. Here's a letter from Amee Tan, who teaches Geometry at Miami Carol City Senior High School.

Dear Margaret and Roger,

As we are entering the final stretch of the school year, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support of the learning taking place at Miami Carol City Senior High School. We are beginning our 4th quarter and are gearing up for the fast approaching Geometry EOC (End of Course) exam.

Most recently we've been learning how to find volume and surface area of different solids. This unit has been my favorite to teach because the students are seeing how geometry can be applied to real-life situations. Yesterday we figured out if cake cones or sugar cones give you more ice cream. (If you're curious, if you have two cones with the same diameter and same height, you'll get more ice cream if you order a cake cone!) We also looked at the 12-pack boxes of Pepsi and Coke. We calculated that both have the same volume, but found they had different surface areas! We talked about which box design is better from cost and environmental standpoints and why the two companies might have chosen the different designs.



It's been truly mind-blowing to see how much my students have matured and progressed throughout the year. My students have become more confident problem solvers-- more willing to try problems on their own and make mistakes in the process. They have also shown tremendous growth in their ability not only to calculate the correct answers, but also to explain why their answers make sense. The highlight of my week was when a student finished our challenging word problem assignment and said, "Ms Tan, I like coming to your class because in here I actually feel smart."

Thank you again for your support of our communities and kids. Please know that you are always welcome to visit us at Carol City High School.

With sincere thanks,
Amee Tan

Equally inspiring, 4th grade teacher Brittany Affolter asked her students to write "Dear whoever will Listen" letters about what they would like to see changed in the world. There were too many letters to include in this Musing, but the image link below will take you to all 35 students' letters. I think they are worth at least a quick perusal of your time.

In professional news, I was once again named to Barron's list of top 100 Women Advisors…I feel fortunate and honored to have been on the list every year since 2007.

I hope this Musing finds everyone well…congratulations to all new grads and I wish everyone a fun and interesting summer.

| April 14th, 2016 – Tax Season 2016… almost done |

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin

We all know Ben's quote…and most people (me included!) look forward to April 15 about as much as they look forward to an afternoon at the dentist. To be honest, I am somewhat the exception to the rule…because though I hate the tediousness of tax time as much as everyone else, I have been fascinated with taxes since I was a teenager. Call me crazy.

My fascination with taxes began with a college course named the "Theory of Taxation." I loved the class, probably because there is a certain logic and philosophy in income tax law that gets my brain juices flowing. My fascination continued and as a young stay-at-home mom, I decided to work for H & R Block a few nights a week preparing tax returns.

What I experienced was far different from the theory. First, we were given a short course in preparing 1040's. Anything complicated was done by a division of experienced tax preparers. Customers would come in with all their tax data such as W-2, receipts, etc. Each return was completed with the customer sitting in front of you. Doing a good job required me asking some specific questions. What I learned was most customers had no idea of how to manage their taxes…unaware of basic tax minimization strategies and simple deductions. Those were the days of many tax loopholes - so even a little knowledge of tax planning could save a lot of dollars. Additionally, most also had no idea about how to manage their money for the future. I found myself starting to give simple advice to show how a little planning could minimize taxes and put cash back in their pockets. Helping people become more aware and save on taxes was the fun part of the job.

Many years have passed. Taxes have become more complicated, and for most Americans the easy loopholes have been closed. The Albert Einstein comment: "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax" is becoming truer. After all, when the U.S. government first implemented a personal income tax back in 1913, the vast majority of the population paid a rate of just 1 percent and the highest marginal tax rate was just 7 percent. Now the highest rate is over 40% including the extra tax on investment profits and the Medicare surcharge that were implemented a few years ago. Though painful, this is still far better than the 70's and early 80's when the rates could be as high as 70% on investment income. Still, every year in recent memory, the American people have had to work more days to just pay our taxes. We have even coined a name for the day that our collective taxes have been fully earned - "Tax Freedom day."

A few facts: Tax Freedom Day 2016 is April 24th

  • This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24th or 114 days into the year (excluding Leap Day)
  • Americans will pay $3.3 trillion in federal taxes and $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of almost $5 trillion or 31% of the nation's income
  • Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2016 than they will on food, clothing and housing combined

Before ending this Musing on taxes, I wanted to share a few other tax tidbits:

  • California has the most millionaires of any state. More than 40,000 Californians reported over $1 million in income.
  • Vermont has the fewest millionaires - less than 300 millionaires based upon 2011 tax returns.
  • Piece of good news for those who are still working on their returns…you have until Monday, April 18th to file this year!

Also, Jessica Delgado (on our staff) and her husband Robbie have a new tax deduction! They are proud parents of Leah Emily born March 19th. Welcome Leah!

As always, please feel free to contact us if you would like to chat a bit more about taxes…or if you have any other financial planning questions. We have been quite busy providing information to accountants, but we promise to make the time for you!

In closing, a WARNING: Many have been scammed by responding to phone calls and emails from the IRS. For example, I just received a call saying that I was being sued by the IRS and to promptly call a given number. When I put the number into Google, I immediately got "scam number". For your information and safety, the IRS will notify you only by US mail, not by phone or email. DO NOT respond to emails or phone calls. If you are unsure, look up the IRS local phone number to inquire.

| March 4th, 2016 – Celebrating 35 Years |


Celebrating with the Bosses
Tom James (RJ Executive Chairman - left), Margaret Starner (CFP), Paul Reilly (RJ CEO - right)

I recently celebrated my 35th anniversary with Raymond James (RJA), a fact that I still find hard to believe. RJA had less than 300 advisors in 1981; today we employ more than 6,700! When I started, I remember telling company founder Bob James that I had a dream to make financial planning accessible to all families....and he responded "great idea...and at Raymond James, you have the opportunity to fail". Candidly, I didn't quite understand what he meant, but the twinkle in his eye told me "go for it." So I did.

For some background...

I began my professional life in Long Range Planning at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), a highly-regarded think tank. I graduated in the middle of a recession and it was not easy for a woman to find a job...so I felt pretty lucky to be with such a prestigious firm. SRI is how I got on the "planning" track to stretch one's horizons. Companies bought a subscription for $25,000/yr - a princely sum then -- and could request a study on any idea -- regardless of reason. So, I researched a lot of "far-out "ideas and often in fields beyond my education. My first assignment was to research the future demand for instant tea. Given that tea was already easy to make and Americans were not tea drinkers in 1960, I could not see this as a future product like instant coffee. At age 21, I did not understand the importance of "making it easy" or the power of marketing. Despite my skepticism, my extensive research concluded that there might be greater interest/demand for tea if it were simpler to prepare. And that research turned out to be correct. Hence, I learned a valuable lesson - that research could provide an important check and balance to gut instinct....and I now love bottled tea!

In those days, Google and personal computers did not exist. Research was done in the library or in archives of books and periodicals, accompanied by pages of handwritten notes. My favorite SRI project was technology and medicine. This project fueled a life time interest in our health delivery system.

After SRI, I went to the Ford Foundation. In short order, I realized that I wanted to be in the real world of commerce rather than research. I found a planning job at United Airlines at the San Francisco Maintenance facility. It was an exciting time to be in aviation...at least for me. The airlines were transitioning from piston aircrafts to jets and the cost of doing so was enormous. My planning and research focused on spare parts - which and how many to purchase, and where to place them to avoid delays and cancellation. In retrospect, this was my first experience with asset allocation. The airline never had enough money...so planning and good decisions were critical. At the time, United employed few college graduates, except for engineers, and I was the lone woman in research. I remember many aviation "old timers" scoffed at my research as my conclusions were counter to their experience...but I insisted the numbers told the truth. Luckily, I worked for a group of engineers who appreciated and believed my research and my boss was a Stanford grad too. Proudly, my work prevailed and became a part of purchasing decisions. And I realized I enjoyed making a difference with research and designing creative solutions.

Then, I became a stay-at-home mom. Like most young couples, Roger and I dreamt of having a home, going to grad school and moving on to the next great job. In truth, we were lucky, most of what we did was automatic, opportunities arose and we accepted them. However, when I began to think about building wealth - most everyone just recommended I buy a specific bond or a stock. I wanted a better understanding of what I was really doing. So I didn't do anything.

Then, I attended a retreat for Stanford alums and met Claude Rosenberg, a legendary money manager. He convinced me that financial planning was the wave of the future even tho the concept was still in its infancy. He urged me to get going and "do what I could where I could." The concept made sense to me.....I could use my experience in corporate planning to help families design a path to their dreams and wishes. Then, I began my journey to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and enrolled in the College of Financial Planning.

Then, I joined a study group held at Raymond James, one of the few firms that supported the concept of planning. In the group, I found other enthusiasts who believed that financial success was more likely if clients had a game plan. Then, remembering Claude Rosenberg - "do what you can, when you can" - I joined Raymond James. I had no vision of becoming wealthy or successful. I didn't feel compelled to make a living since Roger was taking care of that need. I was looking for something fun and meaningful to do.

We early birds at Raymond James were fortunate to be mentored by Bob James. He was a pioneer in financial planning and eager to support anyone who was interested. I was pretty geeky and serious about my mission. He personally taught me how to "talk and listen," relax and keep things simple, and above all, to have fun while working. With this in mind, I taught a series of seminars to women similar to myself... stay at home wives who were married to corporate executives, but were also highly educated and had an equal voice in decision making. I knew they would love to be part of creating family wealth...just as I did. And my instincts were correct.

Just as my career was picking up steam, Bob James passed away in 1983, the same year RJ went public. Tom James, his son and then CEO, wanted to continue his dad's belief in financial planning. Like his dad, Tom was a CFP, and he hired an executive to build a financial planning department for the firm.

During my 35 year career, I have been blessed with many accomplishments, success and industry recognitions. Of course, I could not have achieved these alone. I thank all those who have been on the Starner Group team throughout the years and today - all have made my success possible. I have been blessed to learn and work with some of the best in the industry including the leadership at Raymond James. I have been fortunate to be with a firm that values clients first and plans its own path in a conservative manner. And I will forever be grateful to both Bob and Tom James for lending me their ears and their expertise whenever I needed them.

In closing, I invite you all to read Warren Buffet's recent annual letter.

His shareholder letters are always full of wisdom, a bit of education, and humor too. Contrary to election rhetoric, he says the US economy is better than many presidential candidates would lead us to believe. He adds that "children being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history". The letter is long but worth your time to learn from one of the legendary investors in our times.

| February 8th, 2016 – Gong Hay Fat Choy! Year of the Monkey |

Year of Red Fire Monkey
Feb 8-23, 2016


First, a quick refresher on the most celebrated Chinese holiday:

The Chinese zodiac is made up of 12 different animals and the Chinese calendar goes in a 60 year cycle. We are beginning the 33rd year of the cycle, which is the 9th year of the 2nd zodiac. The place in the calendar and zodiac makes this the year of the Monkey, or more specifically, the Lunar Fire Monkey. Much time will be spent doing everything to foster good luck and keep bad luck at bay. The celebration lasts for 15 days...and is a time for families and friends to connect for positive interaction. Children will be delighted by gifts of red envelopes filled with money and candy.

Even growing up in Mississippi, my family celebrated the lunar New Year. On New Year's Eve, I knew I had to have a spotless room (to make sure no evil spirits were lurking in the corners), clean hair, and my fanciest clothes so I would be prepared to greet the New Year at my best. The New Year starts on New Year's Eve with a feast that included dishes that were auspicious for the year as well as my favorite, the delicious bird's nest soup. The table was always beautifully set. We were expected to be happy and on our best behavior at dinner to ensure good luck for the coming year. It was easy to be happy with such a feast and to know that Daddy would not be yelling at us for anything. As far as I can tell, the efforts for good luck paid off.

Aside from good food, visiting friends and relatives, there is much preoccupation about the fortunes and misfortunes for the coming year. Chinese can be obsessed with ensuring good fortune. And one way is to avoid bad luck. Wearing red is a given as the color red blocks evil spirits.

Now that the history lesson is complete, I want to share some prognostications for the Fire Monkey Year...

  • According to the Chinese "Five Elements" horoscopes, Monkey contains Metal and Water. Metal is connected to gold. Water is connected to wisdom and danger. Therefore, we will deal with more financial events in the year of the Monkey. Monkey is a smart, naughty, wily and vigilant animal. If you want to have a good return for your money investment, then you need to outsmart the Monkey.

  • Tip: Think twice before you leap when making changes to your finance, career, business, and people relationship.
  • On the world stage, events will erupt which will take some authorities by surprise. Factions and minorities will strive to be heard and their actions will lead to change.
  • Monkey years can be dramatic both politically and culturally - The United States celebrated the start of its nationhood in 1776, a monkey year.
    Thus much attention will be focused on the presidential election. The campaign - its significance, its drama, but also its hope - will be an ongoing feature of 2016 and ultimately the newly elected president will promise ambitious reform. Both Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon were inaugurated in Monkey years.

The year's political gyrations will also have an effect on stock markets around the world. There will be some major swings and some dramatic currency fluctuations.

  • Monkey years favor progress. It has been said that Monkey years are times when anything can happen. Science, technology and communication will be particularly prominent.
    Interestingly, Facebook and Gmail were launched in the 2004 Monkey Year. Also, the first demonstration of the computer mouse was in the 1968 Monkey year.

For the individual, monkey years can be regarded as times of great possibility...favoring enterprise and progress...and planting seeds of personal growth. It is a time when our actions can make a difference, both now and in paving the way for the future. Within you are the riches of your tomorrow.

Check the zodiac chart below for your animal sign and to see what's in store for you:

Amazing Year for:
Rats, Dragons, Monkeys - Brings charm and confidence. Unstable but dynamic!

Positive Year for:
Sheep, Rabbits, Cows - Improvement in all areas of life. Progress finally!

Exciting Year for:
Chickens, Horses- Tricky situations abound. Enjoy the stimulation!

Complex Year for:
Tigers, Snakes, Pigs, Dogs - Strong focus and objectivity brings the best results.

Wishing all good health, prosperity & good luck!!

| January 29th, 2016 – Whew! It’s the End of January |

Well, January is already almost over and I've hardly had a chance to adjust to 2016. My Jan 1 started with a bang and lots of fun. Roger and I treated our kids and grandkids along with our niece and nephew to the Rose Bowl, which featured Iowa (Roger's alma mater) vs. Stanford (my alma mater)! We started the day at the Stanford tailgate party...which was packed with fun, tons of food, goodies and drinks for all the alums and their families. Roger had the only Iowa sweatshirt amidst a sea of Cardinal! The game took place on a perfect, sunny California day....and best of all, Stanford had an easy win! Of course, that wasn't so great for Roger and the other Iowa fans. I am glad that I started out the month with such a great win, because the rest of the month has been neither easy nor winning for investors.

Last weekend we sent a note to our clients about long term investing and living with volatility....which should be a familiar refrain from us. Still, we know that a reminder is important, lest we focus on worrying about the wrong bouncing ball.

Many have called about declining oil prices and what's with the China effect. I wanted to touch on both of these briefly.

First, oil... in the long run, lower oil prices will likely be better for all of us...we all drive cars and heat/cool our homes. However, in the short run, such drastic price swings due to demand/supply imbalance, can produce chaos and confusion.

As for China...for a long time, many market observers have been concerned about how long could China grow at such a rapid rate and not make a mistake or stumble. The rise of China in such a short time is nothing short of a miracle. Now, when the growth slows and China stumbles at all...the markets react emotionally, with tremendous swings and forecasts of the Chinese economy in ruins.

As a Chinese American, growing up, my father was always quoting proverbs to teach us a concept. As I watch the recent turmoil, I recently saw and was reminded of two quotes that might help us understand China:

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."
- Confucius

"Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate."
- Sun Tzu

My interpretation of the above quotes is that China will muddle and try to control their destiny...but they have no intention of being transparent about why or what they are doing. China is a giant and successful (so far) experiment. Many people have opinions for what China should do to continue this success...yet, there is no historical precedence for anyone to really know. And this leaves the market to collectively guess and react. At some point, we will know...until then....expect volatility.

At the Starner Group, we have always viewed volatility as an opportunity over the long-term. As we have told many of you during conversations, we continue to hold that view. As always, Scott, Bruce and I are available to answer any and all of your questions.

In my next Musing, I plan to share the most recent prognostications of the Chinese Zodiac...and what we might expect in the Year of The Monkey.