A Story Worth Telling

For those of you who would prefer to listen:

I was back east this week for a partner summit. It was a collection of firm leaders from across the country. We came together to discuss topics ranging from the state of the industry and the Market to future generations and how to best serve clients in this Digital Age. Strategy sessions like these are always time well spent.

One thing is clear: Investors are still in good shape. The rally continued with a series of low-volume gains this week. The Dow rose 8 straight days for the first time this year. The 5% sell-off in April has all but been erased. The Dow, S&P and NAS are less than 1% away from their all-time record highs reached last month. Sector participation has definitely broadened, and Tech has not been the leader.

Expectations of a rate cut are brewing again. Recent economic data is fueling it. Among them are higher jobless claims, rising unemployment, and slowing growth that could force the Fed’s hand before it falls behind the curve. That’s the Bull thesis. This, on top of better-than-expected earnings from Corporate America. Earnings drive stock prices.

An increase in jobless claims is a sign that things are cooling a bit, which might provide some cover for the Fed to cut rates. That’s what the Bond Market suggests. It’s what the Stock Market wants. A quarter of a point was shaved across the yield curve this week. When yields fall, bond prices rise. Stocks tend to rise too. The Fed is keenly aware there’s an election in November, and it asserts that it is decisively independent of politics. California and New York saw the biggest increase in those filing for unemployment this week. They represent a big chunk of America’s population. Stating the obvious, these are economically significant states.

The population of Bulls has increased in May. Investor sentiment has risen with the rally. No surprise, people generally feel better when they’re making money. Of course, the reverse is true too. There’s nothing like price to change sentiment. But attitudes are less optimistic away from Wall Street. The preliminary May University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment came in at 67.4. That was much lower than the Street expectations of 76.9. It was 79.4 in March. Gallup shows that three-quarters of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. It’s actually lower than it was 2 years ago. But it’s been a high number for quite some time.

Despite the sour polls, Americans are still spending on travel and experiences. The past few months I’ve seen packed flights and bustling hotels from coast-to-coast. Recent data indicates Americans are cruising again at record rates too. This, before the busy Summer travel season.

The anecdotal evidence seen in Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky, this past week was consistent with the strong economic activity. People were on the move. In some cases it was standing room only. Led by increases in conferences and tourism, Americans were out and about, and spending. Recent data indicates inflationary pressures have finally taken a toll. High prices always have limits. But Consumers are still spending. America’s Economy is staying hot. 

There’s definitely been an increase in crime around the country. This week saw a significant bust in New York City. An independent cosmetics company near Herald Square was shut down for creating and operating a ring of theft. It is alleged to hold over $1 Million in stolen goods, of which a quarter of it was snatched at Macy’s. CVS, Walgreens and Duane Reade were also victims, among others. Hopefully this bust will be the beginning of the end for the need to lock up toothpaste and deodorant in stores.

Despite the increase in crime and the political, economic and social divide that has plagued our great nation, there’s still so much good going on that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I wanted to close with a great story. It’s a true story. It’s a story of incredible success. It certainly did not start out that way.

Last week I met one Renold Alcius. He lives in Kentucky. He was born and raised in Haiti. He grew up living with his family in one room. They slept on the floor. His dad was a farmer. His mom took care of the 4 kids. At just 10 years of age, Renold’s father was killed. The family had always lived sparingly off his income. That income died with his dad too. The young family had no assets. They certainly possessed no life insurance. This tragedy was life changing, in every way.

In an instant, 10-year-old Renold had to be the family provider. He was the oldest child. They didn’t know where meals would come from every day. He started painting and making jewelry for sale. Renold knew, if he didn’t sell anything that day, the family didn’t eat.

A good friend of mine and his wife encountered Renold on a trip to Haiti years ago and were impressed with his work ethic and tenacity. It was clear that Renold hustled more than anyone else. Quint and Brandie Tatro quickly learned how Renold and his family lived. They had little food and limited access to fresh water. There was no plumbing. They were beyond poor. Most importantly to the story: Poverty did not kill Renold’s spirit and determination. 

Quint and Brandie made a deal with Renold and his mom. They helped with food, clothing and rent, to provide some stability for the family. That was a short-term fix. Going further, they helped send him to school as a long-term gift for a chance for sustainable success. In school he thrived. Ultimately, Renold was voted class President. It didn’t stop there. After finishing High School, Renold attended the University of Kentucky to further his education. 

Today, Renold is a truck driver in the Lexington area. He is self-employed. Renold took out loans to buy his own truck. He is happily married with 4 kids of his own. Renold starts work at 2am with his first load to make sure he can spend quality time with his kids. His mom is with them now in Kentucky too, although she says it’s too cold… Hearing that made me smile for so many reasons.

The Tatro’s made an incalculable difference in the lives of the Alcius family. It spread throughout the family and into the community. It often starts with one. This is an incredible success story. I love telling stories. It’s so easy to take things for granted. Renold doesn’t. I thought this was a story worth telling.

Here is a picture of Renold and Quint in front of his new truck. The second picture speaks for itself. It makes me so honored and so happy to know them both.

Investing in people. Investing in education. Investing in dreams and hard work. It creates opportunity. The returns are so significant. The multiplying effect is immeasurably positive throughout communities. That’s the Business of Life.

I hope this story impacted you as much as it did me.

Have a nice weekend. Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms out there. We’ll be back, dark and early on Monday.


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