Market insights and analysis

How dynamic, risk-managed investment solutions are performing in the current market environment

2nd Quarter | 2023

Quarterly recap



Current market environment performance of dynamic, risk-managed investment solutions.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is one of the most enduring musicals written. It first previewed here in Detroit in 1964, and I’m sure regional or touring companies will continue performing it in the future for many years to come. And, of course, the movie version is always available!

The one constant of football at all levels is that things are always changing. But the fundamental principles and lessons of the game have endured for decades.

I’ve been dealing with knee problems for several years now. As a result, I started reviewing medical literature looking for options. During my research, I read a blog post by Dr. Kevin Stone of the San Francisco–based Stone Clinic.

Two related themes have been dominating my conversations with investors these days. First, many are worried about how market and economic volatility will affect their investments. Second, they want to discuss index investing.

My brother, Charlie, and his family recently adopted a new furry friend, Buzz. Pictured above, Buzz is a mini goldendoodle. When they brought him home, he was just three months old.

If social media is any indication, this summer’s must-see double feature is “Barbenheimer”—the nickname referring to “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” the two blockbuster movies of the season.

I love traveling to New York City, taking a break from my usual day-to-day routine by riding the subway, walking the crowded streets, and people-watching. I especially enjoy observing the hustle and swift adaptability of the street vendors.

Where I live, it is a summer ritual to load up the SUV or minivan with your children and their friends and spend the better part of a day at one of our local amusement parks.

Whether you are talking to portfolio managers, researchers, financial advisers, or marketing experts in the financial-services industry, the conventional wisdom seems to be that investors are motivated primarily by two emotions: greed and fear.

I was one of the relatively few viewers who watched the MLB All-Star Game last week. The game took place on July 11 at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.

2023 has been a strange year, confounding not only investors but also economic experts and market pundits. At a time when most were bracing for the worst, the U.S. economy has exhibited unexpected resilience.

Summer is in full bloom. It beckons us with open highways and the thrill of new adventures. Families across the nation are gearing up for their much-awaited vacations.

Do these questions ever keep you up at night?

Some time ago, I listened to an interview on Bloomberg radio with Thomas Gilovich, a well-known professor of psychology at Cornell University.

What’s catching the eyes of investors today are some of the highest short-term yields in decades. One-year Treasurys are close to 5%. This is all due to Federal Reserve tightening that has resulted in one of the fastest gains in yields in history.

The efficient market theory asserts that the markets are made up of rational investors and, thus, are so efficient that market pricing cannot be exploited for a profit.

I was reading some history recently that focused on the Second World War. It contradicted a long-held belief. I’d always heard that the Maginot Line was a colossal failure.

My wife and I have become big fans of “Clarkson’s Farm,” a show on Amazon Prime.

The movement of the components of the stock market these days—the companies that make up various indexes—makes me think of the relationship between generals and troops, especially in the days before modern, tactical warfare.

It was 10:30 p.m. A half-drunk glass of rich and delicious Cabernet remained in the goblet before me as the server cleared away our dishes. The shuffled plates contained the remains of beautifully marbled steak.


This morning I was in the doctor’s office to get some blood drawn. The young lady across from me was there for the same purpose and was seconds away from the needle penetrating her skin.

Did you know that this April was the 20th anniversary of Financial Literacy Month?

The first quarter of 2023 reminded us that markets don’t always behave as expected.

With tax season still top of mind, investors may be looking for the most beneficial—and tax-efficient—ways to make charitable donations.

I can still feel the doorjamb pressed hard against the back of my head, each move causing a painful tug against an errant strand of hair. But I wanted to be there, and I strained to stretch my body upward, fighting the urge to resort to tiptoes.

Gold has been the topic of news and commentary throughout 2023—including the fact that the precious metal recently punched through the $2,000 level for a brief period.

It was over 30 years ago. I sat in a pew in a little church on the village green of Franklin, Michigan. It was the usual Sunday service, but I was stirred by the sermon from a minister who was still relatively new to me.

Yesterday morning, I received a text message from an old colleague. It said, “Twitter should treat ‘economic commentary’ like hate speech.”

It is probably safe to say that many readers of this article are not totally familiar with the concept of a TAMP (a turnkey asset management program). And there is also a pretty good chance that many do not know that Flexible Plan Investments (FPI) has been serving financial advisers and their clients as a TAMP for over 20 years.

It’s that time of year. If you live in the Northeast or Midwest, you probably know what I mean. As winter begins to draw to a close and the first signs of spring surface, we enter the twilight zone where ice storms appear. On a weather map, ice storms are usually the fuzzy area clinging to the southern edges of snowstorms as they sweep across the country. They begin with rain that often switches to slush but rarely transforms into snow.

DIY investing surged during the early years of the pandemic. A survey of online brokerage operations showed new account openings up 50%–300% in the first quarter of 2020, and the stock-trading app Robinhood added 10 million accounts in 2021, according to CNBC.

ChatGPT is a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool that has the potential to disrupt the investment community. It can help brainstorm new ideas, summarize research, generate code, and many other use cases that we’re only just beginning to learn about or imagine.

Several years ago, staff members were waiting for us at the airport, which was teeming with people when the transatlantic plane touched down. In a crowded, cavernous room, with signs everywhere, they found our luggage and escorted us through customs. Whisked into a private car, they sped us to the dock and our rivercraft.

They say New Year’s resolutions are meant to be broken. I am sure there are at least a few readers of this article who are already frustrated this year by their inability to follow through on some of their well-intentioned resolutions. In fact, it is probably more than a few.

It was the fall of 1956. Action from the World Series blared from the radio. It was the New York Yankees versus the Brooklyn Dodgers, game five. Don Larsen threw his 97th pitch. “Strike!” called the umpire, and the audience witnessed perfection. Twenty-seven batters up, 27 retired—all without a hit, walk, or error. The perfect game.

Nowhere to run

A song by the Motown group Martha and the Vandellas kept running through my mind during 2022. The 1965 creation of the Holland–Dozier–Holland Hitsville production team, “Nowhere to Run” rose to number eight on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and number five on Billboard’s Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart. It has been used in countless movies since its release. The original music video of the song was shot to the throbbing beat of the Funk Brothers at the Ford Mustang plant here in Detroit.

You’re right

The market is funny. No matter what your perspective is when you look at it, you can almost always find something to support your opinion. Searching for or favoring data that aligns with your existing beliefs is called “confirmation bias.” It can be found in all disciplines, but the way it shows up in investing is particularly interesting.

We all have insurance of some kind—health, auto, life, disability, renters, and/or home. Just in case … When we drive, we have our seat belts and lots of new safety features for our car, like airbags. The roads have markings, safety engineering, and guard rails on the riskiest stretches. Just in case …

What’s your plan B?

Years ago, a harrowing news story that ultimately ended in triumph reminded me of the benefits of having a plan B. It all began on August 5, 2010, with the collapse of the main ramp into a small gold and copper mine located in the remote Atacama region of Northern Chile. More than 30 miners were missing. Then, two days later, as hundreds of their fellow miners worked to find some sign of life, a new cave-in brought the rescue efforts to a halt.

As I read through various 2022 recaps from the general media and financial press, one theme becomes abundantly clear—and hardly surprising: 2022 was extremely challenging on many fronts. In a recent article, consulting firm McKinsey & Company put it succinctly: “The past year has been anything but ordinary.”

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” How often that phrase has been quoted since Ben Franklin penned it in a letter to his friend, the French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy, in the midst of the French Revolution.

Norm, a character on the 1980s sitcom “Cheers,” is a down-on-his-luck type of guy and a regular at the titular Boston pub. He tries to get ahead but never quite makes any progress. So every day he comes back to the place “where everybody knows your name.”

The gifting season

What a great idea Thanksgiving Day was. Our ancestors set aside a day designed simply to give thanks for all the bounties of this life. This year, as my brother and sister would say, “We had so much fun!” Family came together; the new baby, Natalie, was naturally the focus; a feast was prepared and enjoyed by all; and, of course, the Detroit Lions lost.

Since I began investing in the late 1960s, I have always been in the active investing camp. When I started Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., in 1981, the only investment services we offered were active management (and that is still true today). I thought an investment manager should be “flexible” rather than locked into a rigid buy-and-hold approach.

What the FTX?

Last week was a wild ride in cryptocurrency land. On November 4, the largest and most well-known proxy for the cryptocurrency space, bitcoin, traded around $21,130 USD per bitcoin. By Monday morning, it was trading below $16,000, a drop of nearly 25%.

With an estimated 10,000 baby boomers reaching the retirement age of 65 each day over the next eight years, it is little wonder that both the general media and financial press are saturated with retirement-focused content. And there are many good reasons for that.

Investors often ask me, “What is active management?” Many confuse the phrase “active management” with the simple act of running a mutual fund populated with stock picks within the strict guidelines of a prospectus, as opposed to running an index fund, where the manager simply buys and holds the shares making up a particular stock or bond index.

It’s October, and Halloween is just around the corner. But at Flexible Plan Investments (FPI), we’re always searching for the monsters in your investment portfolio.

Decisions. We have to make them every day on a whole range of matters. While most decisions seem to revolve around choosing between alternatives, another category of decisions tends to be more critical in the scheme of things.

I am sure anyone interested in major league baseball has followed—either fanatically closely (like New York Yankees supporters) or just as casual fans of the game—the remarkable 2022 season of the Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Judge.