How to Win Favors and Influence Opportunity
Oh the power of “hello,” “please” and “thank you.” When they are used you often get better service, lower prices, maybe even a seat on a crowded plane.
When they are not employed, you’re put in the “rude” category and are faced with possible negative consequences.
My husband and I discovered just this when we traveled in France a few years ago. After an especially long day of driving we arrived at the hotel at which I was hoping to stay. I hadn’t made a reservation because I wanted to be spontaneous. Bone weary I walked up to the clerk and said, “Hi, do you have a room?” The clerk looked at me with disdain and said “no.” I immediately realized I had made a major faux pas. I had not greeted the man properly and I hadn’t spoken any French. I should have said, “Bonsoir monsieur. We have heard wonderful things about your hotel. Do you have a room available?” By saying the formal “good evening” in French and being complimentary I believe a room would have been available. Thankfully we were able to find a lovely hotel not far from our intended lodging. But we learned an important lesson.
We get so caught up in our little worlds that it’s easy to forget to acknowledge others and say “please” and “thank you.” But, it’s really annoying to service people when they are treated like a transaction rather than a person.
Did you read about the store owner who got so tired of rude customers that he is charging them more for a cup of coffee? He created a sign that lists the prices for a cup of joe. If you just say “One small coffee” it’s $5.00. But if you say “One small coffee, please” the price is $3.00. A “Hello, I’d like one small coffee please” and you’ll only pay $1.75. He wanted to make a point about the importance of acknowledging and being courteous to the staff.
A friend of mine has an internal customer service related job and she said employees will call her on the phone and often launch into their problem without a proper hello or any niceties – “My key card doesn’t work.” Sometimes they will say it angrily as if it’s her fault. All she asks is that they say, “Hi Jane, this is Joe Smith in the marketing department. I’m having problems with my key card and I’m wondering if you might be able to help me with it.” What a difference that would make.
Slow down my friends. Say “hello,” “please” and “thank you,” and give the person who’s helping you eye contact. In fact, I challenge you to look at the barista or sales clerk, or whoever is helping you, and notice what color his or her eyes are during your transaction. Make a point of acknowledging others and using those magic words your parents taught you. They really are magical.
What's an Investor to Do When History Doesn't Repeat Itself?
We’re in an era of extremes. It seems a day doesn’t go by without the word “historical” popping up in the financial news.
The equities market and consumer debt are at historical highs. Interest rates and high-yield credit spreads are at historical lows. We haven’t seen even a 5% pull-back in the market this year—for the first time since 1995—and the DJIA is exhibiting its narrowest trading range in history. These are indeed historical times. And whether this fact has you filled with extreme optimism or extreme pessimism, you have some important decisions to make going forward.
There are theories about how we landed in this particular era of extremes, and most are rooted in the significant changes that have impacted both how we live and how we invest. At the top of the list are globalization, automation, and the largest aging population in history (yet another “historical” to add to the list). It’s said that the most dangerous words in investing are, “it’s different this time,” yet one has to wonder if, in fact, it really is different this time. Not just because of the historical market highs. After all, there always has been and always will be a new market high waiting around the corner. What’s different today is the sheer number and confluence of these extreme highs and lows—and their duration. It’s a situation no investor has experienced before, which can make these waters feel pretty daunting. History repeats itself, and investment strategies are largely built on that conviction. But what do we do when it doesn’t? When history fails to repeat itself, how can investors plan for tomorrow with confidence that they are positioned to protect their assets and gain a reasonable level of yield?
The first step is to recognize that, at least in many ways, the investment landscape really is different this time around. All you have to do is look at the numbers to be sure of that fact. And the catalysts I mentioned before—globalization, automation, and the aging population—aren’t going anywhere. If anything, the impact of each will only grow as time moves on. What that means is that there’s no way to predict what’s coming next. The only thing we know for certain is that predictability is a thing of the past (if it ever really existed at all). The result: you need to approach your portfolio differently than you ever have before.
Your goal, of course, is to find return given a risk tolerance. Current yield is an important part of total return and getting it is an elusive proposition in today’s market. If, like many people, you’re less than confident that the four major sectors that currently drive the equities market—healthcare, discretionary, tech, and financial—are poised to continue to rise at even close to recent rates, it may be wise to seek out alternatives to help drive yield without adding more risk to the equation.
But if alternatives are the wise path forward, which alternatives are the best options?
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Business Development Companies (BDCs), and energy stocks, traditionally the favored “non-correlated alternatives,” defied expectations when the stock market crashed in 2008, inconveniently revealing high correlations just as the equities market began its freefall. Anyone who was invested in these alternatives at the time knows all too well the devastating impact “non-correlated investments” can have on a portfolio, especially when they fail to do their job when it matters most.
Luckily, there is one alternative that can be counted on to remain uncorrelated to the traditional financial markets and, ultimately, deliver that precious yield: life insurance-based investments. And because this asset is literally built on one of the irreversible catalysts of change, the aging Baby Boomer population, owning life insurance may in fact be the ideal alternative to help investors generate non-correlated returns, regardless of where the market turns next. Even better, these investments typically deliver those returns with very low volatility.
What makes life insurance different is that, unlike typical alternative vehicles, secondary life insurance returns aren’t based on the economy. Instead, they are inherently non-correlated because returns are based solely on the longevity of the individual insureds.
As much as we would all love for the bull market to continue on its merry way, one thing history does tell us even today is that a bear market will come. It’s only a matter of when. As you strive to hedge your portfolios and prepare for the inevitable, life insurance-based investments are one tool that can help you achieve the three things you need most: diversification, low volatility, and yield.
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