cfgadmin

3rd Quarter 2021 AM Newsletter

October 18, 2021   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on 3rd Quarter 2021 AM Newsletter   ·   Posted in Q3 2020 Creative Newsletter

“Let’s Roll”

The terrorist attack on innocent Americans twenty years ago was one of the most gut-wrenching and disturbing moments in recent memory. One we still struggle to process completely, and we were not even in New York City or the Pentagon. Maybe it’s the full array of emotions or maybe it was the sheer audacity of the attack on our way of life? Who knows? What we do know is, there were bold acts of heroism on that day like Todd Beamer on United flight 93 that inspire us and rekindle our faith in mankind. When a young salesman can ascertain the United States is under attack and rally three of his fellow passengers to take down our enemies while reciting the Lord’s prayer with the 911 operator, one can certainly find hope. Call us simple, if you must, but heroism like Todd Beamers’ reinstills our confidence America can reunite and revive what has made this country a beacon for the world.

You might ask why we are referencing 9/11 besides the historical relevancy of it being twenty years ago? To this we would say, because it’s important to reflect upon history no matter how painful and difficult it may be. If we try to whitewash the past for fear it might offend, then we risk diluting the lesson. By the same token, if we don’t learn from the history of markets, then we are doomed to make the same painful mistakes over-and-over again. As we move away from 2000 to 2003, we forget during the “Dot-com” bubble of the 2000’s the Nasdaq composite of big, sexy tech stocks lost 78% of its value from top to bottom. Meanwhile, the value sector was down 13.48% and two of the value funds we use the AMG Yacktman Fund and American Century Equity Income were up 59.37% and 34.15%, respectively. As things like Dogecoin are up 4,000% plus year-to-date (down from earlier this year at 11,860%), it helps to have knowledge of the “Dot-com” Bubble, South Sea Bubble, Tulipmania, Nifty Fifty stocks, and the Housing Crisis to name a few. If not, we may not see the historical parallels or the level of risk, and not have the tools to navigate the future. For instance, currently the spread between the most expensive stocks and the cheapest stocks has only been wider in the year 2000. Perhaps more startling is the fact that, per Third Avenue Funds, there are currently 1.76 trillion worth of companies listed in the United States that have been unprofitable for the past five years consecutively, as measured by EBITDA. This same group of companies trade at greater than 11x revenue, and in 2020, produced an EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) margin of negative 20%. Said another way, these companies, in aggregate, lost twenty cents on every dollar of revenue produced before capital expenditures. Evidence has historically shown that such huge distortions between the cheapest and most expensive parts of the market typically result in painful reversions to the mean.      

Do any of these numbers serve as definitive signs of an impending market correction? Sadly, “No”, as that would make life a lot easier. However, they do provide a good frame of reference that can mitigate risk for us all. Growth stocks may continue to outperform for years to come but the reason cheap stocks, typically called “value” stocks, have performed well in the past is because they have fundamental cash flow and low expectations. Growth stocks, on the other hand, oftentimes perform poorly in a rising interest rate environment because their promises of significant revenue growth do not lineup with their lofty valuations, high expectations, and minimal cash flow. All stock investments are essentially a claim on free cash flow, not a fluffy promise of growth.  To that end, cheap value stocks are viewed by many as a conservative investment in a market at risk from inflation and elevated prices. Other assets shown to historically perform well in frothy stock markets have been REITS, commodities, fixed income, and cash to name a few. However, all have an element of price and value to them that make them more effective during different time periods (price does matter). Suffice it to say, a diversified portfolio containing all of these elements to varying degrees, still remains one of the best ways to realize long term retirement goals, in our experience. Conversely, from our perspective, an overweight to highly speculative investments with little to no cash flow feels like an easy way to diminish one’s retirement goals.

We realize drawing historical parallels to the horrific images and memories of 9/11 and the stock market is a delicate balance, as managing wealth clearly pales in comparison to the events of that day and, frankly, we have not written about 9/11 much because of that very same sentiment. The heroism of firefighters running up the stairs of the World Trade Center and the passengers on United Flight 93 still moves one to tears twenty years later. The anger at the loss of life still chokes up grown men and women and stifles their ability to communicate effectively. We promise to never forget 9/11 and never forget the seriousness of our charge to faithfully manage your relationship against the backdrop of the greatest country in the world. To paraphrase Todd Beamer, Let’s continue to roll forward for many years to come with our historical knowledge tucked away and ready to handle any risks thrown our way. We remain your diligent advisors. Please call with questions.

2nd Quarter 2021 AM Newsletter

July 12, 2021   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on 2nd Quarter 2021 AM Newsletter   ·   Posted in Q3 2020 Creative Newsletter

“Old Glory”

In an era where many are turning their backs away from “Old Glory” we think it’s highly important to celebrate the union our founding fathers created on Independence Day. Of course, this freedom of expression that so disheartens some, if not many, is part of what makes this country so great. By contrast, in Hong Kong critics are jailed and newspapers are shut down that disagree with the Chinese Communist Party. Worse, if you are an Uighur Muslim in China, you risk being detained with one million of your friends in reeducation camps as an adherence to national ideology. Hopefully, we can agree the promise of liberty and justice established many years ago, while not without blemishes, has provided a pretty high standard of performance for many years. In fact, one might say the pursuit of happiness within our constitutional republic has proven very prosperous for its constituents and the world. We realize some may disagree with this statement, and to that, we would say that the ability to disagree with this point, and not be locked up, may actually prove our point.

Political rabbit holes aside, we think it’s important to bring up nationalism because it relates to inflation, a fear on many people’s mind lately. With the global supply chain interrupted and populism growing it seems normal to expect some inflation. The question on many minds is how transitory is this inflation? Many hearken back to the 1970’s as a frame of reference and while we see the parallels, history doesn’t always follow the same pattern. Some argue the 1940’s are a better comparison, and if so, it is important to note equities did quite well in that era. The seventies, by comparison, were not a great period for equities, but nothing else did much better except gold and oil that increased more than 19%.

Thus, against the backdrop of rising debt and decreasing globalism, one certainly understands the question about inflation strategy and positioning. Conversely, one could say we have had those questions for a while now and inflation hasn’t impacted the market in a significant way. From our perspective, we would argue we have been preparing for inflation for years by keeping duration low on our fixed income, minimizing exposure to long duration assets like growth stocks and making sure we had exposure to cheap sectors of the market like financials, energy, and small caps that typically perform well in a cyclical recovery. In addition, we have recently added commodities to portfolios to help protect against inflation risk.

Is there more that we could do? Possibly. However, to significantly position beyond what we have already implemented for possible increased inflationary pressures would imply we have a crystal ball that clearly showed a material dose of inflation was here to stay. Unfortunately, we do not own a crystal ball and indicators are never that clear. Additionally, if you find someone who says they know for certain how bad inflation is going to be in the near term, we think you will find they are one of those people who are often wrong but never in doubt. Strangely, these people always find an audience no matter their track record. We find markets are more complex than most figureheads can encapsulate in a brief sound bite.

Putting the inflation talk to bed, as we feel we have proactively positioned as well as we can at this point, we move onto the rest of the market. Many have asked us about current levels of the market. To this, we say as long as liquidity flows via central banks and earnings trend higher without significant inflation, we can continue higher. There are pockets of the market that appear stretched but there are other areas of the market that could run for a good while longer. Active management has outperformed since November of 2020 and may very well continue in a market like this. Of course, we will continue to treat this market as a complex adaptive system that requires disciplined, long-term risk adjusted strategies. To govern assets in any other way would be a disservice to the trust you have placed in us, a trust we treat with great honor and dignity.

Sort of like the experiment that started two hundred and forty-five years ago when our government was derived from the consent of the governed. We, too, find a symbiotic strength and stability in the management of your wealth with your agreement. To paraphrase the Federalist papers, we are nourished in your freedom. We will continue to monitor markets in a careful and deliberate manner because we truly respect the consent you have given us and wish to protect our clients with every tactic and tool available. It may sound corny, but we will never turn our back on you, and we want to grow old and glorious with you. Please call with any questions.

1st Quarter 2021 AM Newsletter.

April 16, 2021   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on 1st Quarter 2021 AM Newsletter.   ·   Posted in Asset Management Letter Archive


“Scattered, Smothered, Covered, Chunked, Capped, Diced, Topped and Peppered”

One of our portfolio managers recently stopped at a Waffle House with his family after a weekend getaway and couldn’t help but think we need a Waffle House Economic Index. The Yogi Berra quote “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded” came to mind as he saddled his way to the counter with one of his kids and dispatched the rest of the family to an open booth. If Waffle Houses in Georgia are any indicator, then we are returning to normalcy. Of course, the true indicator of normalcy will be when they remove the lone seat by the register that is reserved to preserve social distancing. Oh, how far we have come since this time last year.

Why do we drift to Waffle House as a backdrop for our letter this quarter, you might ask? Are we trying to distract you with sweet memories of buttered waffles and sizzling bacon? All temptations aside, we simply felt the need to emphasize normalcy and what it means. As the economy starts to thaw from its “dark winter” to borrow a phrase, what are we seeing? To our credit, a lot of what we hoped for is coming to fruition. The early cycle winners such as financials, energy, value, and small cap are doing very well. Through the first quarter, energy was up 30.83%, financials +16.02%, small cap value +16.84% and large cap value +10.99% whereas large cap, middle cap and small cap growth were up at best 2.56% and at worst 1.25%. To say we knew for certain the reopening trade would play out this positively would be a hubristic statement, one not welcomed at the Waffle House counter since hubris is not something you can scatter, smother, or dice on your hash browns. However, we did feel the upside optionality was so significant in the “value” and smaller capitalization sector versus mega cap and growth stocks, that if we just trended towards normal levels then we should see a significant spike in value as the price differential dissipated. The natural question from here, is if this “value” trade can last and, if history is any indicator, then it certainly can. Of course, growth has outperformed for the ten years before the recent cycle, so it could continue but there have also been significant time periods in the past when value has outperformed (2000-2010 for a short cycle, and 1926 to present for a longer cycle).   

Another area we drifted into last quarter was the inflation discussion. If you remember correctly last quarter, we alluded to the market and Federal Reserve almost inviting inflation at all costs. Well, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, as inflation reared its head in the first quarter. Thus, our call to keep duration short on our fixed income was prescient. Staying humble, though, it is not too hard to predict rising inflation when monetary stimulus is at levels not seen since WWII and debt levels reside over 100% of GDP before an infrastructure bill even gets passed. That being said, there are probably many investors who, unlike our clients, are unhappy with their -3.37% performance in their Bloomberg’s Barclays Aggregate Bond Index or worse than that if they held a long term bond fund like Vanguard Long Term Bond Index fund that was down 9.30% for the quarter. Our actively managed bond funds didn’t sniff levels like that with only one being down for the quarter and that one, Pimco Total Return, more than made up for it by being up 8.88% the previous year. Conversely, though, our gold investment didn’t work for the first quarter with gold being down 8.25% for the quarter. As we mentioned when we put this trade on last year, gold is more volatile than fixed income, but given the level of global monetary stimulus we felt this was a long term hedge against government malfeasance with a fiat currency and the resultant consequences. Gold has a far longer history as a currency than fiat currency and cryptocurrency. In addition, the majority of gold is not mined in China, like cryptocurrencies are. Thus, we continue to feel comfortable holding gold as a small percentage in client accounts.

Truly, the level of debt creation and government intervention makes one want to run back to Waffle House for a side of normalcy. Hopefully, once we work through vaccines, viruses and votes, the order of the day will not be so scrambled we can’t find our way forward. Of course, it’s our belief that we can always find a way to improve our lot in life and it usually starts with a good foundation whether it be eggs, bacon, or waffles. To that end, we will keep scrambling to find opportunities for you while keeping an eye on the tab (Trust us, if inflation starts creeping into the price of eggs and bacon, we will notice it). 

P.S. – There actually is a Waffle House Index but it is used by FEMA. It is an informal metric used to determine the effect of a storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery. The index is based on the reputation of Waffle House for having good disaster preparedness and staying open during extreme weather, or reopening quickly afterwards. As Craig Fugate, former head of FEMA, said about a disaster area “If you get there and the Waffle House is closed. That’s really bad…”

P.P.S – For those intrigued by the type of hash brown toppings listed at the beginning of the letter we have included them below. Admittedly, we were not aware of them all either and are considering stepping up our “hash brown” game next time we visit Waffle House. Scattered is the standard, smothered is sauteed with onions, covered is with melted cheese, chunked is with ham, diced is with tomatoes, peppered is with jalapeno peppers, capped is with mushrooms, and topped is with chili.

1st Quarter 2021 AM Newsletter.

April 16, 2021   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on 1st Quarter 2021 AM Newsletter.   ·   Posted in Asset Management Letter

“Scattered, Smothered, Covered, Chunked, Capped, Diced, Topped and Peppered”

One of our portfolio managers recently stopped at a Waffle House with his family after a weekend getaway and couldn’t help but think we need a Waffle House Economic Index. The Yogi Berra quote “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded” came to mind as he saddled his way to the counter with one of his kids and dispatched the rest of the family to an open booth. If Waffle Houses in Georgia are any indicator, then we are returning to normalcy. Of course, the true indicator of normalcy will be when they remove the lone seat by the register that is reserved to preserve social distancing. Oh, how far we have come since this time last year.

Why do we drift to Waffle House as a backdrop for our letter this quarter, you might ask? Are we trying to distract you with sweet memories of buttered waffles and sizzling bacon? All temptations aside, we simply felt the need to emphasize normalcy and what it means. As the economy starts to thaw from its “dark winter” to borrow a phrase, what are we seeing? To our credit, a lot of what we hoped for is coming to fruition. The early cycle winners such as financials, energy, value, and small cap are doing very well. Through the first quarter, energy was up 30.83%, financials +16.02%, small cap value +16.84% and large cap value +10.99% whereas large cap, middle cap and small cap growth were up at best 2.56% and at worst 1.25%. To say we knew for certain the reopening trade would play out this positively would be a hubristic statement, one not welcomed at the Waffle House counter since hubris is not something you can scatter, smother, or dice on your hash browns. However, we did feel the upside optionality was so significant in the “value” and smaller capitalization sector versus mega cap and growth stocks, that if we just trended towards normal levels then we should see a significant spike in value as the price differential dissipated. The natural question from here, is if this “value” trade can last and, if history is any indicator, then it certainly can. Of course, growth has outperformed for the ten years before the recent cycle, so it could continue but there have also been significant time periods in the past when value has outperformed (2000-2010 for a short cycle, and 1926 to present for a longer cycle).   

Another area we drifted into last quarter was the inflation discussion. If you remember correctly last quarter, we alluded to the market and Federal Reserve almost inviting inflation at all costs. Well, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, as inflation reared its head in the first quarter. Thus, our call to keep duration short on our fixed income was prescient. Staying humble, though, it is not too hard to predict rising inflation when monetary stimulus is at levels not seen since WWII and debt levels reside over 100% of GDP before an infrastructure bill even gets passed. That being said, there are probably many investors who, unlike our clients, are unhappy with their -3.37% performance in their Bloomberg’s Barclays Aggregate Bond Index or worse than that if they held a long term bond fund like Vanguard Long Term Bond Index fund that was down 9.30% for the quarter. Our actively managed bond funds didn’t sniff levels like that with only one being down for the quarter and that one, Pimco Total Return, more than made up for it by being up 8.88% the previous year. Conversely, though, our gold investment didn’t work for the first quarter with gold being down 8.25% for the quarter. As we mentioned when we put this trade on last year, gold is more volatile than fixed income, but given the level of global monetary stimulus we felt this was a long term hedge against government malfeasance with a fiat currency and the resultant consequences. Gold has a far longer history as a currency than fiat currency and cryptocurrency. In addition, the majority of gold is not mined in China, like cryptocurrencies are. Thus, we continue to feel comfortable holding gold as a small percentage in client accounts.

Truly, the level of debt creation and government intervention makes one want to run back to Waffle House for a side of normalcy. Hopefully, once we work through vaccines, viruses and votes, the order of the day will not be so scrambled we can’t find our way forward. Of course, it’s our belief that we can always find a way to improve our lot in life and it usually starts with a good foundation whether it be eggs, bacon, or waffles. To that end, we will keep scrambling to find opportunities for you while keeping an eye on the tab (Trust us, if inflation starts creeping into the price of eggs and bacon, we will notice it). 

P.S. – There actually is a Waffle House Index but it is used by FEMA. It is an informal metric used to determine the effect of a storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery. The index is based on the reputation of Waffle House for having good disaster preparedness and staying open during extreme weather, or reopening quickly afterwards. As Craig Fugate, former head of FEMA, said about a disaster area “If you get there and the Waffle House is closed. That’s really bad…”

P.P.S – For those intrigued by the type of hash brown toppings listed at the beginning of the letter we have included them below. Admittedly, we were not aware of them all either and are considering stepping up our “hash brown” game next time we visit Waffle House. Scattered is the standard, smothered is sauteed with onions, covered is with melted cheese, chunked is with ham, diced is with tomatoes, peppered is with jalapeno peppers, capped is with mushrooms, and topped is with chili.

Q4 2020 Creative Newsletter

January 20, 2021   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on Q4 2020 Creative Newsletter   ·   Posted in Asset Management Letter Archive

E Pluribus Unum

E Pluribus Unum, or “Out of many, one” has such strong meaning to residents of the United States that it is printed on our coins (among other things). Being students of history, we find it a little interesting that coins with our national motto (until 1956) on them are being rationed and pennies are scheduled to be phased out of production by 2022. Meanwhile, Bitcoin is hitting new highs and the Federal Reserve has begun working on a digital dollar. At the same time, modern monetary proponents keep grabbing more and more headlines as if they are the smartest guys in the room. For instance, there is a popular book called “The Deficit Myth” that argues, since the dollar is the reserve currency, deficit spending is a self-propagated myth created and maintained by politicians. If we just spent more money on all of our problem’s, things will likely turn out fine. Why are we going down this road? Certainly not because we want to talk about political issues any more this year. We mention this because we fear the ramifications of losing our heritage and credibility on the global stage. We bring this up because political instability and greater government spending lead to something we hope to have a handle on in retirement, inflation. (Political instability may also lead to devaluation of our currency but for now, we are going to put that under the heading of inflation as both destroy the wealth of their citizenry.)

Of course, what are some of the tools under our care that we can use to fight the threat of inflation? Stocks, commodities, and to a lesser degree, short duration fixed income. As an aside, fixed income is a better diversifier against stock volatility, but it is far safer after inflation risk is reflected in its price and not before. Thus, we continue to recommend an appropriate weighting in equities, fixed income and gold. Many have entertained adding cash to portfolios this year and while we certainly have it in accounts as dry powder for buying opportunities, we do not recommend a cash overweighting. Especially if there is a concerted effort by our Federal Reserve to “allow inflation to run hotter than normal”. On that note, forgive us for being the guy in the car asking if we should be worried about the temperature gauge blinking on the dash and the smoke coming from the engine. It truly feels as if we are so desensitized to the threat of rising prices now that we are inviting it at all costs. 

Not to be incendiary in any way, but what could also add fuel to the flame and burn out of control? An incoming government with a penchant for spending? A pent-up populace cooped up and ready for travel once a vaccine works? Maybe aggressive centrists calling out polarization on both sides and leading a great political moderation? All of these are big ifs (some positive and some negative) that could lead to greater inflation from current levels. Thus, we must stay vigilant and flexible in our investing. To that end, how else can we prepare for rising prices? Do we get inflation protection from equities that are up significantly over the past ten years or do we get that from equities that were pummeled due to pandemic concerns? We would argue that we certainly need representation in these beaten up areas. Many, of which, remind one of the setup for value stocks circa 2000 to 2008. Do we know that sectors like small cap, international, value and emerging markets will outperform? To say so would be arrogant, but to humbly admit that throughout history assets revert to their mean seems a very prudent tactic to protect your wealth, in our opinion. Additionally, we think you can get “One, out of many” to play on our earlier quote by having diversification across many asset classes such as gold and short duration multi-sector income funds. Just like our country has produced many great returns from the melting pot of many, stellar returns do not solely reside in the headline mega cap stocks. They also live in visions of entrepreneurs forging into new areas of growth. Sometimes they even come together in a program like “Operation Warp Speed” and create a vaccine in less than 12 months that normally takes 10 to 15 years. Truly, the teams of people and companies working together today are what give us confidence we can surmount whatever comes our way.

Yes, we know it sounds kind of hokey to talk about what we can accomplish with a unified approach against a backdrop of cynicism present in most modern day societies, along with an admittedly challenging year. However, in our opinion, the greatness of the United States, and for that matter, the human spirit, is when we work together. One of our recently deceased hometown heroes, Phil Niekro, comes to mind when we think of the type of “greatness” needed right now. As Phil said in his Hall of Fame speech “I have never met a player or an owner who can honestly stand up and say ‘I own this game. It belongs to me.’ This is America. America is baseball. This game is home and it belongs to you, the fan. Cherish it and take care of it.” As long as we cherish our gifts and work together, we can defeat most anything that comes our way.

P.S. – For those of you that don’t know Phil Niekro, we recommend spending some free time learning about him. The quote “Heroes get remembered. Legends never die” comes to mind. He may have been a better person than he was a baseball player and that is saying a lot. Also, his signature pitch, the knuckleball, may be the most appropriate metaphor we can imagine for 2020. If you have ever had a knuckleball make you look silly at home plate, then you know what we mean.

General Compliance Disclosures

Statements made via this letter are the opinions of Creative Financial Group (“CFG”) and its advisors, and are not to be construed as guarantees, warranties or predictions of future events, portfolio allocations, portfolio results, investment returns, or other outcomes. None of the information contained is intended as a solicitation or offer to purchase or sell a specific security, mutual fund, bond, or any other investment. Readers should not assume that the considerations, suggestions, or recommendations will be profitable, suitable to their circumstances or that future investment and/or portfolio performance will be profitable or favorable. Past performance of indices, mutual funds, or actual portfolios does not guarantee future results. Future results may differ significantly from the past due to materially different economic and market conditions; investments in securities or other financial products involve risk and the possibility of loss, including a permanent loss of principal. Investments are not FDIC insured and have no bank guarantee.

Creative Financial Group (“CFG”) is a division of Synovus Securities, Inc (“SSI”), member FINRA/SIPC. Prior to

January 1, 2011, CFG was a separate registered investment adviser affiliate of SSI. Investment products and services are not FDIC insured, are not deposits of or other obligations of Synovus Bank, are not guaranteed by Synovus Bank and involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal amount invested. Synovus Securities, Inc. is a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp and an affiliate of Synovus Bank.

Investment products and services provided by Synovus are offered through Synovus Securities, Inc. (“SSI”), Synovus Trust Company, N.A. (“STC”), GLOBALT, a separately identifiable division of STC and Creative Financial Group, a division of SSI. Trust services for Synovus are provided by Synovus Trust Company, N.A. The registered broker-dealer offering brokerage products for Synovus is Synovus Securities, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment products and services are not FDIC insured, are not deposits of or other obligations of Synovus Bank, are not guaranteed by Synovus Bank and involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal amount invested.

Synovus Securities, Inc. is a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp and an affiliate of Synovus Bank and Synovus Trust.  Synovus Trust Company, N.A. is a subsidiary of Synovus Bank.

Pursuant to rules adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission governing federally registered investment advisors, we request that you take time to compare your account balances and statements issued by National Financial Services, who acts as the custodian for your account(s).  We request you contact us immediately if you do not receive these statements or if the values reflected are materially different.

Cost basis reporting

If you buy and sell a security in a taxable account on or after the effective date, NFS will report cost basis for the sold security to you and the IRS on Form 1099-B. If you have a mix of covered and uncovered positions in the same security, NFS will report cost basis to you and the IRS for any covered position that is sold. NFS will apply the FIFO (First In, First Out) default method unless you inform us of a different method. Your cost basis method for all transactions must be final by settlement date. If you choose to change the default method, you can do so by notifying your Financial Consultant.

Use of Indexes

iThe investment return and style information and comparisons employ a variety of popular indices, and the index contents and strategies are the property of their respective companies (e.g., Dow Jones, Standard & Poor’s, Morningstar, Barclay Capital, Russell). Although the data is believed to be reliable, CFG makes no warranty with respect to the contents, accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or reliability of the information, which is represented here for informational use only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendation. None of the indices can be invested directly, and the return figures for these various securities indices are reported without management fees, trading costs, or other expenses subtracted from the returns, and are shown on a total return basis that assumes reinvestment of applicable capital gains and dividends. Components of indices may change over time. Small capitalization stocks are represented by the Russell 2000 Index. Mid Capitalization stocks are represented by the S&P Mid Cap 400 Index. Foreign stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE Index and emerging markets are represented by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

Q4 2020 Creative Newsletter

January 20, 2021   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on Q4 2020 Creative Newsletter   ·   Posted in Q3 2020 Creative Newsletter

E Pluribus Unum

E Pluribus Unum, or “Out of many, one” has such strong meaning to residents of the United States that it is printed on our coins (among other things). Being students of history, we find it a little interesting that coins with our national motto (until 1956) on them are being rationed and pennies are scheduled to be phased out of production by 2022. Meanwhile, Bitcoin is hitting new highs and the Federal Reserve has begun working on a digital dollar. At the same time, modern monetary proponents keep grabbing more and more headlines as if they are the smartest guys in the room. For instance, there is a popular book called “The Deficit Myth” that argues, since the dollar is the reserve currency, deficit spending is a self-propagated myth created and maintained by politicians. If we just spent more money on all of our problem’s, things will likely turn out fine. Why are we going down this road? Certainly not because we want to talk about political issues any more this year. We mention this because we fear the ramifications of losing our heritage and credibility on the global stage. We bring this up because political instability and greater government spending lead to something we hope to have a handle on in retirement, inflation. (Political instability may also lead to devaluation of our currency but for now, we are going to put that under the heading of inflation as both destroy the wealth of their citizenry.)

Of course, what are some of the tools under our care that we can use to fight the threat of inflation? Stocks, commodities, and to a lesser degree, short duration fixed income. As an aside, fixed income is a better diversifier against stock volatility, but it is far safer after inflation risk is reflected in its price and not before. Thus, we continue to recommend an appropriate weighting in equities, fixed income and gold. Many have entertained adding cash to portfolios this year and while we certainly have it in accounts as dry powder for buying opportunities, we do not recommend a cash overweighting. Especially if there is a concerted effort by our Federal Reserve to “allow inflation to run hotter than normal”. On that note, forgive us for being the guy in the car asking if we should be worried about the temperature gauge blinking on the dash and the smoke coming from the engine. It truly feels as if we are so desensitized to the threat of rising prices now that we are inviting it at all costs. 

Not to be incendiary in any way, but what could also add fuel to the flame and burn out of control? An incoming government with a penchant for spending? A pent-up populace cooped up and ready for travel once a vaccine works? Maybe aggressive centrists calling out polarization on both sides and leading a great political moderation? All of these are big ifs (some positive and some negative) that could lead to greater inflation from current levels. Thus, we must stay vigilant and flexible in our investing. To that end, how else can we prepare for rising prices? Do we get inflation protection from equities that are up significantly over the past ten years or do we get that from equities that were pummeled due to pandemic concerns? We would argue that we certainly need representation in these beaten up areas. Many, of which, remind one of the setup for value stocks circa 2000 to 2008. Do we know that sectors like small cap, international, value and emerging markets will outperform? To say so would be arrogant, but to humbly admit that throughout history assets revert to their mean seems a very prudent tactic to protect your wealth, in our opinion. Additionally, we think you can get “One, out of many” to play on our earlier quote by having diversification across many asset classes such as gold and short duration multi-sector income funds. Just like our country has produced many great returns from the melting pot of many, stellar returns do not solely reside in the headline mega cap stocks. They also live in visions of entrepreneurs forging into new areas of growth. Sometimes they even come together in a program like “Operation Warp Speed” and create a vaccine in less than 12 months that normally takes 10 to 15 years. Truly, the teams of people and companies working together today are what give us confidence we can surmount whatever comes our way.

Yes, we know it sounds kind of hokey to talk about what we can accomplish with a unified approach against a backdrop of cynicism present in most modern day societies, along with an admittedly challenging year. However, in our opinion, the greatness of the United States, and for that matter, the human spirit, is when we work together. One of our recently deceased hometown heroes, Phil Niekro, comes to mind when we think of the type of “greatness” needed right now. As Phil said in his Hall of Fame speech “I have never met a player or an owner who can honestly stand up and say ‘I own this game. It belongs to me.’ This is America. America is baseball. This game is home and it belongs to you, the fan. Cherish it and take care of it.” As long as we cherish our gifts and work together, we can defeat most anything that comes our way.

P.S. – For those of you that don’t know Phil Niekro, we recommend spending some free time learning about him. The quote “Heroes get remembered. Legends never die” comes to mind. He may have been a better person than he was a baseball player and that is saying a lot. Also, his signature pitch, the knuckleball, may be the most appropriate metaphor we can imagine for 2020. If you have ever had a knuckleball make you look silly at home plate, then you know what we mean.

General Compliance Disclosures

Statements made via this letter are the opinions of Creative Financial Group (“CFG”) and its advisors, and are not to be construed as guarantees, warranties or predictions of future events, portfolio allocations, portfolio results, investment returns, or other outcomes. None of the information contained is intended as a solicitation or offer to purchase or sell a specific security, mutual fund, bond, or any other investment. Readers should not assume that the considerations, suggestions, or recommendations will be profitable, suitable to their circumstances or that future investment and/or portfolio performance will be profitable or favorable. Past performance of indices, mutual funds, or actual portfolios does not guarantee future results. Future results may differ significantly from the past due to materially different economic and market conditions; investments in securities or other financial products involve risk and the possibility of loss, including a permanent loss of principal. Investments are not FDIC insured and have no bank guarantee.

Creative Financial Group (“CFG”) is a division of Synovus Securities, Inc (“SSI”), member FINRA/SIPC. Prior to

January 1, 2011, CFG was a separate registered investment adviser affiliate of SSI. Investment products and services are not FDIC insured, are not deposits of or other obligations of Synovus Bank, are not guaranteed by Synovus Bank and involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal amount invested. Synovus Securities, Inc. is a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp and an affiliate of Synovus Bank.

Investment products and services provided by Synovus are offered through Synovus Securities, Inc. (“SSI”), Synovus Trust Company, N.A. (“STC”), GLOBALT, a separately identifiable division of STC and Creative Financial Group, a division of SSI. Trust services for Synovus are provided by Synovus Trust Company, N.A. The registered broker-dealer offering brokerage products for Synovus is Synovus Securities, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment products and services are not FDIC insured, are not deposits of or other obligations of Synovus Bank, are not guaranteed by Synovus Bank and involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal amount invested.

Synovus Securities, Inc. is a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp and an affiliate of Synovus Bank and Synovus Trust.  Synovus Trust Company, N.A. is a subsidiary of Synovus Bank.

Pursuant to rules adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission governing federally registered investment advisors, we request that you take time to compare your account balances and statements issued by National Financial Services, who acts as the custodian for your account(s).  We request you contact us immediately if you do not receive these statements or if the values reflected are materially different.

Cost basis reporting

If you buy and sell a security in a taxable account on or after the effective date, NFS will report cost basis for the sold security to you and the IRS on Form 1099-B. If you have a mix of covered and uncovered positions in the same security, NFS will report cost basis to you and the IRS for any covered position that is sold. NFS will apply the FIFO (First In, First Out) default method unless you inform us of a different method. Your cost basis method for all transactions must be final by settlement date. If you choose to change the default method, you can do so by notifying your Financial Consultant.

Use of Indexes

iThe investment return and style information and comparisons employ a variety of popular indices, and the index contents and strategies are the property of their respective companies (e.g., Dow Jones, Standard & Poor’s, Morningstar, Barclay Capital, Russell). Although the data is believed to be reliable, CFG makes no warranty with respect to the contents, accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or reliability of the information, which is represented here for informational use only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendation. None of the indices can be invested directly, and the return figures for these various securities indices are reported without management fees, trading costs, or other expenses subtracted from the returns, and are shown on a total return basis that assumes reinvestment of applicable capital gains and dividends. Components of indices may change over time. Small capitalization stocks are represented by the Russell 2000 Index. Mid Capitalization stocks are represented by the S&P Mid Cap 400 Index. Foreign stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE Index and emerging markets are represented by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

Congratulations Chris Womack

November 9, 2020   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on Congratulations Chris Womack   ·   Posted in Q3 2020 Creative Newsletter

We congratulate longtime client Chris Womack for being named CEO of GA Power.

African Americans have founded and led sizeable businesses in Georgia. But nationwide, Black CEOs are rare among the largest companies. Only four — less than 1% — were serving as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, according to a report last year by consulting firm Korn Ferry. Georgia Power is a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company.

To see more information on Chris and his accomplishments Please visit the follow links

https://www.ajc.com/neighborhoods/gwinnett/southern-exec-to-become-new-georgia-power-ceo/SEM3T3UGDBHB5KI5JUFCLD5MSI/

http://athensceo.com/features/2020/10/georgia-powers-paul-bowers-retire-succession-plan-announced/

Happy Birthday

February 24, 2020   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on Happy Birthday   ·   Posted in Activities

We recently had a chance to celebrate Carol Warren’s Birthday!

AM 1st Qtr 2020 letter

February 5, 2020   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on AM 1st Qtr 2020 letter   ·   Posted in Asset Management Letter

This, too, shall pass …

Less than a month and a half ago the U.S. economy signaled continued growth in the midst of an election year and another virus like SARS, MERS, Avian Bird Flu or the Swine Flu had cropped up across the pond. Fast forward a month later and Covid-19 stalled the global economy, a price war in oil broke out and the market experienced a historic drop. With all due respect to the people that say they saw this coming, there is no way you saw all of these events lining up together. As reference, the Swine Flu killed 150 to 500,000 people in 2009-10 (estimates vary) and the S&P 500i was up 23.54% in 2009 and 12.78% in 2010. OPEC tried price wars from November 2014 through 2015 and the S&P 500i was flat from November to the end of 2015, but at the end of 2019 oil and the S&P 500i were up 64.66% and 57.88% respectively from 2015. Historical revisionists sometimes gloss over risk through the lens of remembrance. Risk is an innate part of life that was not missing over the past ten years during the longest bull market in history. However, mitigating risk in order to still receive rewards is what we all must do every day.

               We lead with the historical recap to provide perspective, Abraham Lincoln was a leader with a unique insight into dealing with crises.  Oftentimes, he would tell a story about an Eastern Monarch who charged wise men to craft a sentence which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. Their answer was “And this, too, shall pass away. How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!” To us, the sentences about chastening in the hour of pride and consoling in the depths of affliction are the most important part of the quote. When the markets are at their highest is when we fail the greatest need for humility because risk can come quickly. However, when maximum pessimism resides in the market is oftentimes the best time to buy. For example, in 2009 when the very structure of our financial system was in question due to excess leverage our managers were able to find values that provided fantastic returns 1, 3, 5 and 10 years later. As another example, last year was when we took gains from our winners for withdrawal needs and this year we are taking withdrawal needs from fixed income. With global financial stimulus being injected into the economy against a backdrop of low interest rates, stocks are arguably more attractive than they have been in years. Quantitative easing and low interest rates make stocks cheaper no matter your perspective on what they do to debt levels. Thus, we think this historical drop in the stock market is a time for our clients to be using our conservative positioning from the past to allow them to put money to work.

               That being said, we also realize there is an emotional side to investing. As human beings emotions appear to have primacy over cognitive function. It is why we jump when a snake strikes at us behind protective glass at a zoo and it is what kept us alive when we were cave dwellers. Thus, when stocks get cheap it is hard to buy as they may get cheaper. Even if someone showed us that in the twelve bear markets previous to this one the average return is 52.2% a year later or 88.6% three years later, some are still hesitant because we know past performance doesn’t predict future results. The typical bear market is down 30% from peak to trough in a recession and the market hit that level on March 23rd, but we understand the fear that it could go lower. However, the reasoned contrarian in us would argue that it could be we have already hit the bottom. Of course, to forecast is folly, but one could certainly contend that after a 30% drop, one is historically closer to the bottom than the top. 

               On that note, we also want you to know that many of our managers who hold cash/fixed income or hedges have been putting money into the market recently. They didn’t know we would have a triumvirate of virus, valuations, and oil hit the market at the same time, but they knew valuations were stretched, so they were holding cash for a correction to scoop up attractive assets. They can’t disclose full details of their moves yet, but when they move from 57% in the market to 73% in the market (as one manager did), you can surmise they are finding what they feel are attractive long-term purchases. Our fixed income managers have also been adding to investments that have widened out to yields not seen since 2008-09. These are all moves that we applaud as it should reward our clients significantly in the future.    

We regaled you with historical numbers in this quarterly because to quote Churchill “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Viewing three significant setbacks in the market over the past twenty years strangely gives us hope as we peer forward to the future. A future we hope to continue to navigate with you and your family for years to come. Please stay safe, wash your hands, and practice social distancing as your health is more important than any words we can put on paper. Call with any questions or any navigational tips.

P.S. Our favorite navigational tip is “You can’t steer a boat by looking at the wake”. We find more emotional support in it versus the quote we keep hearing about our current situation of “It will get worse before it gets better”.

General Compliance Disclosures

Statements made via this letter are the opinions of Creative Financial Group (“CFG”) and its advisors, and are not to be construed as guarantees, warranties or predictions of future events, portfolio allocations, portfolio results, investment returns, or other outcomes. None of the information contained is intended as a solicitation or offer to purchase or sell a specific security, mutual fund, bond, or any other investment. Readers should not assume that the considerations, suggestions, or recommendations will be profitable, suitable to their circumstances or that future investment and/or portfolio performance will be profitable or favorable. Past performance of indices, mutual funds, or actual portfolios does not guarantee future results. Future results may differ significantly from the past due to materially different economic and market conditions; investments in securities or other financial products involve risk and the possibility of loss, including a permanent loss of principal. Investments are not FDIC insured and have no bank guarantee.

Creative Financial Group (“CFG”) is a division of Synovus Securities, Inc (“SSI”), member FINRA/SIPC. Prior to

January 1, 2011, CFG was a separate registered investment adviser affiliate of SSI. Investment products and services are not FDIC insured, are not deposits of or other obligations of Synovus Bank, are not guaranteed by Synovus Bank and involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal amount invested. Synovus Securities, Inc. is a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp and an affiliate of Synovus Bank.

Investment products and services provided by Synovus are offered through Synovus Securities, Inc. (“SSI”), Synovus Trust Company, N.A. (“STC”), GLOBALT, a separately identifiable division of STC and Creative Financial Group, a division of SSI. Trust services for Synovus are provided by Synovus Trust Company, N.A. The registered broker-dealer offering brokerage products for Synovus is Synovus Securities, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment products and services are not FDIC insured, are not deposits of or other obligations of Synovus Bank, are not guaranteed by Synovus Bank and involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal amount invested.

Synovus Securities, Inc. is a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp and an affiliate of Synovus Bank and Synovus Trust.  Synovus Trust Company, N.A. is a subsidiary of Synovus Bank.

Pursuant to rules adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission governing federally registered investment advisors, we request that you take time to compare your account balances and statements issued by National Financial Services, who acts as the custodian for your account(s).  We request you contact us immediately if you do not receive these statements or if the values reflected are materially different.

Cost basis reporting

If you buy and sell a security in a taxable account on or after the effective date, NFS will report cost basis for the sold security to you and the IRS on Form 1099-B. If you have a mix of covered and uncovered positions in the same security, NFS will report cost basis to you and the IRS for any covered position that is sold. NFS will apply the FIFO (First In, First Out) default method unless you inform us of a different method. Your cost basis method for all transactions must be final by settlement date. If you choose to change the default method, you can do so by notifying your Financial Consultant.

Use of Indexes

iThe investment return and style information and comparisons employ a variety of popular indices, and the index contents and strategies are the property of their respective companies (e.g., Dow Jones, Standard & Poor’s, Morningstar, Barclay Capital, Russell). Although the data is believed to be reliable, CFG makes no warranty with respect to the contents, accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or reliability of the information, which is represented here for informational use only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendation. None of the indices can be invested directly, and the return figures for these various securities indices are reported without management fees, trading costs, or other expenses subtracted from the returns, and are shown on a total return basis that assumes reinvestment of applicable capital gains and dividends. Components of indices may change over time. Small capitalization stocks are represented by the Russell 2000 Index. Mid Capitalization stocks are represented by the S&P Mid Cap 400 Index. Foreign stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE Index and emerging markets are represented by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

Richard Raby’s Update on Robo Advisors

October 18, 2019   ·   By   ·   Comments Off on Richard Raby’s Update on Robo Advisors   ·   Posted in News, Q3 2020 Creative Newsletter

Richard Raby, Portfolio Manager at Creative Financial Group, discusses some recent updates on Robo Advisors and why he thinks human advisors will continue to be around.

Watch the video HERE

Video courtesy of
Metro Atlanta CEO.


Copyright © 2011 Creative Financial Group
All rights reserved.

Creative Financial Group (“CFG”) is a division of Synovus Securities, Inc (“SSI”), member FINRA/SIPC. Prior to January 1, 2011, CFG was a separate registered investment adviser affiliate of SSI. Investment products and services are not FDIC insured, are not deposits of or other obligations of Synovus Bank, are not guaranteed by Synovus Bank and involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal amount invested. Synovus Securities, Inc. is a subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp and an affiliate of Synovus Bank. You can obtain more information about Synovus Securities, Inc. and its Registered Representatives by accessing BrokerCheck