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My Fickle Friend - The Summer Winds!

Unpacking the Summer 2019!

Summer Winds, Frank Sinatra 

Ahhhh – nothing like Fall in DC! Crisp clear air filling your lungs, leaves gently crunching under foot as you stake out the perfect apple tree at your favorite regional orchard, iPhone's snapping a plethora of family photos that will compete for space on the annual family Christmas card…….except today's official start of fall in DC has brought us yet another stretch of rain free 90 degree days with no end in sight. So far, Interest rates are the only thing that have fallen this month!

The summer of 2019 was one of many highs and a few lows for the team at Piedmont Wealth Advisory. With an office recently added to a family cottage in Cape Cod, I was able to spend a great deal of the summer away from the oppressive heat that crippled DC in July and August. This was admittedly a bit of an experimental summer as I was learning to balance / blend “working” and “cape cod” in some ratio that ensured PWA was going to see Labor Day! This just in - self motivation is easy to find when tuition's are to be paid! 

Overall the “Cape lab results” were positive and I am hoping to continue the experiment next year. I would be remiss if I didn’t share that for the 6th straight year, Mary Birnie remains family bocce champ with Nick closing the gap quickly. I was able to eek out a few victories – primarily against Ralph – our chocolate Lab! For well over the 30th consecutive summer, I spent an afternoon reading my all time favorite - F Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby".

I was blessed to have been invited to numerous special client events over the summer months as well. High School graduation parties are always interesting as yards are filled with fajitas, pulled pork and pasta while roughly 100 "best friends" drift from group to group while their exhausted parents watch from the wings - praying like hell the kids get to college safely. The mood is a blend of celebratory excitement and nervous energy over future mountains to climb and next level friendships to forge. The more intimate, college graduation dinners have a more relaxed (for most parents - definitely relieved) conversational air of real accomplishment and generally involve a few jokes of a child “moving on” – or at least nearing removal from the family “payroll”! 

July saw Mary and I attend a client’s 50th Wedding anniversary – a true testament to commitment, love and patience….and based on the stories shared at the event- a definite endorsement to have an ample wine cellar / bourbon supply on hand to "encourage" patience!

Sadly, this summer there were a few of life’s stark reminders that we are not walking thru a daily “dress rehearsal” – last suppers do happen and rarely are invitations sent to prepare us! With the suddenness of the summer tornado's that stunned Cape Cod, sadness swept thru the Birnie family in July. We lost a few cherished family friends– one far far to early. Billy Joel seems to have hit the nail on the head with his long-ago recorded hit “Only the Good Die Young”. 

Life Perspective is delivered to us all in a variety of packages. With my aging Uncle Vic, (he of endless stories and good business guidance) some chapters arrive as expected and in accordance with the generally agreed upon “circle of life” script. Others arrive uninvited – barging into the our inner most souls with an obnoxious urgency that cripples one’s ability to sensibly process the fact set. Morgan Rodgers, my daughters long time soul mate, sudden passing in July was such an event. Times like these repeatedly reinforce a commitment to grab the “todays” and shake out of it all the good it has to offer as our “tomorrows” may have a significantly more complex set of circumstances to digest.  This philosophy should resonate with folks who have sought our guidance when considering allocating funds to a dream trip, sending a child to an “overpriced” school or a funding a seemingly frivolous “one off” expense. Sometimes over planning for an event to be enjoyed to far in the future diminishes the likelihood of the event ever occurring.

The PWA team continues to be engaged in the community over the summer:

Jennifer Haddad, PWA Director of Client Experience, continued her monthly volunteer commitment to Women Giving Back. Women Giving Back is a local organization focused on supporting women and children in crisis. Jennifer has been a tremendous addition to the PWA team and our clients inside the office and has fully embraced PWA’s culture of regularly giving back in a meaningful way to our community.

Jamie Sexton, PWA Director of Financial Planning, was able to draw on his years of competitive swimming and jumped in to serve as a swimming coach for the Fox Mill Woods community pool swim team. Somehow Jamie was able to sell me on the concept of that heading to the pool 3-4 times a week was in fact “volunteerism”! Professionally, Jamie exceeds his required credit hours of continuing education needed to retain his hard-earned Certified Financial Planner designation. (side note – Jamie has also added a serious girlfriend to his social calendar – looks like I’m out as his Caps home game partner!)

I remained deeply involved with The First Tee - Washington DC chapter, serving on the Executive Board of Directors. In addition, we continue to support several other local charitable organizations financially.

Oh- the financial markets front….

As the financial news continues to scream of global manufacturing and GDP slowdowns, Brexit deadlines, another round of cancelled meetings with China’s negotiation delegation, etc. the overall state of the US Economy is on relatively firm footing. The US Labor market continues to be very robust, the US consumer remains resilient and engaged, Inflation seems to have settled in with the core CPI showing a 2.4% year over year increase and the doom and gloom soothsayers projecting impending recession have dropped their warning cries a few notches on the noise meter.

As I have said for months, as long as President Trump has his twitter account - volatility is here to stay – get comfortable being uncomfortable! 

Cheers & let me know when the fall weather arrives!

Douglas Birnie

Managing Director