The Day After

Many Americans are waking up this morning disappointed, surprised, elated and shocked. Pundits are prognosticating about what the next four years will bring and social media feeds are filled with election commentary and lamentations. The financial markets are also uneasy, just as they were when the Brexit vote occurred in May. What are we supposed to do?

Start by focusing on the things that you can control. You may feel downtrodden after the election result, but that doesn’t change your financial goals. In 48 months, we all will be older and hopefully nearer to achieving financial freedom. Your children or grandchildren will be that much closer to going to college. Developing a sound financial plan, reducing debt, living within an established budget and investing wisely are key components of financial independence. It’s imperative that you begin with the end in mind. If you haven’t thought about what to do, find an independent financial firm that can help you get organized and take the first steps.

Our republic has lasted for 240 years. We have elected both good leaders and poor executives. The country will live on today and hopefully for another 24 decades. As individuals, we aren’t that lucky. With limited time on the earth, it’s important to make sound choices on the things we can control. Rather than gloating or sulking about the election result, use this time to begin planning and dreaming for what your life will look like in 2020.

Wages Get Temporary Bump From Hurricane Matthew

Financial headlines today are dominated by this mornings jobs report. Pundits are highlighting the October uptick in wages. Unfortunately, our analysis of the data shows that most of this increase is related to the clean-up work in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew by utility companies across the eastern seaboard. 

Besides Logging and Mining no other industry grew wages more than 1.2%. 

source: BLS

Higher wages are part of the answer to our ongoing quest for consumer demand. With wage growth flat across most other industries, we will need to wait a bit longer to find out what's really happening to wages.

Tax Internship

LeConte Wealth Management, LLC is looking for a tax intern to join our team for the upcoming tax season. The intern will work closely with our Director of Financial Planning and CPA and assist with federal and state income tax accounting and compliance. This will be a paid internship with an expected start date of November 15, 2016 and an expected end date of April 30, 2017.

Job Responsibilities

  • Prepare individual, corporate, partnership and not-for-profit tax returns to meet government requirements and deadlines and client expectations
  • Prepare payroll tax reports and property tax reports to ensure compliance Develop a working knowledge of individual and corporate tax laws
  • Respond orally and in writing to various tax inquiries from internal and external clients and from government notices
  • Achieve a working knowledge of tax preparation software used in the office


  • Outstanding academic performance in an Accounting or business major 
  • Proficient in Microsoft Excel
  • Relevant work experience (e.g. internships, summer positions, school jobs)
  • Demonstrated leadership, problem solving, and strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to prioritize tasks and work on multiple assignments
  • Available to work extended hours during peak tax season
  • Communicates effectively with clients and fellow staff members

Benefits of Internship

  • Gain knowledge of industry and LeConte Wealth Management's operations
  • Make professional contacts that may lead to full-time employment

How to Apply

Please send resumes and cover letters to: Jon Dockery, CPA, Director of Financial Planning- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The Robots Have Arrived, They Want Our Jobs

Trump and Clinton are getting all the press but the biggest threat to the middle class is made of steel, works 24/7 without a break and no healthcare or retirement benefits. Meet your new co-worker and he wants your job:

This data series from the St Louis Federal Reserve is worth unpacking:

This chart depicts the long-term relationship between Industrial capacity utilization and employment. The divergence in the data series over the last two years is significant and deserves analysis. Lately, manufacturers have reduced the resources required to produce their products. This would normally be accompanied by a decline in employment. Fed economist Ana Maria Santacreau makes several observations about the trends. First on the post-recession gap in capacity utilization and employment:

Reasons why unemployment took longer to recover following the recessions of the early 1990s and early 2000s:

  1. Firms may have postponed hiring to be sure the recovery was strong.
  2. Firms may have purchased new equipment instead of hiring additional workers.
  3. Workers may have had to switch industries, which may have lengthened the time it took to fill positions.

In a recession companies cut headcount. It's the fastest way to dramatically reduce cost and survive the downturn. Widespread economic problems also provide "political cover" to fire people since every business sector reacts to the same pain point. As the recession troughs and businesses see an uptick in their fortunes, they face a crucial decision. Should they re-hire employees, who may be even more costly to carry (regulation, Obamacare etc...) and harder to fire in the future? Could they afford the capital outlay to replace workers with automated processes, with robots.

The recession of 2008-2009 was different in that many workers who were forced to the sidelines decided to stay there. When businesses started to ramp up production, the low interest rate era wrought by the Federal Reserve's QE policies made it cheaper than ever for them to finance their transition from a human workforce to a robotic workforce.

Santacreau observed, "Capacity seems to be mainly affected by cyclical factors. Employment, however, is also affected by a structural factor that makes it adjust more slowly than industrial capacity adjusts to recessions and recoveries.”

The rise of income inequality since the recession ended in 2009 was a by-product of the Fed's easy money. It helped big business CFOs fix their corporate balance sheets so they could afford to hire more workers and grow the economy. Instead, manufacturing CFOs used the cash to invest in robotics. Their robotic workforce is more elastic (no demand, no big deal, just unplug the robot) and immune from government regulations and employment cost inflation. Robots are easier on the corporate budget than humans.

If you are a knowledge worker (jobs that require creative thinking to solve complex problems) you may be feeling a bit smug as factory workers fight this trend. That would be a mistake. The robot that takes your job won't be a steel and hydraulic behemoth. It will be a rack of servers running software to automate most of the decisions that knowledge workers parse. Make no mistake, in the future machines will be responsible for most of our GDP. We are responsible for the transition. The new thought exercise for Venture Capitalist in Silicon Valley is called "Last Job"- i.e. what's left for people when robots take over.

UPDATE --- Elon Musk CEO of Tesla agrees:


Simple Advice That is Hard to Follow

Michael Burry is an eccentric but highly successful investment manager in California. He was depicted by Christian Bale in the screen adaptation of Michael Lewis's The Big Short. As we ramp into decision time for voters and the Fed. Dr. Burry offers sage advice on how to understand volatility from practical view rather than the typical emotional reaction.


What Mainstream Americans Understand that Mainstream Media Doesn’t

It started nearly a quarter century ago on May 1st 1992 and on Music Television of all places. That’s when MTV introduced viewers to The Real World. They labeled their program as an “unscripted drama”. Eight years later Survivor dropped in primetime and changed television for a generation. From Jersey Shore to Real Housewives, viewers have been fed a steady and growing diet of reality television. Every American knows one when they see it.

My guilty pleasure is Duck Dynasty. A quirky, off-beat look at an enduring southern family comprised of larger than life outdoorsmen, their patient, devoted wives, kids and the overly normal community they live in. It’s a faithful telling of the clans’ misadventures and it boldly puts their traditional values on full display. As their shenanigans play out, viewers are shown a family that is confident in who they are as individuals and what they believe collectively. One more thing: obviously, it is scripted and many viewers (yours truly) apparently think their lampoon is entertaining.

Mainstream media delved into the “scripted drama” genre in 1997 during Bill Clinton's presidency. They tried desperately to suppress news of sexual shenanigans by our sitting president. They would have succeeded if not for the efforts of Matt Drudge and his eponymous website, The Drudge Report.

“Journalism” took another hit in 2004 during George W. Bush’s re-election. CBS news anchor Dan Rather and his producer, Mary Mapes unsuccessfully tried to “rescript” Bush’s military records into a narrative that matched their political agenda. An unpaid army of bloggers unraveled the plot within 24 hours and Rather was forced to resign from a position that he held for 23 years.

In 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain was the victim of a New York Times effort to manufacture a plot line about an affair with a lobbyist. The lobbyist sued the Times for defamation and the newspaper was forced to settle. These scripted fables always involve republican candidates and never involve democrats. The dishonesty is akin to Uncle Si's tea jug. You know it's close at hand even when you can't see it.

In 2016, mainstream media (they stopped being called journalists some time ago) finally shed their journalistic pretense altogether and devolved into full-time scripted “reality” authors. They are locked in a battle to prevent Donald Trump and the Republican party from winning the election. Here’s the thing: they think their audience believes their scripted fiction.

Mainstream America learned to spot unscripted drama on cable and now they can smell it out with ease. Even worse, media hacks are fomenting war with a reality TV show personality who has more experience in the genre than they do. Regardless of who you intend to vote for, it’s made for a gripping drama.

During Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein spent hours digging up corroborating evidence and witnesses. They pressed and pressed until they had people willing to go on the record and facts to support their claims. Instead of digging up an airline itinerary that shows Trump on the same plane as his alleged accuser, the New York Times hires a NYU film student to put her in soft focus like a cable reality show. The end product comes off as less convincing than a Willie Robertson soliloquy. 

As I shared a draft of this story with my partners at LeConte, they asked about the takeaways for investors. A good point since people read our commentary to learn from our investment process, not politics. Here's what comes to mind:

1Don't let things you can't control distract you from the things that you can control. You control your vote and who you choose to support financially. That's it. Don't get mired down by everything else that competes to divert your attention.

2Cultivate your own independent thinking and decision-making prowess. You can no longer rely on journalists, Google or blogs (including ours!) for the best solutions to your unique financial questions. You have to do the hard work to get the best results.

3Never run for political office unless you enjoy people lying about you. They will and your recourse will be stilted by time and your opponent's ambitions.

4The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) DOES NOT include hate, anger, etc. Don't let anything or anyone steal your joy for living the life that you have in front of you!

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