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marc-blogFor once I resort to numbers instead of words to tell a story. Each of these numbers stands symbolically for something much larger and hopefully gets you to think about what it means or could mean. Send me your favorite number   by e-mailing me and I will make sure it gets posted.  


moneyreportQE, or quantitative easing, is the controversial monetary policy that some have credited for helping us survive the economic meltdown. Others, however, blame QE for running up our debt to unsustainable levels and making damaging inflation a near certainty. It has been stopped and restarted a number of times, has been subjected to much debate within both the Fed and in Congress, and is now in its third (some say fourth) iteration. Here is a brief primer on this much debated strategy.


192I vividly remember a time when you needed a specialized little laptop computer, that could only display five text lines at one time and needed to be hooked up to a physical telephone, to transfer a text message via the Internet to another registered user. All domain names and e-mail addresses could have been published into one very, very small phone book. This was 30 years ago, when Internet users were considered an insider society, one built on an unwritten ethic: Trust.

Thirty years later the Internet has permeated all facets of our lives. The Internet is literally everywhere we go, on the phone, at work, at home, in the car. Billions of people transfer trillions of packets of data on a daily basis to the point that a new addiction has been created: The addiction to constant connection to everything, at all times, at all costs.


Financially illiterate? It sounds grim. For a generation without the safety net of corporate pensions, and tasked with making critical investment decisions for themselves and their families, insufficient financial education can lead to poor financial and investment choices. These bad choices have implications that last a lifetime. The national scope of this problem led the U.S. Senate to recognize the importance of financial literacy for all Americans and pass Resolution 316, officially designating this month as National Financial Literacy Month.


marcfrey150In the 350 years of recorded history on our island, life on Hilton Head has taken on many forms. But through centuries of change, one constant thread has been the island’s ability to reinvent itself.


marcfrey150If an innocent person has been  stabbed and lies bleeding in the street, we know who the bad and the good are. But how do we judge the passersby who could have saved a life but decided not to take action for fear of getting entangled in the case? Is an indifferent person bad by choosing to be silent or passive?

Good and bad have been part of mankind’s struggle since the beginning. We know that more good than bad exists; yet the wish for global peace, and the hope for societies that universally take care of everybody remains an elusive goal. Part of the reason is that there are too many “indifferent” individuals; people that are fully aware of what is going on, but for various reasons choose not to take action or speak up or change their behavior. As a matter of fact, it seems that those committing immoral acts and those actively involved in doing good seem to be in the minority, and that there is a large but passive moral majority, the indifferent. The “silent moral majority” as I like to call them.


marcfrey150Skip this column if all your stars are aligned and you are in perfect harmony with yourself and the world. All others may read on.

Somewhere along in 2012, I started to feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information raining down on me, the fast pace of change, the vastly different interpretations on how it affects mankind, and my own efforts to keep up with it all. If you have ever experienced the feeling of being exhausted and confused because your mind is racing at 150 miles an hour, processing loads of information and asking yourself dozens of questions, you know what I’m talking about.

So, I decided that there has to be a better way, and thus reminded myself that the word intelligence comes from the Latin word “intelligere” which means to see through things. We all know the Johnny Nash hit song “I can see clearly now,” and that is the feeling we would like to enjoy more often in our lives. So how do we get there?


marcfrey150Stop ringing the bells! I was just about to write another cheesy note, full of clichés like, “This is the time to count our blessings and give to somebody that needs it more than ourselves.” While I encourage you to do that, the very smart readers of Last Call already know that, and are not looking for me to state the obvious.

So I was wondering what makes readers come back to this page, and why it solicits spontaneous reader comments from all walks of life. Maybe it’s because I write from the heart, maybe because I try to cut through the noise and try to put issues into perspective or provoke my readers to think about a topic in new terms. Whatever it is, I feel grateful for the opportunity and the feedback I receive.


steven_mugThis past year turned out to be a year marked and paced by the political process, beginning with hotly contested primaries, two emotional conventions, three cliffhanger debates, and now, the aftermath of the election and a lame duck Congress.  Once again, the United States has proven a shining example to the world of how the democratic process works, even in a sharply divided nation.  Over the last eleven months financial markets have had to contend with the infamous Facebook IPO, weather-related market closings, the East Coast economy savaged by Superstorm Sandy, the Fed’s “Operation Twist” and “QE3,” multiple flareups of the European debt crisis, and a generational changeover of leadership in China. We reveled in a strong market rally from January until May, suffered through a summer slump, saw gains return through the end of October, only to retreat in November.  The real estate market, so far a no show in the recovery, finally began to show signs of life.  2012 has been in turn a challenging, maddening, frustrating deflating, turbulent and triumphant year. Now, with 2013 just over the horizon, here are a few things to prepare for, and some things to attend to, before the year ends.


last-callThrough my recent involvement with, the Island School Council for the Arts, a local not-for-profit organization that enhances art education in schools, I had the opportunity to think more how art affects our lives.

Imagine for a moment a life without the arts:

We would all be wearing the same boring clothes, driving the same non-descript vehicle, eating tasteless food, sitting in front of blank TV screens with no movies to entertain us, we wouldn’t be able to sing along our favorite songs or dance the night away… you get the picture.

Some form of art is everywhere in our lives. Artists make us think, wonder, laugh, cry. Artists color and shape our world and make it more livable, more enjoyable, more memorable. In one sentence: “Art adds value.”

Nobody could have said it better than Steve Jobs: “Technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us results that make the hearts sing.”


marcfrey150Yes you are! The power of marketing is everywhere in our lives, influencing our way of thinking and even dictating the way we feel about things.

How else is it possible that the color pink is exclusively associated with girls; how is it possible that a simple folded pink ribbon symbolizes the fight against breast cancer without the need to put one single word next to it? Think about that for a moment…

I venture to say that it is not often that we reflect on the outside influences that infiltrate our brains. Unfortunately, there is no class in high school called “Independent thinking 101.” It seems that we simply accept that marketing is a natural part of our lives without giving much thought to how we are being manipulated into behavior patterns or believing things without fact-checking them.


stevenweberAs investors contend with low yields and the possibility of higher taxes, investments that are tax-free have particular appeal.  Despite some recent high-profile defaults, municipal bonds have an exemplary track record of safety, and bonds issued within the state of South Carolina offer returns that are free from both federal and state taxes. Let’s look at some basic background on these investments, as well as a few tips on getting started.

The state of South Carolina, as well as our cities, counties, and improvement and utility districts, all issue bonds to finance operations, capital expenditures, and development. These bonds have a stated interest rate and a promise of repayment at a specific time in the future, known as the maturity date. The safety of these bonds, both investment income and principal, is determined by the source of the funds designated for repayment. The two major categories of Municipal bonds are general obligation, or G.O. bonds, and revenue bonds. General obligation bonds are backed by the taxing power of the issuer, which could mean income taxes, in the case of state of South Carolina, or property taxes, for bonds issued by a county. Revenue bonds, on the other hand, are backed by revenue from the particular project for which the bonds are issued. For example, bonds issued to pay for the Cross Island Expressway would be backed and repaid by toll revenue from drivers who use the expressway.




13 proven ways to get out of a ditch

 If the rain made you dump your car in a ditch, forget it. Just call a tow truck and let it go. But if you are mentally in a funk, here are some things that might help you find a renewed zest for life:

13. Visit your favorite pizza store for lunch, have a glass of wine and call it a day.

12. Call somebody you feel safe with, meet up and dump it on them.

11. Buy some flowers or, better yet, plant some flowers or herbs or a small tree.

10. Cook your favorite meal.

9. Start a new fitness routine and stick with it.

8. End your evening with some dark chocolate and a single malt scotch.

7. Walk the beach in the rain.


stevenweberThe future can be a murky place. And let’s face it, anyone in the investment business is always on the lookout for that crystal ball. When investors take a flight of fancy and start mining data for arcane and offbeat ways to predict the economy and the markets, there’s no telling where they will end up. With our attention focused on the Olympics, we thought we would explore what impact the summer games might have for stock investors. It’s not so farfetched to think that a swelling of national pride after a stellar Olympic performance might translate to greater confidence, optimism and positive expectations, expanding P/E ratios and attractive investment returns. But the Olympics are far from the only televised entertainment that can teach us a thing or two about the market.