rca vote now

marcfrey150As a first generation European immigrant, I’m compelled to compare the Old World with the New World.

One of the essential things that attracted me to the U.S. is American optimism — the will to focus on the positive instead of bemoaning the negative, believing that things will look up and we will always find or invent a way to make things better. Isn’t that the soul of America, the spirit which fueled the development of our country in the first place?

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marcfrey-soccerUnless you have been living under a rock you know that the 2014 soccer World Cup is in full swing in Brazil.

More than 200 nations compete for a spot for the final 32 teams that make the World Cup qualifications held every four years. The 2014 draw contains soccer superpowers such as Brazil and Italy, tiny countries such as Costa Rica and Ivory Coast and countries one might not expect such as Iran and South Korea.

It’s easy to understand why soccer is the world’s most played and most watched sport. It is the one sport that most closely mirrors real life. It’s full of drama, surprises and injustice. It requires in equal measures a plan and improvisation. It takes a team of 11 players to win; yet outstanding individual contributions make the difference. One moment it can be so exhilarating, whipping a whole nation into a frenzy. The next moment, the mood can swing the other way.

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marcfrey150Most of our readers chose to make Hilton Head Island their ZIP code …. or did it choose them?

Sure there are a few rational reasons like the climate, reasonable taxes and low crime rates, but the same qualities are true for many other small towns. Yet there is something in our subconscious that brought us here and attracted people from across the U.S. and the world.

When Charles Fraser first conceived Sea Pines, he thought green before the word green stood for sustainable and not just the color of grass. His vision was to incorporate the beauty of nature into the everyday life experience of its inhabitants and create a human-scaled community in harmony with its environment. He would say, “Respect the things that were here before we came.” In doing so he laid the foundation of what makes our island so unique.

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marcfrey150According to Michael Porter (a Harvard business professor, capitalist and registered republican) it’s time to ditch the GDP per capita as the sole measure of well being for a country and pay more attention to the Social Progress Index that measures the livability of all its citizen and is a more comprehensive indicator of well being than the average income per person.

Before analyzing our disappointing ranking of 16th among 132 countries that were included in the study I want to point out why social progress is important: “Social well-being is the foundation of a peaceful, democratic, capitalist society. It is the philosophical foundation on which our nation was built: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all not a few.”

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moneyreport“Smart beta” has become A hot topic in the financial world. It has certainly captured the interest of investors, underwriters and brokers.

According to Morningstar, a quarter of all exchange-traded fund investments in the first 11 months of 2013, over $41 billion, went into funds using smart beta strategies.

So what exactly is “smart beta?” It’s a concept used rather broadly to describe alternate investment strategies, which, proponents claim, address the shortcomings of both traditional managed mutual funds, and unmanaged index fund investments. Not all smart beta strategies are alike, so here’s a brief overview.

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marcfrey150Since I’m in a forecasting mood, I took a look at what the future may hold for our own region. It’s not just one thing that will cause the continuous expansion of our region but a number of things that will work in synchronicity.

1. Peace of mind

As the world around us seems to get more turbulent, there is something very reassuring about living in Bluffton, Hilton Head or anywhere in between Beaufort and Savannah. Our world in the Lowcountry seems pretty darn normal, and for once, that is a really good thing.

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marcfrey150Can a company, which was started in 2009, has 55 employees and no revenues be worth $19 billion dollars? The answer is YES, and NO depending on how you look at it.

For traditional thinking investors, this valuation defies everything we thought we knew about how to value a company. As a comparison, companies with similar market valuation include: HJ Heinz, CBS, Yahoo!, PG&E, Charles Schwab, Marathon Oil, Allstate, Kellogg, T. Rowe Price, Sun Trust to name a few. Mostly companies with strong brands that have been around for a long time and have a proven track record.

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moneyreportAfter a gut wrenching recession, and the collapse of a property bubble that had concentrat ed the small county’s wealth into a highly leveraged real estate sector, Ireland, theCeltic Tiger, was forced to ask for a bailout in 2012, as well as to adopt a painful EU mandat ed austerity budget.

However, there are signs of a turnaround; in 2013 the Irish stock market gained 35.2%, making it the fifth best performing market in the world (the U.S. was ninth.) While it’s still early days, there may be worthwhile opportunity for investors to consider as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this month.

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marcfrey150As of January 2014, 20 million more people were on food stamps compared to 2007. The total number of recipients is now around 47 million, more than 15 percent of the population. The SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) is just one of many federal and state supported programs. I merely chose this one to drive home my point.

Granted, we lived through the second worst depression in modern U.S. economic history, but since then the economy has been making progress and unemployment figues have come down. Unfortunately, the amount of money spent on social welfare keeps climbing. The cost of the SNAP program is now 2 1/2 times higher ($74 billion) compared to 2007 ($30 billion). How can this be fied?

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moneyreportIt’s important to check out the background of your broker or financial advisor, just like you would any profes sional. Unfortunately, there are a number of different regulatory agencies that oversee brokers, advisors and insurance agents, and it’s not always easy to be sure you’re going to the right place, or getting the relevant information. Here’s a short primer.

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marcfrey150If your life is perfect, skip this column. Send me an e-mail sharing your secrets to a fulfilled life. If by chance you are one of the 100 million Americans that makes a New Year’s resolution or helps to fuel the 2.5 billion self-help industry, read on.

First know that according to surveys, a very high percentage of resolutions remain unfulfilled. If you are a cynic you might rightfully conclude that given the odds, it makes no sense to bother making one in the first place … unless you read this column, which is aimed at improving your chances of resolution success.

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marcfrey150The news that Amazon, the largest Internet retailer, and the U.S. post office are collaborating to make Sunday delivery of packages a reality in an attempt to forever paint every Friday black (order on Friday, deliver on Sunday) might in itself seem trivial. Just another spoke in the wheel to make it possible to always shop, always consume, always be inundated with marketing plots, in a never-ending quest to squeeze out the last ounce of profit and the titanic fight for market share taking shamelessly advantage of our conveniencedriven habits.

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We asked somebody much more qualified than myself that very question. Edward Jay Epstein is an investigative journalist and former political science professor at Harvard. He wrote 15 fascinating books starting with “Inquest. The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth” in 1966 all the way to his latest work, “The JFK Assassination Diary: My Search for Answers to the Mystery of the Century” (2013).

Here is his answer:

Here is my view on the surveillance state.

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moneyreportf you were angling for the job of feature reporter for the “Mansions” section of the Wall Street Journal, you blew through your deadline; applications closed on Oct. 15. It’s a pretty good beat, reporting on the rich and famous, and where they live and play.

Since it only required three years of journalism experience, one would suppose the successful applicant would have already spent a great deal of time going in and out of these over-the-top luxury homes.

Our guilty fascination with the rich and their lifestyle of luxury is perfectly understandable.

 

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