Topley’s Top Ten – October 28, 2019

1.How Do S&P Sectors Perform During and After Elections?


Stocks Worth Buying Regardless of Who Wins the White House

2.More Value Vs. Growth Data.

DFA FUNDS—Growth at 161% of Historical Annualized Returns vs. Value 101%

3.40 Rate Cuts in 3 Months From World Central Banks.

Down, down they go: Emerging central banks deliver most rate cuts in a decade-Karin StroheckerRitvik Carvalho

4.Watching Copper For a Bottom in World Economic Slowdown

Copper Chart

5.Death By Amazon’s Best Performers

Thu, Oct 24, 2019

On Monday, we updated our popular Death By Amazon index. The index is composed of retailers that we view as most vulnerable to competition from online retail like Amazon (AMZN).

Looking at year-to-date total returns of the largest five (by market cap) members of our Death By Amazon index, Target (TGT) has ran away from the rest of the group in 2019.  Including dividends, the stock has netted a 72.7% gain since the start of the year in large part due to the massive surge on earnings in the late summer.  Close competitor and the largest retailer in the index, Walmart (WMT), has given investors less than half of that as WMT has returned 30% thus far in 2019.  Before the earnings report that sent TGT skyrocketing, Costco (COST) had been a close contender for the highest returning spot. Currently, COST has the second best YTD return at 47.5% with TJX in third at 33.9%.  On the other hand, CVS has dramatically underperformed only providing a return of 3%.  Meanwhile, the namesake of the index, AMZN, actually has the second worst return in 2019 of just 18.7% YTD. Earlier this year in the spring, AMZN had actually returned the most.

Over the past year, AMZN’s return looks even worse.  Since October of last year, the stock has only returned 7.1%. While better than CVS’s 3.3% loss, each of the other largest stocks in the Death By Amazon index have offered investors more.

But over the long term, as the trend of online retail has matured, Amazon (AMZN) has offered investors a far higher return.  Total return for the stock over the past five years is 514.9%.  That is nearly three times more than the next best stock of these, Costco (COST), which has returned 158.5%.  Start a two-week free trial to Bespoke Premium to access our Death By Amazon index as well as other B.I.G. Tips reports, interactive tools and more.

©2019 Bespoke Investment Group

6.S&P Earnings Growth History.

Top Down Chart

7.Non-Mortgage Debt.

The Fed’s recent cuts allowed some Americans trim some of their biggest debts, but other sources of debt continue to pile up. The analysts “see little sign” of the lower rates hitting the everyday consumer, and warn that the amount of debt outstanding across the nation could begin to drag on spending habits.

The ratio of consumer debt service sans mortgages has slowly grown while mortgage debt has fallen with the lowered interest rates. Ignoring this steady rise leaves investors with only part of the country’s debt story, BAML said.

“When only focusing on mortgage debt, we can make the case that there has been meaningful deleveraging in an environment of low rates,” the analysts wrote. “This is not the same story for other consumer debt.”

8.Industry Lobbyist Spending.

Who Has Spent The Most Dollars Lobbying Washington In 2019?by Tyler Durden

9.This waterfront city is the No. 1 place in America to retire

Plus: 4 affordable alternatives on the beach  byCATEYHILL


Fort Myers and the Caloosahatchee River in Florida.

If warm weather, easy access to the beach and an affordable price tag sound like your dream retirement, this town might be for you.

U.S. News & World Report recently released its list of the best places to retire, and Fort Myers — a midsize riverfront city in southwest Florida just a stone’s throw from Gulf of Mexico beaches — topped the list. What’s more, Kiplinger’s called out Fort Myers on its list of 50 best places to retire this year, noting that it was “yet another great place to consider for your retirement.”)

So what makes Fort Myers special? U.S. News writes that the city has “retained its small-town heritage … with a charming downtown lined with shops and restaurants, many of which are dog-friendly” adding that “museums, parades, festivals, theaters, parks, historical sites and art galleries pepper the metro area and its social calendar.” And for those who love the beach, “just a few miles away, Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral and Sanibel Island are popular among boaters, kayakers, sailors and anglers.”

Perhaps best of all, it’s pretty affordable, with a cost of living that’s just a bit above average and a median home priced at just a little over $200,000, according to Sperling’s Best Places. Plus, Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, so your 401(k), IRA or pension withdrawals won’t be taxed by the state, nor will your Social Security.

Of course, Fort Myers has some big downsides, which include muggy, hot summers and the fact that the area can sometimes feel overrun with tourists.

The towns that rounded out the top five on the U.S. News list were Sarasota, Fla.; Lancaster, Pa.; Asheville, N.C.; and Port St. Lucie, Fla. U.S. News looked at the 125 largest metro areas and graded them on happiness, housing affordability, health-care quality, desirability, retiree taxes and job-market ratings.

Should Fort Myers not be your thing, and you’re still looking for an affordable spot to retire near the beach, you’re in luck: MarketWatch recently created its own list of the best beach towns where you can retire comfortably on about $40,000 a year. These include Pensacola, Fla.; Bay St. Louis, Miss.; and Corpus Christi, Texas.

10.Mark Manson-Important Questions of Your Life.THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF YOUR LIFE

November 6, 20138 minute readby Mark Manson

Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.

Everyone would like that — it’s easy to like that.

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.

Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship — but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for?

Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.

At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.

People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.

People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.

What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.

There’s a lot of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”

Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something enough. They just aren’t aware of what it is they want, or rather, what they want “enough.”

Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.

If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.

Sometimes I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?

That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.

For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. The fantasizing continued up through college, even after I dropped out of music school and stopped playing seriously. But even then it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into getting out there and making it work. First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find the time. Then… and then nothing.

Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.

I was in love with the result — the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I’m playing — but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.

The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit. The broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the top.

Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser. Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough. The entrepreneurial/start-up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning. I’d be told to do affirmations or join a mastermind group or manifest or something.

But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.

I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.

Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”

This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.

This article is an excerpt from my book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Guide to Living A Good Life

Note: I’ve recorded an 8-minute audio commentary where I go into how this article has been the most impactful and important article I’ve written. I also talk about how I found the inspiration for this post, and the relationship between effort and success in writing. Site members can listen to it by clicking the Commentary button above. To become a site member, click here.

(Cover image credit: an untrained eye)