Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Joy of Playing Small Ball

I am not what you would call an avid baseball fan. I cheer for the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers for sentimental reasons, not because I love the game. I do miss the summer nights, driving around Michigan listening to Ernie Harwell on the radio and enjoying the best ballpark hot dogs ever at the original Tiger Stadium. Even though it was a dump, part of me misses Shea Stadium where the Mets played until they moved to Citi Field a few years ago. 

Talking baseball

There is a term in baseball called “small ball” that I appreciate. Small ball essentially is playing to manufacture runs. The idea is to get runners on base, advance them and get them home to score. In small ball you don’t rely on walks or home runs, it’s about taking control of the game, getting runners in position to be successful.
When I speak with clients, most of them are overwhelmed with all the stuff we have to do and remember. There are forms, login usernames and passwords, emails upon emails, bills to pay, and investment accounts to review. It seems that if you throw one more thing on the proverbial plate to do, you will explode.
This is the time to play small ball. Take control of the situation, simplify your activities and hand off what you can hand off. There are only so many waking hours in the day and you don’t want to spend it on the phone with a help desk in Manila.
I am not an organization expert but I find short cuts that work for me. Start with unsubscribing from all of those email distribution lists. That should cut the clutter in your inbox in half. Create folders and rules so that certain emails go into folders that you can review at your convenience.  Set up bills to be paid from auto debit. Put as many bills as possible to be paid on your credit card. Warning: only do this if you are paying off your credit card bill each month. You don’t want to ring up additional interest charges.
When it comes to investing, there are do-it-yourselfers and delegators. If you have the time, expertise, and ability to remove yourself from making emotionally charged decisions, by all means do it yourself. Most of us don’t have the time, expertise, or temperament. A good advisor more than pays for themselves by being tax efficient, harvesting tax losses each year, rebalancing, and keeping you invested when markets get ugly. Fees may be less if you do it yourself, but when you measure what your time and good advice is worth, I think you’ll find delegating to an advisor is a smart choice. 
Returning to baseball for a moment, the sacrifice fly ball is a great example of small ball. A sacrifice fly ball is when the batter will hit the ball into the outfield to allow a runner to tag up and advance the base he is on. The batter in essence is giving up his chance of getting a hit for the sake of advancing the runner. Giving up something, or simplifying a process for your greater good, is playing small ball.  The next time you are feeling overwhelmed with all that you have to do, take control of it, and play small ball.

Friday, May 15, 2015


One of my favorite movies is High Fidelity starring John Cusack.  The movie is based on the book by Nick Hornby, which I am ashamed to admit I never read. Cusack plays the owner of a record shop who is an obsessive list maker. Lists are great to stay organized and keep track of things to do: groceries, packing, or items that need to be accomplished at the office the next morning. Lists are also a great way of ranking or prioritizing what is most important to us.

I spend a lot of my time getting to know what is important to clients and potential new clients. What makes then tick, what keeps them up at night or, even, what is their favorite cocktail? It recently dawned on me to ask my clients, how well do you know me? Below are a few lists of some of my favorite things. Let me know what you think.

Favorite Movie
1.       Rocky

2.       Dog Day Afternoon

3.       American Beauty

4.       Big Chill

5.       Annie Hall

Favorite Song
1.       Can’t you hear me knocking

2.       Roxanne

3.       Smells Like Teen Spirit

4.       Thunder Road

5.       Levon

Favorite Band
1.       Rolling Stones

2.       Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

3.       Bob Marley and the Wailers

4.       The Police

5.       Nirvana

Favorite Food
1.       Veal Parmigiana

Favorite Wine Region
1.       Bordeaux

Favorite Whiskey
1.       Laphroaig
Favorite Team Logo
1.       Chicago Blackhawks

2.       Baltimore Orioles

3.       Detroit Tigers

Favorite Football Helmet
1.       Michigan Wolverines

Favorite Book
1.       Catcher in the Rye

Favorite Writer
1.       Michael Lewis

Favorite Actor
1.       Robert Redford

2.       George Clooney

3.       Paul Newman

Favorite Actress
1.       Julianne Moore

Favorite TV Show
1.       Friday Night Lights

2.       Sopranos

3.       St. Elsewhere

4.       Curb Your Enthusiasm

5.       Cheers

Favorite Athlete
1.       John McEnroe

2.       Andre Agassi

3.       Anthony Carter

4.       Michael Jordan

5.       Walt “Clyde” Frazier

6.       Bo Jackson