Starting today I’m going to try something that I haven’t been able to accomplish in more than twenty years: take two solid weeks off to spend time with my family.
The last time I had the chance to do this was back in 1999 when I was in my final year at West Point. The following year I was in Army training over Christmas. For the next few years after that I was deployed to the Middle East during the holidays.
Eventually when I left the military, my Decembers were always filled with the typical stresses and end-of-year obligations of running multiple businesses. I was able to take off a day or two, but never a long, uninterrupted stretch.
This year was undoubtedly a pivotal year for me personally. I lost my father– a truly wonderful, kind, and generous man — to the obscene train wreck known as the US healthcare system.
I discussed his situation a bit on a recent podcast; but to give you just a tiny taste of how poorly he was mistreated, my father was suddenly struck by a spontaneous case of viral encephalitis back in September, and it was so severe that he was delirious and had no idea who he was.
Yet after an absurdly bureaucratic, multi-hour trip to the emergency room, the hospital conducted ZERO meaningful tests and sent him home with a bottle of Tylenol.
This barely scratches the surface of the bumbling incompetence of the healthcare system, and we were all decimated by his passing.
Only days later, however, my son was born in Cancun, Mexico; he’s more than two months old now and incredibly strong. Plus my daughter was born last summer, so I now have two very young children in the house… a massive, fundamental life change over the past 18 months. I couldn’t be happier.
Along the way, this year we took a company public, won a major lawsuit against some crooks that defrauded us, had a couple of really wonderful live events with our Total Access members (most recently in beautiful Mexico City), and experienced a whole host of other adventures.
Right now I’m actually en route down to South America with my family; I used to live on an 1,100 acre farm in Chile for several years before moving to Puerto Rico in 2018, and I’m really looking forward to being back in nature for a little while.
So this will be my final letter for the year, as I attempt to go a solid two weeks without working so that I can spend time with my kids running around the farm.
I’ve also encouraged our CEO, Viktorija, to have the rest of the team at Sovereign Research take the next two weeks off. The team has certainly earned a break.
Before I sign off, however, I wanted to leave you with a few ideas… about gifts.
I know it’s a little bit old-fashioned, but I personally enjoy giving gifts to people this time of year. For me, giving gifts is an affirmation of a relationship. I enjoy giving to people who are meaningful in my life, and for that reason, I always strive to give things that are meaningful and impactful.
One of the most meaningful and impactful gifts, in my opinion, is gold… with the added benefit that a gold coin is guaranteed to never be re-gifted.
Now, gold is pricey. A one-ounce coin will run you around $2,000… and that would need to be a pretty special person.
But frankly, silver is just as good, and only around $30 or so for a nice coin.
Plus you can spend a few extra bucks on a nice case (it looks like a mini jewelry box) with an elegant hand-written note on the inside to really make a personal impact.
My suggestion is go with a widely recognized bullion coin, like the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf; it has a purity of 99.99% and is one of the most heavily traded coins in the world.
But an even better gift, in my opinion, is the gift of knowledge. And that means books.
When you think about it, some of the biggest influences in our lives come from the people we meet, the experiences we have, and the books we read. Sometimes a single book can put someone on a trajectory that fundamentally changes his/her life forever.
That was the case for me, when I first read Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad in 2001. This is Book #1 that I highly recommend, and it’s especially great for teaching younger people about business, finance, and money.
Robert’s book changed the course of my life, and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to become close with him over the past several years and show him how big an impact he’s had on my life.
Some other great books I recommend as gifts include:
The Machine Stops, by E.M. Forster is short novella originally published in 1909. Forster predicted almost everything in our modern society, including pandemics and social distancing, video calls, online delivery… and most of all, reliance on “experts” who control our lives.
Flatland, by Edwin Abbott, is another old favorite of mine. It’s a fictional, philosophical tale about a two-dimensional world… and its inhabitants who suddenly become aware that there’s a third dimension.
It’s a beautiful story about trying to understand a world which you have never seen — almost like Plato’s cave analogy.
King Larry: The Life and Ruins of a Billionaire Genius, by James Scurlock is one of my favorite biographies; it’s about a guy that most people have never heard of — Larry Hillblom. But you’ve definitely heard of his company; Hillblom was the ‘H’ in DHL.
But this isn’t some boring business founder book. Larry was probably one of the most free and liberated people who ever lived. He literally made his own rules (as you’ll see in the book) and fought constantly against big industry, government, the media, and more.
To give you an exalmpe, Hillblom was the kind of guy who bought an airplane and just jumped in the cockpit to fly it. No license, no training, he just assumed he’d figure it out. That’s the way he lived his entire life. (Three guesses how he died…)
The Lessons of History, by Will and Ariel Durant is, in my opinion, the finest book on general history ever written. Enough said.
If you (or someone you’re thinking about for a gift) is interested in finance, I definitely recommend Money: the Unauthorized Biography, by Felix Martin.
The author takes you on a journey through the history of money, from gold coins used thousands of years ago, to the fiat dollars we use today. It really gives you an appreciation for what constitutes a good medium of exchange, and it lays bare the huge problems with today’s financial system.
If you’re looking for books specifically on investing, it’s hard to do better than Seth Klarman’s Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor, or the even more classic The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.
If you are looking for a great, big-picture roundup of the economic and geopolitical problems that the world faces right now — from America’s gargantuan debt and public entitlement problem, to the rise of China — check out Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed or Fail, by Ray Dalio.
Dalio founded the largest hedge fund in the world, Bridgewater Associates, and shares a very similar worldview as we have at Sovereign Research.
As a final point, before closing out for the year, I wanted to take a brief moment to extend my thanks for allowing me the honor and opportunity to be a small part of your life; it is a responsibility that our entire organization, and myself most of all, take seriously, humbly, and gratefully.
I hope you have a really wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to continuing our conversations in January.