Harvest Rock Advisors, LLC

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Fiduciary For Fido

Pets have been a saving grace for many folks coping with the stress caused by the COVID pandemic. New studies are confirming the mental health benefits that pets are providing these days to deal with the stress and social isolation. Perhaps not surprisingly, pet adoptions have soared across the country in 2020. I read where about two-third of US households now own a house pet. Some experts are now concerned that the rash of impulse adoptions in 2020 will eventually lead to...
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The Nifty Fifty

Pet rocks. Disco. Polyester. CB radios. Hee Haw. Sideburns. 8-track tape. In spite of these cultural horrors and technology fossils, the 1970s was a fun time to be a kid, even deprived of a cell phone or X-Box. We played outside until dark, entertained ourselves and generally thrived without helicopter parents. Yet I can still remember the exciting day the new television set with remote control technology was delivered. Ah, the early stages of a fifty-year sedentary lifestyle...
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Want to Buy An Airport?

Chalk it up to age, but it is getting harder to get me outwardly agitated these days. Yet, there I was yelling at the TV last Sunday night, nearly spoiling a nice dinner. What stirred my outburst? I’ll tell you: A disturbing report about the Tijuana River, which is now a massive open toilet streaming raw sewage across the border from Mexico into Southern California and spilling directly into the Pacific Ocean...
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Playing a Different Game

“Show me a man with a great golf game and I’ll show you a man neglecting something” - JFK I hope that you saw the final holes of the BMW pro golf tournament last Sunday. It was one of the most exciting endings to a sporting event in quite some time. Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, the first and second ranked professional golfers in the world, performed a golf masterpiece with a stunning finish...
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Where’s the Next Jake Devers?

It’s been some time since I penned my first note about one of the great military officers in US history, Jacob Devers. During the current “war-like” conditions, now feels like a good time to revisit this great man’s accomplishments and pine for a comparable leader (or two) to step forward. Who is Jake Devers you ask? Precisely. It a civics crime that Devers is not recognized among the pantheon of US military leaders. In fact, ranked on meritocracy, I’d place Devers as the fourth best US...
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Planet of the Apes

The title “2020” could become a blockbuster Hollywood movie someday. Unfortunately, it will be a suspense thriller, perhaps even a horror flick depending on how the next few months play out. Piling on the global pandemic crisis, there’s now massive locust swarms buffeting Africa. It is the worst infestation in decades and billions of these insects are devouring crop fields and pastures. It is becoming the next humanitarian food crisis. Then, overlay marauding wild monkeys in Thailand...
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If Practicable

The first week of July is special for history geeks. In addition to Independence Day, last week marked another anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. The town of Gettysburg is still a little hamlet (well, little for fifty-one weeks of the year) and one of the most historically significant places in human history. A truly special place right in our backyard. I visit it often and never tire of the beautiful scenery and the remarkable story. Over three hot and muggy three days in July 1863.
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Taking From The Poor…

Everyone knows Hertz, the rental car company. Remember their old OJ Simpson commercials featuring the iconic football player hurdling through the airport in a business suit like a running back? Well, Hertz survived the loss of their now infamous spokesperson decades ago, but apparently it will not survive COVID. Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection last month and is now liquidating its vehicle fleet to pay creditors. Last February, right before the stock market crash, Hertz’s stock was..
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Pandession Notes

Last Friday I enjoyed my first draft IPA and dinner out in months– tangible progress towards normalcy. That was nice but it pales to the satisfaction I derived from my haircut last week. I have radio good looks but still possess a thick mane in my middle-age. However, it needs to be thinned every few weeks - just like a hayfield - and the bed head, beach bum look is not good optics for a wealth advisor. Fortunately, Delaware opened its salons before Pennsylvania...
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Gilded Age II

It took a pandemic to find the time to finish Rockefeller, another one of Ron Chernow’s excellent tomes about the most successful businessman in human history - and an especially strange dude. Chernow’s thick biographies also make for a good doorstop. John D. Rockefeller is the face of the Gilded Age, the period in US history from the end of the Civil War until the early twentieth century. This period is marked by vast fortunes built by “robber barons” who forged great monopoly businesses...
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CARESful Planning

Business conditions in central Pennsylvania are getting a little tense. A budding number of “non-essential” small business owners are ignoring shelter-in-place decrees and are now re-opening. Others are hopping mad about how arbitrary Pennsylvania’s “essential” business list was compiled back in March. How is it okay for Lowe’s to stay open but not a local boutique store practicing similar social distancing rules? It’s not fair and I smell lobbyists...
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The Great Lockdown

Anyone else ready to retire the term “grim milestone”. I wake up every morning to the TV talking heads bemoaning “another grim milestone” of new COVID cases and related deaths. Give it a rest, maybe try a new schtick: “more good news today on the COVID front – new cases continue to fall around the country”. There is also plenty of negative media chatter about the steep negative economic shock that has caused an economic depression, which must then be ranked for misery against all...
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COVID Silver Linings

These last two weeks have passed reaaaally slowly, how about it? Since the first of April, we’ve been declined by the state of Pennsylvania for a waiver to stay open as an essential business. You can buy donuts over the counter but not visit your wealth advisor to talk about finances during a market crisis. Hmmm...
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COVID-19 Financial Survival Guide

I trust this note finds you healthy yet sick of social isolation. I recently read an apt quote applicable to now: “There are decades when nothing happens and then there are weeks where decades happen”. As usual, my mind turns to the history books to find some perspective about what we’re now collectively grappling with. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 was really bad. That crisis was also compounded by too many Americans who would not follow social isolation policies. On the lighter side..
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A Lot To Drink About

I recently heard a Jimmy Buffet tune recorded during the great financial crash of 2008-2009. The lyrics reminded me of now, especially the refrain: "There's the price of oil, The war of the spoils, Here's your bucket for the big bailout, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, We've got a lot to drink about." Add in the Coronavirus health shock and an ugly bear stock market and we definitely have many good reasons to drink – if the liquor stores were still open!
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Black Swan Caught the Flu

What started as lame jokes about a mediocre Mexican beer causing the flu has turned into a deadly serious world health crisis over the past several days. The Coronavirus is now an infectious global nightmare and a daily headline. I’m still processing all the possible consequences of the viral pandemic now sweeping the globe. Part of me believes it’s just a contagious superbug, another part is concerned about the economic aftershocks from the containment effort...
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New Stretching Exercises

I must share my experience from the junket I took to Texas last month; it’s too good of a story to keep to myself. One of our portfolio investments has been involved in substantial litigation (as the plaintiff) and the case ultimately wound its way to the Texas Supreme Court. We have a material amount of money in this investment, so I wanted to get a first-hand, eyewitness account of the court proceedings. The fact that the venue was Texas in January worked to get my travel request approved..
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Palindrome Investing

What an eventful day this past Sunday. The Super Bowl and Groundhog day, all-in-one. The weather was mild, the Super Bowl was entertaining with several good commercials (how about an elderly Bill Murray stealing the groundhog again thirty years later?). Plus, the chubby rodent from Punxsutawny forecasted a short winter. On top of these festivities, Sunday was a rare, historic date as well, especially for us number geeks: a “universal” palindrome...
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InSECURE

Celebrating my amazing wife Carrie’s birthday last month, I frankly outperformed. I took her to the Homestead Hot Springs resort in nowheresville Virginia to see it decorated for the holidays. I highly recommend the resort but go in the warmer months to enjoy all their outside amenities...
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The Sea Was Angry That Day...

Carrie and I had the chance to take our first adult cruise earlier this month. We sojourned to Bermuda on a swift five-day cruise with good friends – and liked it! I’ve heard very nice things about Bermuda for too long and wanted to see for myself. I had been informed that a cruise is the most cost-effective transportation mode to see Bermuda and it sure was more fun than an airplane ride– at first...
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Land Improvement?

I just got back from an advisor conference in Denver Colorado last week. Well, technically I was in Aurora, but I’m rounding. I have been to Denver several times over the years and with each visit I’m saddened to see the rapid sprawl and over-development of such a beautiful place. Our conference was held in brand new Gaylord conference center near the airport. The facility was beautiful but it stuck out on a prairie and looked so out of place, like a massive goiter jutting up from the ground
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All Good Things…

Thanks to a generous client, I was able to experience the final Pitt – Penn State football rivalry game live last weekend in Happy Valley from a VIP vantage point: the 40 yard-line a few rows behind the Pitt bench. Despite being seventeen-point underdogs, my Pitt Panthers played inspired football, losing 17-10 in a back-and-forth thriller. It’s impossible to describe the intense atmosphere at a Penn State football game when they’re playing a rival like Pitt and/or a quality opponent – you...
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The Summer of George

Hope everyone had an excellent summer. We did, even though the season moves faster with each passing year I admit to enjoying the summer break from blog writing but, like a new school year, I’m eager to get back to blogging. The task helps keep me focused on all the wealth management stuff happening outside of our office. I am an unredeemable Seinfeld fan. I still stop to watch this timeless sitcom whenever I find it while channel surfing. A favorite episode is when George Castanza, the wors
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Grandpa Financial Aid

Last month, a famous metal rabbit sculpture sold at a Christie’s art auction for $91 million (!), which set the world record for the most expensive price ever paid for artwork produced by a living artist. In 2013, an orange balloon dog metal sculpture crafted by the same artist sold for what was then a world record price of $58.4 million. His “Play-Doh” sculpture fetched $22.8 million in 2014 and you could have purchased his Hoover vacuum cleaner art piece for a neat $13 million.
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Thurston Howell, III Investment Plan

One of the silliest TV comedy sitcoms when I was growing up was Gilligan’s Island. The show ran for just four seasons in the mid-1960s. Now ancient and cringingly bad, the show had a near cult viewing audience via syndicated re-runs in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I remember the show well and also the adolescent boy talk: Mary Ann or Ginger? I was partial to Mary Ann; Ginger’s sequined evening gowns seemed gauche to me, even as a lad.
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Working Hard or Hardly Working

What an eventful couple of weeks since our last blog. Working concentrically, last Friday York held its second “Give Local” charitable giving marathon and it was a smashing success. The event is a 24-hour window for Yorkies to make charitable gifts to not-for-profit organizations.
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Pinteresting

A native son sure hit the jackpot last week. Pinterest, the popular social media site, successfully completed its initial public offering on April 18th. One of the social media company’s co-founders, Evan Sharp, hails from York! Better yet, he’s a York Suburban high school graduate, the fine school district that it is educating our associate Heather’s children...
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“O” Fer

It’s hard to admit being a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan. Once a storied franchise, the O’s have been one of the worst-run organizations in all of sports for nearly four decades. I suffered through 1988 with their embarrassing “0” and 21 start to the season – 21 straight losses! – far and away the worst start in baseball history.
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Curvature

The lower Susquehanna river valley is making headlines this month, both good and not-so-good. First the good: On March 12th, President Trump signed a law designating York and Lancaster counties as the newest national heritage area, named the Susquehanna National Heritage Area to be precise. There are only fifty-five NHAs around the country and the new designation is expected to be a nice economic boon for the region. It means federal money and other resources to help promote the historical
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Happy Tenth Birthday Mr. Bull

Just when you think your cynicism can’t sink lower comes this week’s bombshell announcement about a den of wealthy thieves arrested for cheating, busted for slipping their mediocre offspring into elite academic universities illegally. The situation is still unfolding, but a disturbing number of uber-wealthy families allegedly committed federal felony crimes bypassing the college admissions office to get their little Spaldings improperly admitted.
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Random Musings

March, finally! Might be my advancing age but winters seem to be getting longer. Perhaps the pull for seniors to migrate to Florida is genetic. As we turn the corner towards spring, here’s some observations and thoughts rattling around my noggin. Tax Season Tax reporting stress is on, full throttle. It is perfectly understandable that law-abiding taxpayers are fervently trying to fill their tax document shoebox for their tax preparer but allow me to add a word of caution.
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Working With Benefits - 02/15/2019

I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience this month– I got to visit the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta - right after spending an extraordinary weekend at the Super Bowl! Talk about having good friends in high places.  A college buddy works for NFL Films and he generously invited me to attend Super Bowl LIII in Boston, I mean Atlanta, at no cost.  It just seemed like I was in Boston mingling with the half million New England Patriot fans lingering in every direction.&n
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Health Insurance Enrollment Season - 11/21/2018

What a wild November and it's only mid-month.  Devastating, ghoulish wildfires in California, a White House press conference that looked like a pro wrestling event and a near blizzard snowstorm that struck south central Pennsylvania this week, causing scores of car accidents and nightmare commutes, all while the autumn leaves remain on the trees!You know times are weird when the recent mid-term elections turned out relatively normal, including another run-of-the-mill Florida voting ball
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"O" Zones - 02/01/2019

It’s not remotely close to April Fool’s Day, so I wasn’t too skeptical when I read a recent article about the one-hundredth anniversary of Boston’s great molasses flood of 1919. Sure enough, at mid-day on January 15th, 1919, a fast-moving tsunami wave of two million plus gallons of sticky molasses flooded the famous North End neighborhood in Boston. The syrup flood destroyed many buildings, killed twenty-one people and several horses and injured another 150.  The s
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Tremors - 01/18/2019

Wealth Chatter Blog:  How about the earthquake recorded off the coast of Ocean City this week? A 4.7 magnitude earthquake struck the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, 136 miles off shore. Several folks from Ocean City to Virginia Beach reported a slight tremor and there was no tsunami – good. For me, it was the best timing: a baby quake reported at the precise moment that I was writing our 2019 investment outlook blog featuring earthquake tremors as an investment metaphor! Four years ago,
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Earthrise - 01/04/2019

Wealth Chatter Blog: Earthrise I hope everyone had a satisfying holiday season. A client said it well: “I had a great holiday and now I’m exhausted” – that’s my sentiment these first few days of 2019. On Christmas Eve, I was in the office tying up loose ends before the holiday. I found myself staring at the PC screen as the US stock market had another really rough trading day, sliding down despite low trading volumes, closing early and bereft of any financial news
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Circle of Dominoes - 12/21/2018

Wealth Chatter Blog:  If you bumped into me this week, you may have noticed a bounce in my step, a looser look. That's because my pride and joy, Abby, graduated from Pitt on Sunday and an important financial obligation (to us) is now off our shoulders. It seems like just yesterday I was at Sears trying to coax a nine-month old baby to look at the camera for a portrait. Then, in a blink, you find your eyes getting a little runny as you watch that baby girl walk across the stage ea
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Return on Asparagus - 08/03/2018

For many years I have driven past the historical placard on Roosevelt Avenue in York marking the birthplace of General Jacob Devers.  The placard indicates that Devers was a big muckety-muck general in World War II and I'm thinking, right, a small city over promoting one of its own. Wrong.I finally took time last month to fully read up on General Devers and, to channel Joe Biden, he's a true historical BFD.  As in Jacob Devers, a four-star Army general, did more than any single
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Business Lessons From A Five-Year Old - 08/17/2018

There's a great scene in the movie Jerry Maguire when Jerry (Tom Cruise) receives the unwelcome news that he is being axed from his sports agency firm.  On his way out of the office for the last time, he creates an awkward scene in front of the employees, imploring them to quit on the spot and walk out with him in solidarity and come work for his new agency. He only got one taker – a secretary – along with a fish he removed from the company aquarium.  Then the three set
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Tax Credit Education - 08/31/2018

Happy Labor Day!  No other holiday stirs up such mixed emotions:  the end of summer, the official end of hot dog season (per the National Hot Dog Association) and house projects (ew), but it also marks the return of college football, a timely long weekend and cookouts.  Call me stubborn, but I will continue to wear white and eat hot dogs after Labor Day if I so choose. Like most of our traditions, the history of Labor Day is rather interesting.  The national holiday was creat
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A Day That Changed Everything - 09/14/2018

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of one of the most significant days in our lifetimes:  the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment banking firm on September 15, 2008.It is not as infamous as 9-11, but the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers nearly brought down the entire global financial system and created the country's worst economic events since the stock market crash of 1929.Like our grandparents who never forgot the scars of the Great Depression, the "Great Recession&quo
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Where's The Stock ? - 09/28/2018

I'm betraying my age but remember the classic 1980s Wendy's hamburger commercial, featuring three old ladies standing at a burger counter? While two of the ladies were admiring the outsized hamburger bun, the third lady, a short grumpy octogenarian, focused on the tiny patty and groused, "Where's the Beef?  It is considered one of the top ad slogans in television history.                              
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Spendthrift Retirement ? - 10/12/2018

The list of technological innovations that changed the course of human history is rather short.  The advent of the compass, printing press, antibiotics, electricity and the microchip are a few examples of true civilization game-changers.  Right at the top of this list was the invention of the combustible steam engine, which galvanized railway transportation and changed the world.Railroads were the epitome of "high tech" in their day.  Like the internet, it created massiv
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The Fighting Catholics - 10/26/2018

I checked off a key bucket list item this month when Carrie and I traveled to South Bend to experience a Notre Dame football game.   The fact they were playing Pitt that Saturday made it even more special.  I had built up a lifetime of prejudices about Notre Dame.  I anticipated a snobby aura around campus and town but was I off base.   The whole place is just Indiana friendly.  The locals, fans and alumni know their university is academically elite and th
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Grant & Ward - 11/09/2018

I just finished the exceptional Ron Cherow tome, Grant.   I didn't know much about Grant other than he was a no-nonsense military general who vanquished the Confederate Army in 1865.   I had also assumed that he was a lifelong drunk and an inept, corrupt president.Now, I'd rank Grant as one of the greatest, most principled leaders in US history, an underrated president given short shrift by historians. Distilling his accomplishments, Grant devised, led and executed t
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The Crater - 12/07/2018

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday and, for the 99% of Pennsylvania males (not me) who hunt deer, hope you score a ten-point buck this season. I'm intentionally ignoring the stock market tumult this week.  As I mentioned recently, we feel good about the US economy, but the trade war stuff could cause market trouble.  Sure enough, Trump's "I'm the tariff man" tweet this week caused a major market sell-off Our outlook remains the same:  If the US reaches a trade dé
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