My Dear Friends,
It was December of 1983 that I wrote the words, “This is my first annual Christmas Letter to you.”
My intention at the time was to share my thoughts, my feelings, my observations, my concerns, my hopes and, in many respects…my dreams about the world around us. The world in which we live. My intention was, and still is, to share my heart with you. I could not have imagined that forty years later, I would still find myself wanting to reach out in such a personal way. Yet…here we are.
As a young boy, I remember Christmas being our most important family celebration. Presents from Santa were carefully placed. Mine were on the left side of the tree. My brother Charlie’s were on the right side of the tree. Mom and Dad’s were usually placed in the middle. Our stockings were placed left and right accordingly. The stockings carried a special tradition in that throughout Christmas day, new gifts continued to appear in our previously empty stockings. We were told something about Santa having invisible elves that returned at various times during the day to bring gifts that Santa may have forgotten the night before. Sometimes a candy cane or candy bar. Sometimes an orange, an apple or a couple of walnuts. Always…fun.
Christmas dinner was a very special occasion. For a number of years, we heated the old farmhouse with two wood stoves. The kitchen stove provided heat for the room and was used for cooking. I still find it hard to believe that for years my Mom prepared both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, as well as every evening meal, on a wood stove. There might have been a turkey or a ham in the oven. Bread would have been baked the afternoon before. All of the vegetables and side dishes were cooked in pans sitting on top of the firebox of the stove. Sometimes it was just my Mom, Dad, Charlie, and me. Sometimes we included a family friend or neighbor. Sometimes my grandfather joined us along with one or two of my uncles. Always…there was love and laughter around that table.
Before the meal, my father would offer a word of thanks for our meal, and even more for the fact that we were able to be together as a family. Our “grace” would close with all of us joining hands at the table and sharing with one another what each of us considered to have been our most significant event during the preceding year. It wasn’t unusual for one or more of us to share a particular hope for the coming year. It wasn’t until I was grown and out on my own that I realized that my parents had unknowingly instilled in me a respect and appreciation for the past but had also encouraged me to look forward. To respect my tomorrows. And to not be afraid to dream. There was a simplicity to life. It wasn’t always easy, but it wasn’t complicated either.
I remember countless Sundays standing in the faded wooden pews of Maple Root Baptist Church when Pastor Bell would lead the congregation in singing the wonderfully uplifting hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Now, Pastor Bell was not the most gifted of vocalists, but I still remember how his face literally lit up when he led our congregation in song. It was beautiful. There is a line in one of the verses of that old hymn that says, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”
Many of you know that I originally went to college with the intention of becoming a minister and then considered pursuing a PhD in 17th Century Literature and becoming a college professor. Obviously life intervened and my career path went in a different direction. What has remained constant is my reliance in the belief that there truly is a “strength for today and a bright hope for tomorrow.” I still believe that. I often talk about my glass being “half full” rather than “half empty.”
I think that many of us look at the world around us today and wonder what the heck is going on. Our country appears to be deeply divided politically, spiritually, emotionally and philosophically. We have always had differences of opinion and different points of view about any number of things. Historically, it appears that we have always had different viewpoints about who or what God is. We have differing attitudes about how we worship.
As for politics, we have two major political parties in the United States. My history book tells me that the Democrat party was founded in 1828 and the Republican Party in 1854. Republicans are typically viewed as conservative and focused on a more capitalistic style of economics which favors smaller government and less regulation. There is an emphasis on individual liberties. Democrats are typically seen as being more liberal in their viewpoint. Democrats tend to favor a more active role for government in society and believe that such involvement can improve the quality of people’s lives and help achieve the larger goals of opportunity and equality. On the other hand, Republicans are seen as being in favor of smaller government — both in terms of the number of people employed by the government and in terms of the roles and responsibilities of government in society. They see “big government” as wasteful and an obstacle to getting things done. My point here is simply that we have two major political parties in the United States with different points of view on a variety of issues. I think that the majority of Americans identify politically as either Democrat or Republican. I think that most of us as Americans tend to look to our “party of choice” to provide us with leadership, guidance, safety, and stability. I don’t believe that there is a universal “right” or “wrong” party. There are different ideas, values, and philosophies in each. I also believe that the early leaders and founders of both political parties envisioned that each party would be represented by leaders who ultimately wanted the very best they could achieve for our country as a whole and for our citizens individually. Of course, there are both similarities as well as significant differences. I think that it is incumbent on each of us to determine which individual candidates most closely reflect our personal, and hopefully well thought out, point of view. I think that it is important that we be involved in the process. We need to express our opinion. We need to be informed citizens and voters.
Rodney King is quoted as saying during the Los Angeles riots in 1992, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Why?…indeed.
This is my fortieth Christmas Letter and I still find myself staring at my computer screen (it used to be a page from a pad of lined yellow paper) and trying to sort through the myriad of thoughts and feelings that I want to share with you. Primarily, I want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you to you who are my clients for entrusting me and my PPG team with your own hopes and dreams. PPG has grown from a one-man office to a nationally recognized wealth management firm of eighteen talented professionals. For a number of years, I have been honored to be consistently nationally ranked. I have always tried to be clear about the fact that these rankings don’t just represent a single person. They represent the entire PPG team.
In October of this year, Forbes published their ranking of the “Top RIA Firms in America.” In presenting the article, Forbes wrote the following: “Registered investment advisory (RIA) firms are legally bound by a fiduciary standard, and thus committed to working in a client’s best interest rather than a ‘suitability’ standard which can translate into high commissions. All of the RIAs on Forbes’ list have strong pedigrees when it comes to providing a steady hand for clients and preserving their wealth over the long term. The second annual Forbes/Shook Top RIA list has 250 advisory firms with cumulative assets of more than $1.1 trillion.”
I am humbled and so very proud that PPG was included in this special ranking. It’s not a ranking for having the best portfolio performance in a given year. It’s a ranking that speaks to our placing our client’s interests above our own. It’s a ranking that speaks to the quality and integrity of our business model as a wealth management firm. At its core, PPG is a fiduciary. We have a team that puts you, as our client, first.
I was recently asked to record a podcast for “What Matters,” talking about the development and growth of PPG over the years. The “What Matters Podcast” describes itself as being “dedicated to showcasing the best-in-class RIA’s, Wealth Managers and Investment Professionals.” What a lovely compliment for our firm and especially our PPG team. I expect that it will be available online by the time this letter is printed, and you receive it.
Recently, David Aballo, one of our newest advisor team members, and I had the honor and privilege to address a group of students involved in the Financial Management Association program at the University of Rhode Island. David is a URI graduate and former president of FMA when he was a student. The FMA program is under the direction of Professor Michael Ice. The URI website describes the FMA program as “promoting the development and understanding of basic and applied research for sound financial practices. It provides interaction between and among academics, practitioners, and students.”
It was a wonderful experience for us. In recent weeks, it seems like the media has had a field day focusing on college and university students, often in a negative light. It reminds me of my own days as a student during the Vietnam War. It wasn’t pretty. Sometimes we may have been too aggressive. Sometime too outspoken. Sometimes…we were seen as a bit “over the top.” But we cared deeply about our country. We really cared. The young students in the room were focused on what they might learn and what questions they might ask or discuss. They struck me as students who also really care. We were treated with great respect, and we treated them with great respect as well. I talked about how PPG began as a “one-man band” selling financial products such as life insurance and mutual funds and evolved into a true wealth management firm engaged in identifying and finding solutions to financial problems. We talked about commitment, hard work and finding opportunity. We talked about the need for transparency and honesty when working with clients. We talked about the role that values and ethics play in our profession. We talked about the need to “give back” to your community as a part of one’s personal and professional responsibility.
We had our annual office Christmas party at The Cooked Goose. Andrew and his staff always seem to outdo themselves for us. Everything was perfect. The setting. The service. The ambiance. It was so nice to just “hang out” and chat with members of my team, spouses, and special friends. Did I mention the food? Oh my goodness. The food was fabulous. The hors d’oeuvres were like something you would find in a fancy, upscale restaurant in New York City that were continually offered as we all enjoyed each other’s company. The dinner was…Wow!!! Exquisite. I hope that Andrew will welcome us again next year. I’m sure we will be making our reservation early. “Andrew and staff…Thank you.”
Eileen Esposito has been a valuable and highly respected member of our staff for over twenty-eight years. She started her career with PPG working with teachers as a part of our Faculty Advisory Service program with the NEARI. From there, she moved on to working with Chris as a Client Service Associate (CSA). In that role, she developed many close and trusted relationships with our clients. Several years ago, she transitioned to a full-fledged Financial Advisor. I am constantly impressed with her commitment and dedication to her clients. She is kind and caring. Always well prepared. Always a positive role model for our younger team members. During our Christmas Party, I recognized her for her many years of dedication to her clients, to all of us at PPG and for the significant role she has played in the lives of so many. Eileen plans to retire at the end of this year, joining her husband Peter who will be retiring from General Dynamics at the same time. We wish Eileen, Peter and son, Michael, God’s blessing as they set sail in this new and exciting part of their lives.
As I re-read some of my Christmas Letters from recent years, I was aware of a constant, recurring theme. The question so often asked is, “Mal, are you getting ready to retire soon?” The answer given each time is, “No, not just yet.” I love what I do. I know that it has value. The Lord has blessed me with good health and a positive outlook. I am blessed with a team of extraordinary individuals whom I trust and know I can depend on. I’m not ready to turn off my iPad just yet.
So…as I’ve said so many times, “Thank you” for these many years. I look forward to spending many more with all of you. All of us at PPG: Joanna, Lee-Ann, Jennifer, Eileen, Tina, Melissa, Andrea, Marquesen, Shannon, Chris, Peter, Dan, Jonathan, Patrick, Harrison, Todd, David, our families, my wife Martha and, of course, the spirits of our beloved Portuguese Water Dogs, Bromley, Annabelle and Reddington, join me in wishing you and your family a blessed and joyous holiday and New Year.
When the Grace was concluded, my Dad would open his eyes to see each of us holding hands around the table. In a soft, quiet voice, he would squeeze my hand and simply say, “Amen.”
May God continue to bless, guide, and watch over each of us.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.
The Forbes America’s Top RIA Firms 2023 is based on the period from 3/31/2022 to 3/31/2023 and was released on 10/10/2023. Approximately 42,643 nominations were received, and 250 companies won. Neither Raymond James nor any of its advisors pay a fee in exchange for this award. More: https://bit.ly/45nGmCD Forbes Link: https://www.forbes.com/lists/top-ria-firms/?sh=28a77f5d3cd5
The Forbes ranking of Best-In-State Wealth Advisors October 2023 developed by SHOOK Research is based on an algorithm of qualitative criteria and quantitative data. Those advisors that are considered have a minimum of 7 years of experience, and the algorithm weighs factors like revenue trends, AUM, compliance records, industry experience and those that encompass best practices in their practices and approach to working with clients. Portfolio performance is not a criteria due to varying client objectives and lack of audited data. This ranking is not indicative of advisor’s future performance, is not an endorsement, and may not be representative of individual clients’ experience. Raymond James is not affiliated with Forbes or Shook Research, LLC.
As with any investment strategy, there is potential for profit as well as the possibility of loss. We do not guarantee any minimum level of investment performance or the success of any portfolio or investment strategy. All investments involve risk (the amount of which may vary significantly), and investment recommendations will not always be profitable. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site.