January 8, 2007
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      I'm not used to writing that yet. "2007." Have you botched a few checks yet? Misdated your correspondence? Filled out a form as if you were doing it 12 months ago?
      Time isn't marching on: I think Father Time got a Segway mobility device for Christmas and picked up the pace a bit. The young rebels who led my generation's advance into adulthood aren't looking too spry anymore. Spendy cars with tennis club decals are sporting handicap hangtags and parking in the upfront blue spaces. I don't think "we" (the Boomer club) ever imagined having our "scouts" (the first wave of the Boom was born in '46) taking two breaths to blow out 60 candles... but that's the milestone now behind us.
      I bumped into a high-school buddy during a Saturday run last month. He had been my "back-up" on the varsity football team, and went on to ruin his knees on UCLA's squad. We hadn't seen one another in a year or more; he and I are anomalies, living within 10 miles of our boyhood homes. As we fell into our 50ish running pace, he brought me up-to-speed on our now-dead classmates. Thanks for the run, Bobby...
      Different things matter today, to us. Appealing to this moving target market is no small challenge for the "we have something to sell you" world.
      Last decade, Boomers were printing cash in the last run-up. Stock predictors had the Dow adding digits during our lifetime. We all figured it would only be a matter of time until the Billionaire Club would have to add a parking garage for all the new members. Investment services appealed to logic in their solicitations: state your fund's three-year performance, project it into the future... and watch the millions-under-management stack up. That was then; how about now?
      The tone has changed. The folks with the funds aren't just looking for spreadsheet heaven; there's an emotional component to life that isn't satiated with the declaration that "my REIT trumped your Index Fund" any longer. What's up, today?
      Smith Barney has its finger on the pulse of their prospects with advertising that strums some entirely different strings. Listen to this appeal, targeted toward their new niche of what they call "Working Wealth:"

          Earn your first dollar by your labors. Get up early, work late. Get up the next day and do it again. Keep doing it, even after the dollars start adding up.
          Smile at challenges. Curse at idleness. Be true to your dream. Don't stop until you achieve it. Then dream another dream. And work to achieve that.
          Pass on your values. Not just your assets. Give your family a better life. And the world a better life, too. Leave no statues. Leave signs of significance. Working wealth wears no uniform and meets in no club. But you know who you are. We at Smith Barney would like to say one thing to you. Welcome.

      I have to hand it to the direction setters at Smith Barney: they "get it." They've read their tea leaves and adjusted their offer. They're raising the right issues, but...
      Right issues, wrong answers. They've got limits. They only manage money; they have no insight on meaning... for people who look to Eternity for insight about Time.
      If your current approach to life has become a high-class rut, it's time to find a place where they sell the tokens for the toll bridge that spans from success to significance. It's time for you to run - not walk - to the closest site for The Master's Program, before you trade your runnin' shoes for one of those blue hangtags and begin the long, slow decline into long-term - but dead-end - success.
      Go straight to our homepage. Peruse the places where you could come hear - live, and in person - about your opportunity in TMP. If you're already a card-carrying TMP'er, lock onto a friend who fits the profile, and be a real friend by bringing them in as your guest. Time... is running out.

Bob Shank


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