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My last newsletter spoke about Bernie Madoff and warned about falling prey to Ponzi schemes.  It was also written to remind you that you need to take steps to protect yours and your clients’ assets.

I regularly attend the gym and it is always funny to watch the influx of attendees after the first of the year.  The funny thing about this is that every year you can almost bet that by March most of the new visitors will have by then quit coming regularly, if not all together.

Unlike emotion, personality is a physically stable trait that doesn’t change; and, my gym comments show how many of us react to most things in our life.  We either sit by idle and wait for someone or something else to solve the problem for us (most of the bailout programs) or we jump right in with great intentions and then fail to carry it out creating the type of cycle that many gym goers see each January.

Many of you have read John Dietz’s articles either through us at the APS™,  John has written another article that I thought you would enjoy reading.  I thought I should pass this article on as some light reading to get you thinking as you begin setting your 2009 goals and making the decisions that need to be made that will affect how your business will be run and what path it will take now and in the future.

Please enjoy John’s article and keep the information in the back of your mind when you are making the decisions that will affect your business this year: will you sit by and wait for someone to bail you out, will you make a decision to forgo some wants so you can afford the needs, will you make a resolution that will fail by March, or will you make decisions that will include new marketing programs and new structures for you and your clients that will protect your business and your clients’ assets?

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Dear Valued Reader,

Last year will go down as one of the most turbulent and troubled economic years of our lifetime. In the world of Asset Protection and wealth preservation, it was the year of the lesson. Many financial planners and investors following sound protocol were crushed by the trick of the Trojan Horse, snuck into the castle without any warning, obliterating security and protection. Of course, we all know the ending of the story in the Trojan Horse; the Greeks under the element of deception defeated Troy.

Perhaps those on the receiving end of the likes of Bernie Madoff or the stock market are feeling as though they were attacked at Troy by the Greeks who pretended to leave in peace. (Next week with a guest author, we will analyze the Madoff Ponzi scheme.)

The good news is that in most instances one person’s loss is another person’s gain. Last year has proved to us, yet again, that no one has all the answers. Prediction is risky business in itself. Political leaders were wrong, financial advisors got it wrong, the TV got it wrong, and the truth is we should embrace this New Year with the hope and optimism of the lessons learned. Most of you who read my material know that my looking glass is half-full and not half-empty.

The crossroads of opportunity are here and now. Inefficient markets and businesses are creating the next true wave of opportunity. Rotten corporate leaders have left a chasm of opportunity from here to China, no joke. Leaders that make it through the good times are, by definition, “good time Charlie’s.” The people who can do it when the climate is not so serene are the ones who impress me.

Some ask where I find my optimism. I see people who do walk the lesson of last year. AFLAC CEO, Dan Amos, gave up the $13 million severance agreement the insurance company would owe him were he to be fired or lose his job in a merger or acquisition. With the five-dollar sub, CEO Fred DeLuca and Subway surpassed the 30,000-restaurant mark by late 2008. Subway has 1,600 stores scheduled to open this year. One lesson that we should take to heart in our investments is that 70 percent of the U.S. economy relies on consumer spending.

Of course, with the glass half-full there are companies who will begin, survive and prevail through the recession. Jeff Bezos of faced more than one financial crisis and Amazon still thrives. Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, who is the largest mortgage lender in the U.S. has gone on record to state the he believes in mid 2009 the housing market will begin its’ upward swing. And then there is Wal-Mart, perhaps hurting in terms of their super goals, but an example that not all is lost.

The opportunity this year will be everywhere, yes even stocks, but you have to find the right prospects through sound reasoning with good quality due diligence. It is a fact that markets are disjointed, companies are running for the hills, manufactures are cutting back to prepare less orders. The bad news goes only for those who refuse to heed the lesson and make the change; for those who understand where to place their risk, there are opportunities.

From 1184 BC to today, Homer’s Odyssey stands metaphorically for the lesson to be learned before delving or accepting opportunity. These brief lines (from a Latin poem about Troy) refer to the Greeks who snuck the Trojan Horse into the castle as a present of peace.

Somewhat designed,
By fraud or force,
Trust not their presents,
Nor admit the horse.’

If you can discriminate where the genuine opportunity exists, then the good news is for you. In these times, opportunities exist that could not have been had otherwise, but of course, beware of Greeks bearing gifts. The formula for growth, which we should all take seriously is in the lesson; be educated, be wise, be protected and be suspecting.

Until next time,