Some of us remember the Memorex commercial featuring the Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald. In the ad, Ella hits a note and a wine glass shatters with the tagline, “Is it live or is it Ella?” We never really knew if it was her hitting a high C or her voice on Memorex tape. Sound generates waves that cause pressure on objects, like glass, but often it depends on microscopic defects in the glass. Scientific American reporter (and opera singer) Karen Schrock noted you have to be good and lucky. Without the right (or wrong) glass even a 105-decibel note may not shatter anything.

Most people dismiss good fortune, maybe because they feel it diminishes their hard work. New York Times columnist and author Carl Richards ("The One-Page Financial Plan," "The Behavior Gap") points out that acknowledging “dumb luck” allow you to accept more humility and less ego. Richards theorizes, and I agree incorporating these two traits leads to greater success, personally and financially.

From 1927 to 1997, the best performing U.S. stock was Coca-Cola, correctly pronounced “ko koluh,” and it was the only stock my grandfather, Joe Laslie, owned. In retrospect, his genius was accepting the fact he was a farmer, not a stock picker and the Ko Kuluh dividends might come in handy.

Investment professionals call the return on an investment portfolio greater than a benchmark “alpha.” For one thing, it sounds cool, but alpha is hard to generate consistently. In September 2014, there were 631 U.S mutual funds in the top quartile (25 percent), so those guys were smart. However, in September 2016 less than 3 percent of those in the 2014 top quartile were still there. When you go back to September 2012 top quartile, none are in the highest 25 percent, so much for genius.

The “alpha” investment professionals provide, more often than not, has more to do with overall financial planning: living within your means, adequate savings levels, appropriate insurance, updated estate planning, tax and cash flow planning and investments appropriate for your goals, time horizon, risk tolerance and risk capacity. After eight years of recovery from The Great Recession, the best thing we did was keep clients invested. I wasn’t sure the markets would come back, it was scary, and while I am not a genius I am certain there will be another upheaval. Hopefully, we won’t dismantle protections like adequate capital reserves for large financial institutions. In 2008, we were lucky. Congress passed unpopular legislation and allowed liquidity to stabilize financial markets. Otherwise, economies around the world would have faced decades of economic instability.

Back in the '50s, a B-52 broke in mid-air, jettisoning its bomb over North Carolina. A simple switch failed, avoiding a 40-megaton catastrophe — and that’s dumb luck.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.