Category Archives: August 3

Working to insure financial futures from the center of Port Clyde

Port Clyde seems an unlikely headquarters for an investment advisor, but for Evelyn (Evy) Blum of Marshall Point Advisors a high-speed internet line makes it possible to work easily from her location in the center of the village. She says she especially appreciates the added benefit of working in an atmosphere of “quiet beauty” that is a satisfying distance from the financial markets.

“I’ve loved this area since childhood, when I went to summer camp in Maine and sailed out to Monhegan from Tenants Harbor. My husband, Steve Thomas, and I bought a home on Hupper Island in the 1990s. When he stopped hosting “This Old House” on Public Television and we no longer needed to be Boston-based, we renovated a small home in the village and moved here full time.”

Blum first got involved in the world of stocks and bonds by helping her father, who was an active investor, with charting stock prices. This led to a 30-year professional career that involved selling financial information to the investment community. “During that period I also assisted my father in managing wealth for a small number of family members and friends. When he retired 12 years ago, I started Marshall Point Advisors and became a registered investment advisor.”

Blum explains that being an investment advisor is different from being a financial planner. “Financial planners do worry about portfolio management, which is what I do, but they also worry about insurance coverage, budgeting and things like estate planning, which is huge. They catch all of the phases of one’s financial life—saving for college, saving for retirement. They help people from cradle to grave planning for the future.”

Blum says consulting a financial planner—ideally at regular intervals, say when someone is in their 20s, then in their 40s and then later—would benefit most people whatever their circumstances. “Take fishermen, for example. You can have lobstermen making good money for several years, but then there are bad years. Or they get an injury. Just like ball players, they have to plan for the long game.” But, Blum adds, financial planning can also be “a painful process.” The reason, she says, is that money can be a very personal issue and many people don’t have much practice disclosing the details of their financial lives to others.

Blum took all of the training needed to become a financial planner, “but when push came to shove, the only part that really interested me was investment management. So I’m only paid to handle the portfolio management itself. That doesn’t mean I can’t offer direction or offer a second opinion on other matters. I can coach and give feedback. And I’ve developed a group of professionals out and about who I know will give my clients good specific advice on, say, estate planning or life insurance.”

In terms of investment advice, Blum says the way she works is different from the way many other investment advisors work. “The main difference between what I do and what people usually get for financial advice is that I don’t sell any products. So a stockbroker who works with someone is pushing products and getting commissions to do that. When there’s a high commission on a new investment product the stockbroker will respond accordingly.”

In Blum’s case there are no commissions involved. “I’m paid a fee based on a percentage of the amount of the assets I’m managing for someone—whether stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. I want them to do well because I’ll do well. If we start with $100,000 and I get them up to $1,000,000 then I’m doing well.”

A major aspect of her work as an investment advisor, she stresses, is to help her client’s develop confidence about the investment plan she and they have put in place. This can involve a significant amount of time spent explaining about how to put a person’s “excess money”—the funds that might be left over after all the bills are paid—to work.

“People mix up saving money with putting that money to work once it is saved. Today certificates of deposit pay nothing, savings accounts pay nothing, so even with low inflation you’re not making any money.” That, she says, is where investing comes in.

A common type of investment is a retirement fund, to which a person might contribute through their job. “You usually get a choice of investment funds, typically a mutual fund. But mutual funds behave very differently, they have characteristics that a person may or may not be aware of. So until you understand how you are investing your money and in what proportion, whether in growth funds or bonds and so on, you haven’t really made a decision—it’s just sitting there. It may be safe, but if it’s not well invested you’re wasting a huge opportunity.”

Blum’s clients range from people in their late 20s to early 90s, with assets ranging from $350,000 to $3,000,000. And while she admits that it doesn’t make practical sense for someone to pay her to manage smaller amounts, she stresses that anybody can get involved in making their money work for them.

“Think about the daily coffee you drink. If you don’t make your coffee at home and instead buy it at Starbucks or somewhere else, those are dollars that might add up to $500 over the course of a year. There are now simple and efficient investment tools that didn’t exist 20 years ago. There are investment firms like Schwab or Ameritrade that allow small purchases of stock for very small fees. So you can buy $100 worth of stock for $5 or $1,000 worth of stock for $5.”

Blum acknowledges that money and finance can be uncomfortable territory for many people.

“Part of it is that we don’t teach about it to our children in school—it’s not a subject. The kids have no training in even the most basic financial management, which is a checkbook and a budget. You can graduate college and still not know the difference between a stock and a bond! The additional issue, which is probably generational, is that older women know less about finances  than men do—or at least they admit to knowing less. A mature woman who is newly in charge of her own finances will say, ‘I don’t know the first thing about this, my husband took care of it, my father took care of it. My brother-in-law tells me I should buy Facebook, should I?’”

The solution, Blum believes, is not only education, but also careful, individualized planning. “So I want my clients to understand that we’re going to implement an investment plan designed to reach their specific goal. When there is a plan in place and a system of investing in place that you stick to, you develop confidence.”—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Of seaweed and connections

by Joan Beard

As if in slow motion, I am pulled forward until I feel that first shock that simultaneously penetrates my skull and creates a line of crackling cold on my shoulder blades.  Every brain cell is rearranged and then I am in it:  moving, floating, drinking in the seaweed, the dark blue green depths and, sometimes, the dancing sunlight.  On a good day the breathing comes easily, but it can take a few minutes to get my rhythm and adjust to this dream-like horizontality.  I love open swimming in Maine.

There are so many great lakes, ponds, rocky coastal areas and salty beaches that I am afraid to list them, for fear of leaving other beauties off the list.

I value my time submerged even more, now that I live in a world tethered by cell phones, texting and e-mail. Swimming keeps me connected to what is most important:  nature and myself.  Like so many others, I find that spending time in nature is an education in values and respect. As an artist I cannot imitate nature, but rather embrace it and become more aware of my humility.

Photographing and swimming in oceans and lakes for many years has taught me a few things. Clearer water generally indicates cleaner water. Once I snuck into Jordan Pond for a dusk swim and no water has ever tasted cleaner­­­—it was a long time ago.  Plant and sea life diversity are not only beautiful but also indicate a healthy habitat. There are a few places I have returned to annually over the past 20 years and the level of deterioration I observe sometimes terrifies me.

One grey and cool morning in early July I took a swim at Drift Inn Beach. My inner ear was immediately chilled by the water. The waves initially came at me in a way that made it difficult to breathe without drinking in the sea as I moved forward. I had no choice but to give in to the chaos so I took few breaths and focused on what was below me.  I found a wide range of seaweed and little fish swimming in schools below and beside me.  I began to relax and speed up, warming up a bit. I even felt hope that maybe we could find a way to flow with nature instead of constantly assaulting her and get out of this negative environmental cycle we are so caught up in.

As an artist it’s all in the details.   There is so much we can’t quantify like the emotional and physical benefits of fresh sea air or the healing powers of looking at a landscape unblemished by houses or clear-cutting.

I am always encouraged by the enthusiastic open swimmers I see when I emerge from my dream-like swim.  Some are moving in the water, others wading like so many of the animals (including dinosaurs) who have lived on this wild and wonderful planet before us.

Photographer Joan Beard returns to midcoast Maine from New York City annually (mainelyportraits.com and joanbeard.com).  On Saturday, August 19 she will be joining in the 5K Islesboro Crossing swim to raise money for Lifeflight of Maine with Lori Beth Schwartz and Anne Harrison.  Paddlers will include Wendy Zwecker, Madeline Rockwell, Tamara Cody (https://lifeflight.donordrive.com/index.cfm).

PHOTOS: Joan Beard

Everybody loves dragonflies

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

American Emerald

I took an informal poll recently and the results were unanimous—everybody loves dragonflies. It should be noted that I only asked three people and one of them was me, but still the final tally is impossible to deny. And who can blame “everybody?” Dragonflies are amazing fliers, top predators both in and out of the water, all the while being a link to an historic past. Surely they are the pride of the Odonata (take that Damselflies!).

Summer is the time to observe adult dragonflies and whether you have a field, a yard or live by fresh water there are opportunities to watch a variety of dragonfly behavior just about everywhere.

When close to water, dragonflies have one thing on their minds—mating—and the action can be fast and furious. Male dragonflies patrol pond edges, zipping and chasing away males of their own species (and at times just about any other dragonfly species) to secure access to any female that might show up. Battles between males escalate when a female does make an appearance and then the race to mate is on. A “successful” male will grab a female in flight by her head and thorax (don’t try this at home) and then he curves his body so the tip of his abdomen (the long body part) grasps the back of the female’s head. Females will then curve their body until the tip of their abdomen makes contact with the male, forming a circle or “wheel position” and reproductive exchanges are made. Dragonfly mating can last from three seconds (impressive in a way) to up to an hour (impressive in the traditional sense).

From there egg laying ensues and dragonfly females can lay hundreds of eggs at a time.  In some dragonfly species females have blades to slice into plants such as cattails so they can insert the fertilized eggs there for protection. Other species may use ovipositors to poke eggs into mud or floating mats of vegetation.

Blue Dasher

On a recent paddle in the Tenants Harbor marsh my son Leif and I watched female Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) lay eggs a different way—by slapping their abdominal tip into the water over and over again while in flight! With each dip of the tip eggs are released to sink to the bottom. The male associated with the eggs (the dad?) hovered above her as she deposited their eggs, guarding her from any other males who might try to grab her, scoop out the first male’s “reproductive exchange” and then have his own exchange with the female.

Once in the water, eggs will hatch in as little as 10 days and a brand spanking new dragonfly larva—called a “nymph”—hatches. Dragonfly nymphs are major predators in ponds and come equipped with an enlarged, spiked lower jaw that they can shoot out a third of their body length. This enables the nymphs to catch large prey such as fish and salamanders as well as just about any aquatic insect.

Dragonflies may stay in this nymph stage for as little as a month, but often they remain in the water for years, eating and   growing by molting their exoskeletons anywhere from six to 18 times. Funny how dragonflies are in a sense aquatic insects, since they spend most of their lives in the water, but they are largely appreciated for the few weeks to a month that they are adults.

That day paddling on the marsh we also watched adult males of several different species patrol lily pads and shorelines. But the action on the water is often too frenetic to photograph (a side hobby of mine) and that is where my yard comes into play.

Common Whitetail

My yard (located conveniently near the Tenants Harbor marsh) has been buzzing/humming with lots of dragonfly activity. When away from water, dragonflies focus on food and basking which makes for a much calmer dragonfly experience. Adult dragonflies of both genders cruise over the yard picking off flying insects, turning the blood I just donated to a mosquito into energy to catch more mosquitoes. Here dragonflies will land for extended periods of time to warm up or rest. Such times are great for photographing.

One day I counted 10 species of dragonflies in my yard—Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctosa), Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia), Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis), Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea), Blue Corporal (Libellula deplanata), American Emerald (Cordulia shurtleffi), Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Green Darner, Blue Dasher and Johnny Whiteface. Needless to say, it was an awesome day.

(Tenants Harbor resident Kirk Gentalen is a regional steward for the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.)

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

Exploring the ‘connectiveness’ of all things in the universe

It was only seven years ago that Port Clyde artist Jon Mort discovered his true voice as a storyteller through his detailed renderings of found objects in colored pencil. With these objects, he creates a narrative that reflects his fascination with the natural order of the universe and the connectedness of all things. “I’m a person who has a deep hunger for order and the world at large, and nothing is more important than the coeval force to be connected.”

Born and raised near Ashton, Md., as a child Mort engaged in making art in the home studio of his father, noted artist Greg Mort, and was soon producing work that found its way into the hands of collectors. This was the first step on his path to becoming a professional artist. “I always carried a strong personal association with the idea that I was a creative person,” he explains, “but outside forces suggested the term ‘artist’ before it became a label I thought about applying to myself.” After high school, Mort enrolled in Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in studio art with a minor in classical archeology and ancient history.

In 2005, after graduation from F&M, Mort engaged in summer studies in Tuscany, Italy, where he joined an archaeological dig. While onsite, he was tutored by an illustrator from the British Museum of History who was working with a large array of precision measuring and transcribing tools. This left an enormous impression on Mort, who was searching for exactitude and refinement in his style.

“The people who have shaped my life are the teachers,” says Mort. These people also include a classics professor who he says taught him the importance of “fearlessness” and, more importantly, his parents, Nadine and Greg, who gave him the courage and confidence to pursue his heartfelt passion for art. Additionally, Mort’s mother, especially, encouraged him to pursue a diversity of experience rather than specializing in any one field too early on. According to Mort, “This shaped my character far more than any individual professional goal.”

Continuing his education, Mort earned a Master’s degree in architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009, where he learned the importance of rigor, simplicity—and solitude. Mort’s graduate thesis was based upon the question, “What is an architecture of solitude?” To answer that question, he returned to his childhood summer cottage in Martinsville, which was first rented by his parents when he was only five weeks old. From his bedroom window upstairs, the young Mort could view an island in Spruce Cove, informally known as “Grandaddy’s Island.” Contemplating it, he says he realized that “solitude is paramount, the root of all reflection and creativity, the source of all human endeavor.”

After graduate school, Mort began a career as a full-time professional artist, incorporating into his work all the influences, insights and skills that he had acquired along the way. Among his earliest works, Mort returned to the influence of his studies in classics to create graphite drawings of fantastical neo-mythological figures for which his friends would pose. Eventually, Mort turned to the medium of Prismacolor pencils, a natural outgrowth of his architectural training. He also began to explore a new theme based on the “connectiveness” of all things in the universe. Mort collects objects like old shells, discarded small bottles, foreign coins, small bound books with ornate bindings, among many things, to serve as his models. As he explains it, these objects are “a story crying out to be told.” Finding connections between several objects, Mort carefully assembles them within the boundaries of a thoughtfully balanced composition that invites viewers to explore and discover their own personal “connectiveness” to the objects.

During the summers, Mort resides in Port Clyde and the rest of the year in Washington, D.C. “It’s a privilege to share the Maine coast and there are few places where the forces that shape the natural world intersect to form such beautiful results,” he reflects. He says he feels grateful to spend summers on the St. George peninsula and hopes to continue creating work that he cares about. When asked about his future, Mort explains that he loves the uncertainty of what may come next in his life.

Presently, Mort is represented by Massoni Art Gallery in Chestertown, Md., and Sommerville Manning Gallery in Greenville, Del. His joint summer open studio with his father is scheduled for August 5-6 from 10am to 5pm at the Fieldstone Castle in Port Clyde. Mort’s exhibition for this event, entitled “Maine Treasures,” is his reflection on the granular beauty of this area and how beautiful it is. More of Mort’s work may be viewed on his website: www.jonmortstudio.com. —Katharine A. Cartwright

PHOTOS: Top, Jon Mort; bottom, Katharine Cartwright