Welcome to my February newsletter! I discuss March Madness, In the Woods, and St. Martin.
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Welcome! After 28 years in the financial services industry, I'm now focused on writing. My first financial thriller, Money Grab, will be published in May 2017. 

In case you're new to the list, in each newsletter I'll talk about:
  • personal investing
  • mysteries/thrillers that I like
  • fun places to travel
I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for future newsletters. Please comment on Facebook or email me at

 The Odds of Madness in March

March Madness means college basketball, that wild scramble to the final 64-team roster in the NCAA tournament. Sports fans eagerly toss money in the pot and fill out brackets to predict the winner. It’s a classic risk/reward decision - should you bet on the top teams, or go for the long shot?

Money Grab has a scene based on the incredible 2011 march of the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams to the Final Four:
I heard the loud, low whoops of victory coming from the far end of the hall. The last time we had that much excitement in our office was when City University’s basketball team made it to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament. That had been a real long shot, with odds of about 87,000 to one, and had turned the CU team into a national sensation. We were so thrilled for them that none of us even cared that the unexpected win totally busted all our brackets, and that Hardy’s eight-year-old daughter, who had made her picks based solely on the names of the mascots, won the office pool.

This risk/reward decision also applies to investing. Should you stick to companies with good track records, strong management teams and predictable earnings? Or should you invest in an underdog stock? One that no analyst on Wall Street is recommending…that gets no respect…that is totally unloved…but that seems incredibly cheap and unlikely to go any lower?

I’ve learned from painful experience that a stock can always go lower, no matter how cheap it seems. So valuation alone is not a good reason to buy a stock. But if you can identify several catalysts to turn performance around (such as a management change, a new product, expense cuts, debt reduction, etc.), even if only one or two of these actually occurs, market sentiment can totally change on a stock and turn your underdog into a star performer.

It depends on your risk tolerance. Going with the safe bet may help you sleep better at night. And you probably don’t want to load up your portfolio with a lot of high risk stocks. But winning on the occasional long shot, just like VCU making it to the Final Four in 2011, is mighty sweet.

What’s your investment style? Do you ever root for the underdog? Or do you prefer the higher odds of a more probable result? Tell me what you think on Facebook. 

 Turning to Mysteries 

In the Woods

Tana French


In the Woods by Tana French is one of my favorite mysteries ever. It’s set in Ireland, where three children disappear overnight in the woods behind their homes. The next day one of them is discovered clinging to a tree, scratched and bloody, with no memory of what happened. The other two are never found.

The surviving boy grows up to be a detective who is tasked with investigating the murder of a young girl in those same woods. Is this latest murder tied to the one from twenty years before? Will Detective Ryan ever figure out what happened to his childhood friends?

The appeal of this book is not only in the complex plot and the carefully drawn characters, but also in the masterful way that French describes a scene, a smell, a thought. She has an amazing power to string together ordinary words to create powerful descriptions. There were sentences I read two and three times just to savor the beautiful language.
What mysteries have caught your attention? Tell me on Facebook

 Travel Tips

St. Martin

Money Grab has several scenes set in the Caribbean Island of St. Martin, which is half French and half Dutch (St. Maarten). The French side has topless and nude (Orient Bay) beaches and marvelous restaurants. The Dutch side has cruise ships, casinos and festive street markets. Parts of the island are incredibly lush, with beautiful flowers and immaculate landscaping. Others are dry and parched, inhabited mainly by goats foraging by the side of the road. From St. Martin you can take a ferry to St. Bart’s, another gorgeous island.
On our second St. Martin trip we stayed at Le Petit Hotel, a charming boutique hotel which offers a secluded beach, a scrumptious breakfast to enjoy on your own balcony, and free transportation to amazing dining spots on Restaurant Row. There I first encountered spiny lobsters, which have the longest antennae I have ever seen. I named a casino in Money Grab “The Spiny Lobster” in their honor.
What are some of your favorite travel spots? I look forward to hearing about them on Facebook. 

Thank you for reading!
Look for MONEY GRAB in May 2017. 

I have 28 years experience in the financial services industry as a corporate credit analyst, international trade finance officer, and equities analyst. I hold the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation and am a member of CFA Institute and a past president of CFA Society Virginia. Formerly a director at IronOak Advisors LLC, which managed $3 billion in assets, I am currently focused on managing family money and writing financial thrillers.

I am not a Registered Investment Advisor. Do your own investment research or consult your financial advisor before making your financial decisions.

Copyright © 2017 Frances Aylor, Author, All rights reserved.

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