As the magic erodes, plus investing implications for kids.
We’re back from Anaheim, a family tradition subsidized by my day-job, a tradeshow at Disney’s (very grand) Grand Californian Hotel.
A giant, beautiful, Craftsman-style lodge, the open, six-story lobby is teeming with joy on arrival, bustling tykes skipping about in Mickey ears to the charming lullabies from Bambi, Dumbo or some other classic from the golden age, tickled from the ivories of a Grand piano, dads draped in luggage, moms in sundresses and smiles, strollers smelling of sunblock and freshly spun cotton candy.
Overcome with memories of my own, our kids jump to it, sprinting from one enchanting amenity to the next, a huge, crackling fireplace, the classic tube-television playing Disney shorts from the 1950s, and a giant sugar sculpture celebrating 100 years of the Walt Disney Company.
To our 12- and 14-year-old, it’s a summer staple, an experience interrupted only a handful of times (COVID and newborn siblings).
Twenty minutes from the glistening beaches of Orange County, with three picturesque pools, a twisting water slide, and direct entry to Disneyland, California Adventure, and Downtown Disney, the Grand Californian is hard to beat for family fun, the conference discount whittling our hotel bill just under the line of absurd.
I’ve never loved amusement parks (nor nearly anything that draws a crowd), and I don’t disagree that your family can create better memories and build valuable skills by wandering into the woods with hiking boots and a tent, but when your toddler meets Mickey for the first time, the wonder cannot be overstated.
It’s an awe I hadn’t expected, will never forget, and miss forever as they come of age and my own graying begins. Despite a few hiccups over the years, I will cherish our fleeting time together at the most magical place on Earth.
It wasn’t until this year’s planning that I began to think it could be our last.
My teen and preteen had fun, but the “magic” reveals itself as pure consumerism after a certain age. Unlike trekking into the National Forest with a pocketknife, Zippo, and can of Dinty Moore, there is a price tag on everything, and it’s becoming egregious.
Cheap Mickey ears are $20, slightly fancier ones, $30-$50.
These are entry level-
Hotel aside, the ancillaries add up quickly. One park/person/day is $125 give or take (depending on days booked), add $65 to access both. To avoid being in line all day, add $25/person for a Genie pass. Even with it, by afternoon the crowds are brutal.
At Downtown Disney, the restaurants are clean, fresh, hip and delicious, but even casual spots range $25-$30 for an adult cheeseburger and fries, $15 for a kids’ meal, and $12-$15 for a draft beer or cocktail. Add $7 each for an ice cream crone for dessert, and soon enough, every parent is thinking like an economist…
What could we have done instead of this?!?
That’s called “opportunity-cost”, and for Disney, it’s big. With four kids, our niece, and nanny in tow, my one-earner household is ready to put everyone to work.
Yes, mine are good problems to have, and we’re blessed to have been successful enough to have them. Like snowboarding (our winter excursion), Disneyland is becoming a tale of two America’s, one for the haves rather than have-nots.
Before you chastise me (he’s complaining about the cost of taking his nanny to Disneyland?), I do know how hard it is for most families.
It’s why I write the children’s books, wholly a labor of love.
I do it to expose this broken, crooked, two-tiered system, a big, fat, fiat lie, a debt-based skimming operation (that violates the US Constitution, born in its present form only in 1971) foisted on our impressionable children.
It will eat them alive when they leave home if they don’t understand it. If they do, they can stay ahead, arranging the pieces in their favor.
Go woke, go broke?
Back to Disney. We’ve all heard the chatter about new, woke thinking making its way into cherished Disney franchises as management advocates for radical policies in legislation. I hadn’t paid much attention, nor seen the latest Toy Story sequel. While Disneyland made Pride apparel readily available, I didn’t find it obtrusive.
To each his own. I’m a big believer in liberty.
That said, I also recently stumbled on a Twitter video of a mustached, cross-dressing man in the greeter role at the Bippity Boppity Boutique in Magic Kingdom, where young girls get princess makeovers…
To me, like “Drag Queen Story Hour” or transgender boys dominating female sports, that is going too far. Can we let girls have anything to themselves?
Can we let kids be kids?
My youngest are boys, and my daughter has aged out of princess play, so we didn’t visit the Bippity Boppity Boutique this year, though I remember all the happy times that we did a decade ago. (And to be clear, the service and experience we had this year – while costly and crowded – was first-rate, as usual for us at Disneyland).
The good news is, my opinion about who should be in the greeter role doesn’t matter that much, and we don’t have to legislate any of it. Disney should be free to hire whomever they want to drive demand or make political statements.
Likewise, consumers can vote with their wallet to go, or not go.
Disney as an investment
In this case, the market seems to be speaking.
In March 2019, we released an Ultimate Parent’s Guide to Money, Saving & Investing. We’ve updated it since (noting changes in red), but it remains largely spot-on, even as the world has descended further into madness.
(Bear with us, we’ll get to the Disney part).
A solid understanding of finance and investing is mostly timeless. Here it is, free-
The guide closes with a fool-proof 10-Step Plan to ensure your children have abundance tomorrow, including how to open a custodial brokerage account together, automating small deposits with no fees whatsoever, dollar-cost-averaging into great businesses, brands that should be around forever.
Today, your kids have the most critical element in the game of wealth-building that they will never have again to this degree: the gift of time.
Start now, and let compounding do the rest.
We explain how to pick stocks with reliable, long-term options for your family to consider, and how to start saving in silver. For now, we’ll jump to my daughter’s portfolio selected in 2019. She picked 10 stocks, Disney among them.
It’s her only loser-
Every other stock she selected has grown her investments 7% – 40% annually, while Disney lost about 4% per year. No doubt it’s been an amazing business historically, with tons of assets and goodwill. But actions have consequences. Current management seems to be putting politics ahead of profits.
We’ll watch it together as we approach her next birthday (once per year, they’re allowed to make tweaks to their holdings under guidelines agreed to at outset).
Mia will make the call, if there is principle and/or potential in staying the course with Disney, or looking for greener pastures.
Overall Portfolio Performance
Mia’s other investments have done well, making up for Disney’s missteps. Her portfolio is outpacing the S&P 500 with an annual return of 16% vs 12% for the overall market, while being less volatile (smaller drawdowns).
You can find an analysis here-
We seeded her account with just $128, and then $13 is automatically deposited every week if Mia keeps up with chores, increasing that periodically to pace inflation.
She’s now got over $4,000, and a lifetime to keep compounding.
Kids who follow this plan will learn about the market, investing cycles, and build a nest-egg, a head-start on the road of life towards the American Dream of achieving financial freedom, now reserved sadly for the privileged few.
Maybe someday they’ll take their nanny to Disneyland, then complain about the price of Mickey ears :-P
As outlined in the Guide, Mia is also building a cash position, and accumulating silver, to (a) take advantage of the next panic, training that muscle memory to “be greedy when others are fearful”, buying alongside Warren Buffet when there is blood in the streets, and (b) protect herself from a collapse of the currency.
I still need to determine the best way to add a small allocation to Bitcoin, as she has requested.
Now, ask yourself: Do you wish your parents had done this with you when you were a child, still with seven decades of compounding in front of you?
This is your opportunity to have that foresight with your kids.
Tomorrow is too late. Here’s the Guide, completely free, no email subscription necessary (with plenty of details on my background, too)-
So, despite the changes at Disney, the magic eroding if only a little, will we be back next summer?
Maybe, but if so, it’s probably just Dad trying to recapture the past, a magic that may be behind us already.
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