2019 - A Year in Review

2019 Gary Year in Review

I make a concerted effort to avoid each day rolling into another without any distinction. I never want to look back on my life and have nothing stand out. I think this is one of the reasons I blog each week. It helps me reflect on my life and gives me the opportunity to bring forth those experiences, thoughts, ideas, etc. that were pertinent at the time. It also creates an incentive to lead a more interesting life as I’m always in need of compelling content for my blog! 

I am a living bundle of memories and hopefully, these memories can serve to bring me joy in the present as well as help guide me down a healthy future path by providing an experiential database to tap into to take advantage of life-affirming opportunities and to avoid those that will drain my vitality. My blog posts are a type of journal that helps catalog my life so the years don’t roll into one and allow me to go back from time to time to see what was top of mind and what I was doing at different points in time.


I have such wonderful memories of my 32 years with Roneet that recalling them makes me feel alive, even if some of what I recall elicits sadness and tears. It means what I experienced with her moved and shaped me and I will always cherish what we had and bring those memories with me wherever I go. I’m equally committed to creating powerful experiences and corresponding memories going forward as I never want to stop growing, learning, meeting new people, seeing new places, and trying new things, while also sticking with those habits that improve my health (physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial) and discarding those that do not. 

2010’s Coming to an End – CWS Perspective

With the 2010s coming to an end (without a recession!), the end of the year is naturally a good time to reflect on the past year. From a CWS perspective, 2019 was somewhat of a microcosm of the 2010s in that we continued to grow our apartment portfolio by buying more than we sold. We purchased seven properties, recapitalized two, and sold two properties. And while the investment opportunities are not what they were in 2010-12  when we were coming out of the Great Recession with home buying and building being deeply depressed due to the housing debacle and resulting tight mortgage market and the demand for renting growing dramatically without much new apartment supply due to tight construction lending conditions and the need for developers to rebuild their organizations and teams to deliver product on a meaningful scale, we are still optimistic about the outlook for apartments in our markets. 

1969 – 2019 CWS 50th Year

CWS 50 Years Enhancing Lives

2019 was a particularly monumental year as it was our 50th year which was an incredible milestone. Very few businesses last that long and I’m proud to say that I have been here for 32 of those years. What a privilege it has been to have spent my entire adult life at CWS working with and learning from such extraordinary people. I will be forever grateful for having had this opportunity. 

2019 New Development

We completed the development of a beautiful property in Austin called The Clark (photo below). We are very proud of this and we are looking forward to owning this property for many years to come. We also have more developments on the horizon in Austin. Hopefully, this will turn out as well but only time will tell.

The Clark in Austin TX

2019 Long-Term Interest Rates

As the following chart shows, long-term interest rates came down quite a bit during 2019. At the beginning of the year, the 10-year Treasury yield was approximately 2.80%. As we approach the end of the year it’s in the 1.90% range (up about 0.50% from its low for the year), which is quite a significant drop on a percentage change basis. 

10-Year Treasury 1-2019 to 12-2019

These lower rates made refinancing more attractive. The refinances we completed were done at a time when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were more aggressive in the marketplace in terms of loan terms and we were fortunate to take advantage of them as today’s rates and terms for floating-rate loans are not as favorable. We were also pleased to have done more business with life insurance companies in 2019. We expect these relationships to grow over time.

2019 LIBOR

After a number of years in which we benefited from Libor dropping and staying low, we gave back some of those gains as short term interest rates started moving higher in 2016. 2019 was the year they finally started coming down again. The following table shows average Libor rates used to calculate CWS’ interest payments on our large variable rate loan portfolio.

Year Average30-Day  Libor
2016 0.45%
2017 1.01%
2018 1.90%
2019 2.31%

Although the Libor average increased in 2019, it’s dropped by nearly 0.75% from its peak in 2019, which has helped our interest payments, particularly since our budgets assumed Libor would be at 2.70% for the year. Currently, 30-day Libor is approximately 1.80%.

2019 S.E.C Audit

Finally, we also went through a very intensive audit with the S.E.C. and came out on the other side no worse for the wear. Our team did an amazing job preparing for it and I’m proud of them for their dedication, preparation, and organization. 

2019 Personal Philanthropy

Roneet Carmell Center for Jewish Studies

From a personal perspective, I have written a lot about some of the actions that I have taken to honor Roneet from a philanthropic standpoint. The highlight was the purchase of the land for the construction of a new synagogue in Orange County California. I am very proud to have helped make this happen and I am hoping it will come to fruition in the medium term.

2019 My International Travel

Pardes Institute

My travels took me to Israel to honor Roneet at the Pardes Institute and back again in October to visit my daughter there after spending some time in Barcelona and the Mediterranean. 2020 will also include overseas travel which I’m looking forward to.

2019 Most Influential Books I’ve Read

The most influential book I read in 2019 was Understanding the Lonely Man of Faith. I imagine I will write about in 2020 but if I do not, then I highly recommend it as it had a big impact on me. I also was greatly impacted by Positivity Bias which has helped me reframe most of what I experience in the most positive, and yet realistic, light that I can so that each experience can serve to help me grow and learn. I also went pretty deep into the teachings and philosophies of two rabbis via Youtube videos. They are Manis Friedman and Laibl Wolf. Their insights into human nature are so interesting, informative, and useful, that they have helped influence my worldview and how I live my life. 

2019 Healthy Habit Adopted – Tennis

Gary Carmell Tennis

Tennis was by far the best healthy habit I adopted in 2019. I have had so much fun and I love the competition, strategy, social aspect, and how it has improved my conditioning. I’m so glad I am playing regularly and I hope to be able to do so into my 80s. I am extremely grateful to the wonderful person who got me back into the game and other aspects of life. 

2019 Music – New Favorite Songs

I was able to see a number of concerts and started to get into Phish quite a bit recently. I know I’m late to the party but better late than never. My favorite songs so far are Chalk Dust Torture (a great rocker that serves as my tennis motivation song), Waste (a beautiful, moving ballad), More (uplifting), and Everything’s Right (positive message). I like many others as well but those stand out for me at this moment in time. 

Relationship With My Kids

Jacob Ariella Gary Carmell

My connection with my family has grown stronger in the aftermath of such a tragedy. Most importantly, however, the relationship with my kids has deepened. We talk about very real issues and I am so lucky to be the father of two wonderful human beings for whom I’m so proud. In the wake of such a tragic loss, they have persevered and not let the passing of their beloved mother stop them from progressing in life and taking on new challenges and answering the call of what they are meant to do in life. I’m not sure if they would agree with me but this is how I see their callings.

For Jacob, it’s to inspire and teach young men through basketball and show them how, through his example, adversities are there to be overcome, not to keep you from pursuing your dreams.

For Ariella, it’s to write great stories and bring her love, light, and words to a world that needs such beautiful, heartfelt, and deep expression to shine a light on important truths.

On to 2020

I hope when you reflect on the year that has gone by that you’ll discover a year of meaning and the creation of life long memories.


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