Right now, we are living in historic times.
There is so much going on right now, writing down and reflecting may prove helpful in the future.
Here are some observations and thoughts to think about, for now, and to possibly help improve our future selves.
- Reality is hard, emotional, and fluid. We are having a hard time not only deciding what to do about the COVID 19 virus crisis, but even agreeing if it's a real problem or not. In the future, we should strive to use the best subject matter experts in matters of global significance and listen to them. Emergencies are not a time for emotional or reactionary decisions; we need to prepare and then implement fact-based triage.
- Underappreciated people that make up the backbone of our supply chains and healthcare systems are taking the brunt of the load right now. Let's not only try to give them extra consideration in these times but remember to treat them better in the future.
- Things are scary right now. Even with aggressive containment, we are looking at perhaps 20 times the deaths of 9/11 in this country alone. As I write this, people are dying every three minutes in parts of the world, including New York. This should not be minimized or ignored. We are finally taking steps to reduce transmission, which should save thousands or perhaps millions worldwide. This sort of thing will happen again. Let's do better next time.
- We have a good chance of recurrent outbreaks after this initial wave. Many of us are going stir crazy at home with our kids, unable to see friends and loved ones. Let's not be so quick to get back to normal that we risk making this all come back. It could be 1 1/2 years or more before we have a vaccine. Fortunately, tests are beginning to be available not only for the virus while carrying (many have no symptoms) but also the antibodies in those that may have had it, and who might be less susceptible in the future. We don't yet know if having it will keep us from getting it again, however, so extreme caution is still warranted. Remember, we need to listen to the actual experts and not minimize their advice, even if we don't like it.
- People panic—it’s what we do. The fight or flight response is coursing through our veins, a survival instinct that has served us well throughout time. Well thought out, statistically valid plans, such as investment risk allocations, are sometimes thrown out the window in the middle of the worst times. We've tried to prepare people with the hard realities of times like this and for older clients prepared accordingly with 5-20 years of "safe" money to get them through the rough times, but, tragically, many forget. My wealthiest friends seem to understand how this works; they've been through it before many times. These events tend to happen every 7-10 years. Behavior in these times can make or break one's financial future. It's ok to be scared; it is never ok to panic. A robust understanding of history and markets helps, but it is still really trying. History always seems hard when we are living through it, but I believe we will survive, recover, and life will go on.
- Things will change. Masks, more common in Asia for decades, will be common for at least a year, if not longer.
- Education may change. Not only from having part of the school year effectively canceled and transitioned to a less than ideal home school solution for K-12, but undergraduate and graduate programs will be even more common online and should be more efficient and less costly. The inflation on college has been out of control for a long time, so this might finally break the trend as the cost-benefit analysis of a mortgage sized college loan might not make sense to more people.
- Working remotely will be more common and, hopefully, will be a net positive to people's lives. Less time commuting and dressing in formal work clothes will not only save money, but there should be fewer car accidents, less dining out expenses at work, and it could decrease company costs for office space.
- Government rules around taxes, stimulus, and benefit programs are evolving at warp speed to help our citizens. Navigating the changing tax code, like the removal of required minimum distributions this year, offers a potential opportunity to improve your family situation. Let us know if you would like to brainstorm around your specific circumstances.
- Finally, it remains to be seen how we will all act after this eventually de-escalates. Will we still go out to eat as often, travel as much for fun or business, gather in large groups to watch sports or concerts, and the list goes on. The American consumer was about 70% of our Gross Domestic Product before this all happened, and we are highly dependent on the consumer to drive American businesses. I encourage you to help the people and companies you depend on in times like this, and, like everyone, I am also hoping we go back to our old gregarious and optimistic American ways soon. If we do, perhaps some things in our lives will have changed for the better, too.
Thanks for taking a look and we hope that you and your loved ones are okay,
* Tom Gartner is not registered with Woodbury Financial Services, Inc.
This article represents opinions of the authors and not those of Woodbury Financial Services, Inc. and are subject to change from time to time, and do not constitute a recommendation to purchase and sale any security nor to engage in any particular investment or legal strategy. The information contained here has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed for accuracy.