Tough Love Message
Over the past five months I’ve made myself available day and night to provide reassurance to many of you beyond our regularly scheduled touch points. This is not a complaint! In fact, this is what you pay me for, and it gives me great purpose to ease your worries, to reduce your anxiety, and to make sure you don’t make the kind of unrecoverable mistakes so many investors tend to make in environments like this. I encourage you to continue to reach out to me anytime.
This year has been especially hard on you because markets have been on the decline for the past five months and it seems like forever. Concerns about outrageous inflation, rising interest rates, a slowing economy and the war in Ukraine have taken their toll on financial households and our emotions. As with past periods of rising inflation and interest rates, both equities and bonds have declined, reducing the benefits of diversification (temporarily) and amplifying volatility in your accounts. My experience tells me those who watch their account balances on a daily or weekly basis are prone to a greater degree of fear, anxiety and unrecoverable mistakes, than those who resist such temptations.
Today’s message will not provide technical language, market statistics, or prognostications about the many uncertainties driving markets. It’s a message of tough love that many of you have heard from me before and may need to hear again.
We need to accept that long term investing has never been comfortable or easy. Many of you who’ve been investing the past 30 years have endured many material downturns driven by events like 9/11, the collapse of Enron, Lehman Brothers, Tyco and Worldcom, Bernie Madoff, the only US government debt downgrade in history, Asian currency crisis, European debt crisis, tenuous political elections and events in Washington, and the pandemic lockdowns including COVID, Zika, Ebola, SARS, Bird Flu and Hoof and Mouth (all of which drove markets lower). It’s never been comfortable or easy, but it’s always been worthwhile over the long run to remain invested in a diversified portfolio like we recommend.
We are in a rangebound environment where markets can increase 900 points one day and drop 1,100 points the next. Please don’t get me started about the media’s continued use of points instead of percentages to create the impression that we’ve never experienced declines like this before. It’s completely irresponsible. A 1,000 point drop on a Dow Jones that is at 30,000 (3.3%) is very different than a 1,000 point drop on a Dow Jones at 10,000 (10%). There’s nothing entirely different about the market declines we are experiencing today relative to history. We’ve seen this before and its normal and healthy for long term performance. If not for corrections and bear markets, all investments would simply go higher, turn into major bubbles and eventually crash. Crashes are far worse to deal with than what we are experiencing right now – as hard as this is.
Here’s where the message gets tough, but it’s with your best interest in mind. Right now, I do not recommend checking your balances every day; overdosing on the financial news; or listening to people who are either unqualified, selling their own products, or know little about your situation or what’s in your best interest. That’s all noise that will simply make you feel worse and more likely to make emotional decisions you will regret. Instead, now is the time to stay disciplined, add to your investment accounts, increase your savings rate if you can, stick with your strategy, and wait for markets to eventually rebound. And they will, eventually. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and markets are showing signs of a bottoming process. While not easy to stomach, as markets will probably move lower, it is important that we go through this process to find our way to a sustainable rebound. There’s plenty of history supporting this; however, I promised to give you a break from the technical details.
While biding your time and focusing less on the day to day moves of the markets or your account balances, why not focus some of that energy on living your best life. I don’t mean this to sound sarcastic or glib. Our entire business focus has always been on helping you to live better, worry less, live with meaning, make the most out of life, and avoid costly mistakes during markets like this. Many of you have financial plans that provide all the evidence needed that you’re going to be just fine regardless of the short-term market volatility…yes 5 months is short term. And so is one year!
More tough messaging: Summer is upon us…how many summers do you and your loved ones have left? Ten, Twenty-Five? Do you really know? How much of this summer do you want to spend on debates about interest rates, inflation, and politics; and watching the stock market gyrate while talking heads make noise and false predictions about the market’s direction?
There is no question these topics are important and can be unsettling. Situations like this are why you hired me and my team to pay close attention to all these important matters. We know you’re all counting on us to help guide you through the rough waters of such storms. It is what we do, and why we do it is to help you focus on all the other critically important facets of your life. I’m confident that we will make the best of this situation as we have always done. It’s my job to manage the chaos and do the problem solving for you, but you have a choice.
Life is short. Know that fear and anxiety during times like this are natural. There is nothing unusual about what you are feeling, but you can leverage the trust we have built together to help temper these emotions. Yes – financial health is important to all of us, but living your best life also means focusing on other facets of your life that bring joy and comfort to you and your loved ones. Take a walk in nature. Spend time with the kids. Volunteer for those in need. Spend quality time with your partner. Exercise. Put on some nice music and cook dinner with friends and family. Hit the local bike trail. Go for a walk on the beach. Give yourself the space to smell the roses.
I am confident we are going to get through this together. I realize how hard this current situation is for you and I remain available anytime to talk with you if that will help. My best advice is to take comfort in knowing we’ve got your back, and try to give yourself a break from the stress, worry and fixation on the news and markets. Try to enjoy the time you have, control the things you can and take comfort in knowing you are doing the best you can to make sure everything is going to be okay. Try to be patient and trust that we are doing everything in our power to keep your strategy on course.