My pre-Covid days went something like this: I would start my day with a run in my Asics running shoes (stock ticker symbol: ASCCY) and some Nike gear (NKE). I would then shave using a Harry’s razor (EPC) and Gillette shaving cream (PG) and almost always shower, using Ivory soap (PG).
Upon reflection of the financial crisis that caused the Great Recession in 2008-09, most analysts agree that both Congress and the Federal Reserve acted too slowly and too timidly to effectively ease the economic pain. In fact, most believe their inaction caused the recession to be deeper and more prolonged than if they’d acted more decisively.
During March the financial markets – both stocks and bonds – have behaved like I felt: tired, panicked and emotional. Let’s face it, those among us who haven’t felt those emotions are delusional or are actually robots. Working from home, figuring out Zoom, watching baseball games from 1976 rather than the NCAA tournament, wondering if every spring allergy sneeze is actually…IT! It’s quite natural to feel stressed and that makes us tired, which can lead to poor decision making. The stock and bond markets have been panicking – don’t fall for the trap.
Several clients of mine called, texted or emailed last week to ask - wait for it - how I was holding up with the stock market volatility! How I was doing! I get slightly choked up just thinking about it. Yes, the stock market has been crazy the past few weeks, to use a highly technical term. But, as those calls of concern show, a crisis often brings out the best of people.
I bumped into a neighbor at Starbucks last Saturday who quickly asked me if I thought he should move money within his IRA from bonds to stocks to take advantage of the stock sell-off that week. You know, buy low-hopefully sell high. Now, I don’t know this guy very well – I don’t even know his last name – so it’s impossible to provide him with personalized advice. So, I responded with a question: If you buy stocks now and the market drops another 20% over the next few months, will you still view your purchase as a wise one?
Let’s face it, unless you’re Homer Simpson, you are going to age and, yes, eventually die. Only Homer gets to live forever. And while death is not something pleasant to think about, nor something to dwell on, it is something we should have a plan for. A death plan, for lack of a lighter term, helps you maintain control of the main decisions that are important to you and helps take part of the burden off the shoulders of your loved ones at a time when they will need the assist. Here is a list of the primary items that should be in all of our plans:
A good friend says his dad used to tell him when he screwed up that “at least he can serve as a bad example.” In that spirit, someone told me almost four years ago that he had impulsively moved about $250,000 of his retirement account from stock mutual funds to cash because he feared the stock market was about to plummet. Any guesses what happened next? That’s right – the market jumped to new heights. This person then decided to re-enter the market by re-purchasing his stock mutual funds that were now worth much more than when he’d sold. I calculated that his sell-low, buy-high strategy cost him roughly $35,000.
I remember my freshman year of college when some buddies and I faced the first exam of our post-secondary experience. Despite being a mid-semester test in a rather inconsequential class, we decided it would be prudent – and fun – to “pull an all-nighter” studying. Well, we were partially right, it was fun - although our friends who simply studied a couple of hours and then got a regular night’s sleep did much better than we did. Ironically, until recently, it actually DID pay off to prepare your credit history by cramming right before you needed your score. Not anymore.
The comedian Stephen Colbert once said in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, "I'm not a fan of the government doing anything. But I've got to ask, why isn't the government doing anything? ... Like most members of Congress, I haven't read the bill." Colbert was referring to an entirely different issue but Congress actually did something and, as usual, one’s opinion on whether it is good or bad depends on one’s individual circumstances. Here are the highlights of the SECURE Act (even though I haven’t read the bill either):
Our ability to recall past events in detail is uneven at best. Chances are your spouse or your sibling remembers something that happened, or didn’t happen, 20-30 years ago much differently than you do. My brother, for instance, can recall 15-20 vicious things I did to him when we were teenagers while all I remember is the love and praise I showered on him. We all tend to base our expectations of the future, however, on our memories of the past. And, if our memories of the past are less than accurate, what does that say about our ability to predict the future?