Well, we are certainly going through some interesting times. I am writing this on Monday evening, March 16th, after another rout in the stock market today and after learning that our Lincoln office will be closed after today (although, of course, we will continue to serve you by working remotely at home). I’m old enough to have lived through some interesting and challenging times in my life but I must say that this particular episode may be in a league of its own.
Obviously, we are all concerned about the Coronavirus and its impact upon our health and the health of others. There are so many unknowns with this virus and none of us has ever lived through a true pandemic before. If you’re like me, you’re wondering if the officials are overreacting by shutting down basically everything. Or are they being prudent and wise to take these actions to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread as extensively as it otherwise would and to “flatten the curve” of the virus so that its effects don’t overwhelm our health care system (and especially the hospitals and ICU units that will be needed by those most afflicted with this virus)? The presentation that we sent out the other day, I think, would suggest that the latter thought is probably more correct and that as painful and frustrating as it may be to have these actions taken at this time, they are appropriate steps to take to keep this COVID-19 disease from becoming an overwhelming threat. If you don’t remember receiving this presentation or would like to have it again, please let me know.
COVID-19 Seriousness and Warnings
My thought is that in times like this, it’s human nature to think of all the bad things that are happening at the moment. Daily we are getting more warnings about the seriousness of the situation and more notifications of what steps are being taken to affect our daily lives. In the state of Ohio, we are closing schools, churches, restaurants, bars, gyms, offices, bowling alleys, movie theaters, concert halls--pretty much anyplace where any group of people of any size can congregate and interact. We are told to “hunker down” in our homes and try to avoid much contact with other humans.
COVID-19 Its Effects on the Stock Market
Millions of people are going to start losing their jobs as I write this—people for whom their jobs are not situations where they are living the American dream but where they are waitressing or bartending or cleaning stores so that they can pay their rent. The stock market (as represented by the S&P 500) is now down almost 30% from its intra-day high which was attained literally just under a month ago. Companies’ balance sheets are starting to take a hit. Cash flow is starting to become an issue. Based on conference calls we were on recently, the American economy (and probably the global one as well) is heading into a recession. We are in uncharted waters in terms of the ramifications of this virus and the actions being taken to try to contain its effects.
COVID-19 Crisis, Challenges and Opportunities
However, here is my suggestion. Now is the perfect time for us to be optimistic and grateful. Yes, the challenges we’re facing are unprecedented in nature, but so too should our determination be to use this crisis as an opportunity to make a difference in our lives and those of others. As financial advisors, we know that this is when our clients need us most and we are here and ready to serve. For all of us, this is a chance to realize that our attitude is what determines what our life will be like at any point in time. I think of my mother-in-law who was always such a positive person, even when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My wife and I realized that she was happier dying of cancer than most people are living a healthy life. She was grateful for every day she had.
I’ve always felt it’s easy to be grateful when things are going well. The real challenge, of course, is to be grateful when things are not going so well. And, as I’ve mentioned to some of you before and believe to be the truth--our attitude determines our altitude. We can decide that we will be fearful and worried and spend our time thinking of what all can go wrong. Or, we can decide that we will not succumb to fear—in fact, we will be courageous—-and spend our time thinking about what is going right and what we can do to help others.
COVID-19 Helping and Thinking of Others
I suggest that it’s better to work than to worry. That we should look outward instead of inward. That we should think of what we can do to help the situation. Obviously, practicing “physical distancing” and avoiding crowds is a starting point. But let’s think of whether there might be neighbors or friends or members of our churches or synagogues who could use someone to run to the store for them and just pick up some basic supplies. Maybe there’s someone we can call just to see how they’re doing and share some comforting words of encouragement with them. For any of us who might be charitably inclined, there could be no better time to make a donation to the United Way or The Salvation Army or Doctors Without Borders or any of the scores of other not-for-profits that are on the front lines of helping others less fortunate, both here and abroad.
COVID-19 Crisis in America
As tough as this crisis might be here in America, think about how fortunate we are to be living here with our health care system and societal structure. The majority of the world—most of whom live in developing economies--are not so lucky. How would we like to be facing this crisis if we were living in a poor country in Africa or Asia or South America with subpar medical care? What if we were in Venezuela where they have to use buckets in some hospitals for toilets and lack a lot of basic supplies like soap, disinfectants and antibiotics? Imagine the living conditions of being a refugee from Iraq camped out on the border of Greece with only enough food for a couple of days, no shelter over your head and the clothes on your back as your only possession.
COVID-19 Finding Optimism and Gratitude
This whole crisis will inconvenience us for a while and will change daily life as we know it but compared to those less fortunate, we should certainly keep a sense of perspective and realize this is our chance to “buck up” and show our mettle. We will get through to the other side and while the path ahead may be scary and less certain than most we have taken thus far in our lives, if we approach it with a sense of optimism and gratitude, perhaps we will find that the journey will teach us to go back to appreciating the little things in life and recommitting ourselves to the things that matter most to us.
I hope you do all that you can to stay healthy, safe and optimistic during these interesting (and, yes, trying) times. We will get to the other side better people than we are today. For that, we can be grateful.
Please contact Clarity Wealth Management with any questions, comments or concerns. You can also stay updated with us at updates on COVID-19.
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Jay Finke and Matthew Held are registered representatives of Lincoln Financial Advisors.CRN-3000208-031720