April 1, 2020
Spring just might be my favorite time of the year. I love the way that Upstate New York turns green and the flowers bloom and the birds return from their winter respite. I find yardwork and gardening therapeutic, Easter brings me joy, so typically this is an uplifting time for me. Unfortunately, though as we all know, there seems to be more depressing news than happy news with the coronavirus epidemic at hand, the unemployment rate skyrocketing, and the financial markets in turmoil. I wish this was an April Fool’s joke, but it most certainly is not.
There is an old saying that March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. This was derived among old folk tales dating back a couple of centuries. The idiom is directly tied to meteorology, as we often experience the end of winter at the beginning of March (the lion) and then move along toward spring with improving weather conditions toward the end of March (the lamb). My father-in-law is an old-time farmer and would tell you that this years’ Farmer’s Almanac, and all of the old folk tales, were right on with this for this year. 2020 was predicted to have slightly cooler temperatures and a mid-March snowstorm. So, if we are talking about the weather, it is finally nice to see some lambs, but in the rest of the world I see far too many lions. And maybe tigers and bears too!
There is no question that every single one of you reading this has been impacted somehow by the current state of the world. Here in New York, as in many other parts of the country, we are embattled in a war against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our friends and family are experiencing a reduction in work hours if they are “non-essential” employees, and for those who are “essential” we keep praying that they will remain safe since they cannot properly quarantine. As a result of this our economy is struggling and shockwaves are making their way through the financial markets. The markets do not respond well to acute drastic change and the unpredictability of our ability to “flatten the curve” properly is feeding the beast. I feel lucky though! Every day I get a call or a text from a friend, client or colleague to ask how I am doing amidst all of the chaos and my response has been steadfast. I am doing quite fine.
Now don’t get me wrong, like many other financial advisors I too have felt the impact of the recent market downturn. However, I find in times of great stress it’s much better to keep things positive and in perspective. I am still working and I still have a job to do for the people who have hired me to work with them. I still have the ability to conduct all business through new avenues and am embracing new technology. I have chosen to be responsible and heed the advice of the experts guiding us through this crisis so I am working from home, but I still get to do what I love to do. My family is healthy, happy and very well fed (seriously – I am cooking all of the time and I’ve never seen them eat so much in my life!). My clients continue to put their trust in me and have continued to seek guidance on what the best course of action is during these times of financial distress.
Another cool thing is also happening. People who once thought that they didn’t have the opportunity to invest, or not enough money to start a financial plan, are now listening to the news about all of the bargains out there in the equity markets and are calling to ask about it. The phone is ringing and in my business that’s a great thing! The uptick in younger people wanting to put some money away, or inquiries about what to do with 401(k) monies that are left in old plans due to a change in employment status, have been substantial. This cycle we are in is not for the faint of heart and we have talked to people who do not feel they are getting objective guidance. I have always maintained that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how much you have, you have to start somewhere when it comes to investing. As an advisor my favorite thing to do is financial planning to help people get from where they are now to where they want to be down the road. Right now, the markets are giving you a head start if you happen to be standing on the starting line. Always remember too that compound interest is the best tool in the financial box so if you are not investing on a regular, consistent basis you should give it some serious thought.
So, what is the moral of this tale? Do not be afraid to pick up the phone or send the email to get yourself out of the gate. There are many opportunities in investing right now and it is anticipated that the markets will remain volatile for a period of time going forward as we navigate through the COVID-19 fallout. We get to do the thinking and take that burden off investors by giving them a high-quality plan, and they have to do the heavy lifting of committing to saving and getting out of the gate. In the end, the earlier you start the better off you will be and there is no better time like the present to get into the game and run with the lions.
Iris Buczkowski is the founder of Birch Wealth Management (birchwealth.com). Original content provided by Iris is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice.