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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

We all know there’s a lot going on right now, and one thing I’ve been thinking about lately is that, in previous market crashes, there’s been someone bad we could point the finger at. In 2008, there were the bankers and sleazy mortgage brokers who were handing out million dollar mortgages to people making $30,000 per year based on credit products that were dreamed up by hedge funds. After that crash, people kept calling their financial advisors and asking us if we had misplaced our crystal ball. How could we not have seen this coming, with all the interest-only loans and everyone being so overextended?

How was I to know? I’m not the FBI! But maybe I did miss some vital fact. Anyway, fast-forward to the coronavirus spread and the markets today – there’s nobody to point a finger at. Bankers haven’t done anything wrong, and you really can’t blame the hedge funds. My crystal ball failed to tell me to become fluent in Chinese and read the Beijing paper. But they’re lying anyway, right?

The only thing that might have foreshadowed this situation was when Apple adjusted its guidance in February and said they were seeing fewer iPhone upgrades and stress in China. The markets adjusted and everyone said Apple will be fine. No one said the word “pandemic.” If you want to hold me accountable, well, I missed it. As did the rest of the world. But there’s always something that can be learned. That Apple earnings revision is a lesson that’s going into my always-growing bank of market data for future reference.

To reiterate my earlier point, there’s no one to directly lay blame on for what we’re experiencing, and the emotions are different than in past crashes too. In 2008 & ’09, people were angry. People were fighting injustice. Today, the emotion is fear, pure and simple.

How long do we have to socially distance? What happens when we are allowed to re-emerge? Will another outbreak occur that sends us all running back to our now self-proclaimed “caves” that we are all clearly hibernating in? When will be the next time any of us can make a forward looking plan for a vacation, much less a business trip or heck- simply a Sunday morning church service surrounded by our church family… and keep that date?

When we re-emerge, how many of us will still have jobs waiting for us? How many of our jobs will have been automated or rendered extinct by changes in how people use goods and services? Sure there are tons of government programs – see the CARES Act (more information below) and relief bills that have been throw at the problem. But this disaster relief money – as I like to think of it – will it really keep American businesses afloat? Or will it be no different than FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) money that is provided to survivors of natural disasters? It does help some recover, amongst the wreckage, but many businesses never open again – and it’s not just restaurants. What about the jobs in the oil patch? With demand down, causing oil prices to fall, are these jobs gone for good? What happens to the economy of Texas? How does it impact the rest of the US?

These are my fears, my questions, my thoughts.

Now, to get to the good. The lockdown is forcing people to spend more time together. I’ve talked to many people who already worked from home, and they love having their family around.

The bad of course is the flip side of that – too much time together! Many couples are experiencing a trial run of retirement when both spouses are always home, with mixed results.

Which brings us to the ugly. Now, a lot of people are predicting that the outcome of all this close proximity to family and loved ones will bring a greater appreciation for our significant others, and that these relationships will deepen. There’s no time like a pandemic to get engaged, am I right? (Cue the Jared commercial…) There’s even rumors of a COVID-19 baby boom that will hit our nation in late 2020! But for those of you for whom going to work every day provided a buffer between you and your spouse…well, some people might wind up thinking it’s time for a change. Yikes! Divorce rates are anticipated to spike. For those of you that are perhaps looking for ways to avoid divorce – I thought this article might serve as a good read!

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to later this spring/summer (hopefully not fall) when we can emerge and congregate and maybe even hug each other, and sit outside with more than 10 other people and sing and laugh and carry on. For me, that kind of human interaction is my favorite, and I didn’t even realize I was missing it that much until the weather started to warm up. Spring is when we all come out of hibernation and start spending time together, and this has really thrown us off. On the positive side, when we are finally allowed to socialize in person again, I’m betting we’ll have a greater appreciation for other people.

Additionally, we’ll be able to enjoy cheaper gas due to the massive short fall in demand for oil that’s occurred. That cheap gas will act as another tax cut to consumers as we start to move around again. Toss in the other couple trillion in stimulus dollars (go read about it if you haven’t) and we will see things get better for a certain period. How long that will last I’m not sure, but hey, I won’t be around in 55 years when the bill comes due!

In other good things, I love all the acts of kindness and the stories I’m seeing of the amazing medical staff who are working to keep us all safe. I’m so thankful that we live in a country with such an incredible knowledge base in our medical professionals. Thank you.

My heart was also warmed by this story I saw on the Today show about a small company in a Texas town that thinks they have the solution for the ventilator shortage. These types of stories continue to provide me with a daily dose of hope.

Thanks also to the hard workers at Kroger who are restocking, and to the postal and delivery service workers who keep my Amazon packages coming, and to the supply chain workers so we finally have bottled water again. And yes, eventually, toilet paper will reappear. Five rolls and counting…

As we get through this, I urge you all to continue to show kindness and say thanks to those who are allowing us to stay in our caves. Find a way to help someone out – from an appropriate social distance, of course. Reach out. We’re all in this together. And if there’s anything our team can do to help, let us know. We’re making sure you’re taken care of as we’re also taking care of our families.

And lastly, I do want to say that the absolute hardest thing that I have experienced during this crisis has been the death (not from the virus) of two of my absolute favorite clients – who yes, were like family to me.

When I first started in my career, I remember dreading the first funeral I attended. I was young and stupid. Now, while I certainly don’t look forward to anyone’s funeral, I do attend and have found that even in these times of pain, there is the opportunity to say goodbye, to make peace, to hear an encouraging word, to reminisce about the individual through the telling of “remember when” tales.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get that chance this time.

So here’s to you DCC. I’ll miss your corny jokes, the golf game – or lack thereof – that made me feel great about mine (HA!), your drawings and cartoons, your contagious laugh, the unique way you saw the world – always the optimist, and the way you engaged with people – always giving them your best. You will be missed.

And here’s to you VJB. I’ll miss the way you could look at someone with graciousness and call out their bs. I’ll miss martini lunches – because you told me over a decade ago that’s what your old broker did (and I actually believed you – HA!), and I’ll greatly miss your winning $2-to-show bets at Keeneland. In fact, deep down, I think God closed Keeneland this spring to give heaven time to welcome you and get you situated. You will be missed.

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