Recently I was fortunate to be selected to attend an intimate gathering of women from all over the world to discuss how to best use money (capital, for us, finance folks) to create a world that is less violent and more equitable than our existing reality.
In a room where income and access to vast wealth ranged as wide as can be imagined, it seemed that what was common among all of us is the tendency to approach these topics around money from one of three seats:
- Fear – many times the fear of losing money, loss aversion is both real and powerful. Because of our biology, this is often the default seat. Fear in financial conversations can also be losing more than money; status, relationships (belonging), autonomy, rank, and more are all possibilities.
- Realistic – this is where you put pen to paper. For example, a friend suggests you start your own business, and you think “I can’t possibly break away from my corporate gig and start my own business.” Your initial response was from the fear seat, but then you move to penciling out your projected revenue, how it would be generated, and what expenses would look like. From this seat you can thank fear for trying to protect you but examine the decision from a realistic, instead of impulsive, point of view.
- Possibility – My favorite seat and one that is most underutilized. While the fear seat prepares you for what’s the worst that can happen, the possibility seat explores what’s the best that can happen. Why not bigger possibilities? What if you launched your own business and it was more successful than you planned?
Now, let’s apply this framework to our current economic circumstances.
It is normal and ok to feel fear when your account balance is down. If you’ve been avoiding opening your statements this year or worse, opening them and then losing sleep – you’re not alone. Take a moment to pause and appreciate that you’re sitting in the fear seat. Whenever you find yourself here, take a moment to appreciate the protection your body and mind are trying to offer. Then remind yourself that fear is a wonderful and useful tool in the wild, it’s very rarely a useful tool for financial decision making.
Before taking any action, be sure you spend some time in the realistic seat. Selling your investments while values are down is one of the most common, fear driven actions that investors make. This action usually impacts performance for the worse over time. Whenever I feel fearful around financial decisions, I use it as a reminder to have a snack, nap, or exercise before I open excel and start scrutinizing numbers.
Recessions are normal, since 1857 they’ve occurred about every 3.75 years. Think of them like the winters for economies.
In the same vein, Recessions don’t last forever, the mean duration since 1871 is 18.24 months. This includes the 19-month recession following the financial crisis (2007 – 2009) and the Great Depression of 44 months (1929 – 1933). Without those two events, the average is 1.7 months. See this visual from seekingalpha
The S&P 500 grew by 26.61% last year alone. As of Friday, 10/7/22 it is down 23.51%. In other words, in a large cap stock portfolio, it is likely that your account balance today is still higher than it was Jan 1 2021. Value fluctuations work in both directions, your accounts are designed with this in mind.
And lastly, let’s pretend like you are contributing $1,000/month to your work retirement plan: a 401(k), 403(b), or 457. Let’s also pretend that you are investing in the TIAA-Cref Lifecycle 2040 Fund (TCOIX). According to the historical price of that fund from yahoo finance, take a look at how the number of shares you purchased increases in months the market declined:
As the daily value drops, your same $1,000 monthly investment is buying more shares. This will help your long-term performance when values rise again.
Recessions, depressions, downturns – all the things that make for “scary” news headlines, are also things that make way for new growth. In that way, recessions are like compost piles, the breaking down part may be smelly while it offers fertile ground for new growth and different harvests.
Here Forbes gives us a few reminders from the Great Depression…. Rooted In Recession
Take some time to balance out the fear with wonder. What possibilities does this potentially create for you too? You don’t have to aspire to generate massive amounts of wealth during economic downturns, but you can try on some possibilities…..ask yourself what if?
- What if I spent more time doing things that I enjoyed and less time doing things I didn’t?
- What if this were easy?
- What if there was part time work that paid as much as my full-time gig currently?
- What if I retired sooner? What if I retired later?
Spend some time being curious about possibilities and then maybe go back to the reality seat and see if anything changes.
And lastly, for the love of all things, remember that you don’t have to do any of this alone. Share this framework with friends, partners, loved ones and let them know – “I’m in the fear seat, let’s take a walk,” or “I’m running numbers, I could use another perspective.” When we are at our most vulnerable: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially – it will be a another human who assists and helps guide us out – so make some time for those investments too.
And of course, as your neighborhood financial advisor, I’m always happy to help, regardless of what seat you are sitting in.
Be kind to yourself and others,
Jen Sapel (she – her) ChFC® WMCP®
Investment Advice is offered through WCG Wealth Advisors, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Utor Wealth is a separate entity from The Wealth Consulting Group and WCG Wealth Advisors, LLC.
The opinions voiced in this podcast are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which strategies or investments may be suitable for you, consult the appropriate qualified professional prior to making a decision.
Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.
There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. The purchase of certain securities may be required to effect some of the strategies. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.