It’s election season which means we’re settling in for politically-fueled financial commentary assuring us that Trump/Biden is good/bad for markets because of one reason or another.
For families contemplating retirement, the prospect of moving on to a new stage of life may feel even more uncertain than ever in light of the pressures and uncertainties brought on by the coronavirus. As advisors, we’ve come across two very common questions over the last few months from soon-to-be retirees:
Did you know that you need to count to 1,000 before finding the letter “a” in a number, spelled-out?
One question that seems to be popping a lot is “Why aren’t stocks down more?” After all, we’re in the midst of what I hope will be the worst economic calamity of this generation and equity losses are only moderate as we sit here today.
This is a rough time. There’s really no way to sugar coat it. People around the world are falling ill. Many transactional businesses are severely imperiled. Lots of Americans are out of work. Even for those of us who have been fortunate enough to remain healthy and stay employed, things are still hard. Parents deal with the stress of juggling both children and work during the day. Grandparents can’t hold their grandkids. I’m sure many of us are probably experiencing a touch of cabin fever. And of course, the specter that is the primary subject of this commentary, investments have yielded brutal returns the past several weeks.
It’s honestly pretty weird to have a market crash that has such a simple explanation. An uncontained viral outbreak is endangering public health and disrupting economic activity. That’s the whole breakdown. It’s one sentence. It would take me 5,000 words to explain the financial crisis from last decade and, even then, you’d have a list of follow-up questions. The ability to succinctly and confidently answer the question “why did markets go down?” is bizarre.
Speaking strictly financially here: I’ve heard a lot of suggestion that this time it’s different. Here’s the real inside information: It’s always different. Here are several This Time It’s Diffferent™ events that have led to bear markets in domestic equities in the past: Unfettered lending, terrorism, the birth of the internet, an oil crisis, a single day in 1987, war, an extended period of high inflation. In each case, markets flailed with uncertainty as participants grappled with how to handle events that generated a high degree of uncertainty and worry. What ended up not being different is that markets recovered from each of these This Time It’s Different™ events.
I wanted to follow up on our post from last week that aimed to put the market impact of Coronavirus in perspective. In that post, I talked about how markets and investors have reacted to different recent health crises in the past. Since then, I’ve come across a few resources that I think help put all the chaos from the last two weeks into perspective.
You may have already heard, but Coronavirus is sweeping the globe. As of Monday, according to the World Health Organization, there have been just under 80,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (approximately 77,000 of which are in China) and around 2,500 deaths attributed to the virus.
Airlines are canceling flights, the US is issuing travel advisories, and there’s even talk of calling off the Summer Olympics, set to take place in Japan in a few months. It is certainly a scary time to have access to up-to-the-minute news.
It’s been an incredible decade in the US stock market that was capped off by a 2019 which saw returns on the S&P 500 exceed 30%. While US large companies led the way, but just about every asset class produced strong returns for investors.
A New Year (a new decade) is an opportunity to get things in order and make improvements. Every article published this week and last is a list of things to do to start the new year off right. Personally, I’ve already read more than I can count, so, I’ll keep this brief. Two financial and two non-financial to-do’s for the new year:
Review What the SECURE Act Means for You
The ‘Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE)’ Act was signed into law in December as a part of the latest government spending bill. As a whole, the SECURE Act is a grab bag of various incentives and obligations for individuals and companies providing retirement plans. The overall intent is to make it easier for families to save for retirement with several changes affecting the availability of and incentives for saving in retirement accounts.