As I compose this article, I am reminded that about a year ago, we all entered the beginning of the global pandemic now called COVID-19. And, what a year it’s been! In fact, I recently looked back at a video I recorded last year, and I was still wearing suits when the world was a very different place.
As time has progressed, I started reflecting on some of the lessons we have experienced as a financial planning firm, the lessons I learned personally going through COVID, and all the uncertainty that has followed. I thought I would take a moment and share a few that have been impressed on me, and I hope it encourages you to reflect on the last year as well.
The first two are a little more light-hearted in nature:
I think the first lesson I’ve learned is that after 20 years of wearing suits, I definitely don’t mind coming to work without a tie. One of the positives to come out of the global pandemic is the more casual work attire.
It is far less valuable to have gold than it is to have toilet paper or paper towels. I was stunned by the run on toilet paper, paper towels, and hand sanitizer, to name a few items, and the price gouging that followed. It is a reminder that we want to have something that’s exchangeable more easily than just gold or high precious metals amid a crisis. I still get excited when I turn down the paper product aisle in the grocery store and see a variety of products instead of empty displays and shelves.
As I think more broadly about some of the lessons we’ve learned, many are something we’ve heard before, like a mantra. Those sayings don't always stick with us until the time is right.
At least in my paradigm, the first thing that has borne out is the cliché or catchphrase “We can do this!” is true.
Last year there was a lot of fear and uncertainty over what was going to happen, how long it would take, and what the future would hold. I actually shared this phrase in one of the videos I recorded last year, saying that I believed there was a valley ahead of us, but I also thought we would see across the valley. I did not know that the market would drop 34% and then rebound in six months.
In many ways, while the pandemic is still present and affecting our lives, we have traversed that valley, and we are on the other side. It is essential to have faith, have a plan, and be resilient – because we are.
Speaking about the importance of planning may sound funny as an ‘A-ha’ from someone who runs a financial planning firm. Still, I’ve been gratified to see the work we’ve done with our clients over the last decade, or three, bear out time and time again, whether it was the uncertainty of 9/11, the financial recession in 2008, or the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a plan where you have identified what is really important to you, your long-term objectives and hopes, and then aligning those with your behaviors and choices is valuable. This proved to be especially true when it may have been tempting to pull from savings throughout the pandemic because budgets were tighter than normal.
When night falls, when the rain comes, and the winds blow, it is easy to get swayed, distracted, or tempted to react. Having a solid plan allows you to stay focused and disciplined, which is how we overcome and survive by using our ingenuity, creativity, perseverance, and relationships to move forward.
I think we all found that when the world shut down, and we went into quarantine or social distancing in our homes, we suddenly had a lot of free time. With no sports, activities, volunteering, church, and meetings, we realized how full we allow our lives to get.
I’ve become aware that I never want to say, ‘I don’t have time for that,’ because the truth is, I have time for whatever I choose to give my time. I’m learning to say no more and to take a pass on opportunities, free tickets, volunteering, all of which are good. However, I want to make space in my life for the people and the things that are the most important to me.
Finally, it has become clear to me the value and beauty of the human face. I know that many of you are as tired of wearing masks, as am I, and I understand why we’ve been wearing them, but I can’t wait until we can walk around again and be able to see each other’s faces and smile in person. The smile is a beautiful thing and a gift that we can share with each other again in the future.
With that said, perhaps some of these resonate with you as you have had your own experience and your own lessons. I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on those.
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