In times like this we find inspiration in the most unlikely places. If you’re spending more time at home with children or grandchildren these days, you might have heard these words uttered to the beloved Anna and Elsa by the troll Grand Pabbie in Disney’s Frozen 2 (a big thank you to Disney Plus for the early release): “When one can see no future, all one can do is the next right thing.”
This weekend was not the first time I watched Frozen 2; however, with current events at the forefront of my thoughts, I found these words to be inspiring and insightful in a new way. Just like Anna and Elsa teach us, we’ll come out on the other side of our challenges to achieve new heights.
We have seen market downturns several times in history and what we have learned is the “next right thing” has been to stay calm. Now is not the time to make big changes to your portfolio. Trust in your diversified investment strategy and the financial planning process. “Some things never change” – Logically, everybody wants to buy low and sell high, but investors acting on emotion wind up doing the opposite—and at the worst time, making a loss permanent. Emotionally, we fear the gray day will last forever, while in reality, the fog eventually lifts and the sun comes out.
My job is to help my clients get through the gray days. When investors remain calm and avoid rash, short-term decisions they can also avoid irreversible damage to their long-term financial goals. Right now, there are a lot of unknowns and investors do not like unknowns—myself included. I am with our buddy Olaf, wanting “some things to stay the same”.
Although history is no guarantee of the future, we do have a long enough history to have established a pattern: in each crisis we’ve faced, we have recovered and surpassed our earlier highs. Those with the foresight to stay invested during past crises and market downturns, even invest more, have benefited substantially. Nobody has a troll like Grand Pabbie to unveil the future. Without such magical foresight, the likelihood of consistently getting out of the market and back in at the right times is exponentially low. It is more likely they’ll give up significant returns by missing some of the best days in the market.
The time to make changes is not in the midst of a crisis, but before it comes. Our firm has made changes over the last two years to make sure our clients are well diversified in preparation for a potential downturn in the markets. So, what is our “next right thing” as professional advisors? We are looking for opportunities, such as tax loss harvesting for those who can benefit, selectively reducing exposure to investments that have held up under the pressure and buying certain depressed investments, putting cash to work for those who don’t need it and looking for planning opportunities such as Roth conversions—all of which can benefit investors when the fog lifts.
“Sometimes the dam has to break before the waters calm” and we have to experience chaos to appreciate the simple days. We will see better days again, so for the time being focus on your next right thing. I am sure I am not alone in wanting life to slow down sometimes so I can enjoy the little things with my family before it is too late. Although, I can’t say I am excited about the unknown of figuring out how two parents work full time from home while homeschooling two kids, I am going to take one step and one step again and do the next right thing. And at this moment that is to go watch Onward with my two little boys!”
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