My aunt recently sent me some pictures from one of my visits to Ohio, where my family is from originally. For the first time in decades, I was in possession of some pictures of my grandfather and some of my extended family and it brought back a lot of fond memories. I love everything about the memories of my grandfather. I used to “race” Hot Wheels on an oval rug in his living room. We would make trips to his local smoke shop (which seemingly had walls of jars filled with all kinds of flavors of pipe tobacco). To this day, I love the smell, there is some part of that experience stamped on my soul. He would take me to the barber to get my hair cut and I remember the smoke would just hang in the air, a boxing match would be showing on a black and white TV, and the ubiquitous jar with mysterious blue liquid was ever present with those combs standing straight up somehow.
I have to believe we all have important memories from our childhood. Memories, like a post card from the past, gave us a glimpse into the adult world without really understanding it when we were children. There is no real context between those childhood memories and the adult realities that my parents and grandparents were facing at that time – – the end of the Vietnam War, my parents’ subsequent divorce, my grandmother passing, recessions, gas prices going through the roof, President Richard Nixon’s impeachment, Civil Rights conflicts, highly volatile stock and commodities markets. None of that impacted me as a child but I knew there was a backdrop of serious events happening around me. And, I guess that brings me to one of the themes for this year’s Anniversary letter. As I am writing this, we have the backdrop of a global pandemic and a recession in our midst. Most of us are sequestered at home while some of us are finding new ways to educate our kids and communicate with our family, friends, and clients. It’s a challenge largely because it is new, but in my conversations I have found one unifying theme – we are all getting it done. Sometimes it’s not pretty and it doesn’t look like Instagram but that’s okay. We are innovating and trying new things or using old tools in new ways. In other words, we are being human, and maybe most importantly, American. This is a rare experience for us. I genuinely can’t remember a period of time in my 50 years on this planet that we have been asked to participate in a shared sacrifice. So maybe this is a good thing and not because there is a lot of economic dislocation. Maybe this helps build communities just a little more. Maybe this strengthens our friendships because we need some words of encouragement. Maybe this is happening at the right time.
In 1957, the US had a “forgotten Pandemic” – the H2N2 Flu swept across the globe and and killed 116,000 people in the US and around 1.1 million people world wide. Interestingly, when I ask clients about health events in the 1950s they are more inclined to talk about Polio and Iron Lungs than they are the H2N2 Flu. I say this not to downplay the seriousness of our recent COVID 19 outbreak, but to put a point on how we have yet to determine how we will view this event through the lens of history. To be clear, I am not making predictions. I am simply saying that humans are biologically programmed with Recency Bias – we can view an immediate crisis or good times a “new normal” and therefore give it more emotional weight than logic would otherwise suggest. That goes for the market selloff we experienced in March as well. Many investors have been waiting for the market to crash since 2010. Recessions are a normal part of the market cycle and the fact that we have had nearly 11 years of a bull market is an outlier. There was bound to be a catalyst that would move market valuations lower. The American and global economies will recover from this and, believe it or not, new and innovative technologies and efficiencies will come out of this. It happens in every market cycle.
This brings me to something that I have been thinking about since I launched Blue Dot Wealth Management four years ago – – the idea of community and client experience. We have experimented with some online tools and some of you have been wonderful guinea pigs, allowing me to work through challenges. There will be more of that to come. We want to be able to leverage technology and make it work for you and bring you more of the kind of relevant information that really impacts your individual plans. Like many of you, we have been experimenting with video programs such as Zoom and Go to Meeting and will be rolling out a platform as an option for meetings or calls if you choose to use it. I genuinely believe your experience with our firm is important, so if there is something we can do better, please let me know.
My last thought is for you to take this idea of a client experience and apply it to your favorite local business. Every local family owned business is thinking the same thing right now – – how do we rebuild? How do I take care of my people? If there is a way to support your favorite business, please do it. Find something small to buy, pick up a gift card to use later, send a referral, tag them on Social Media, give them some words of encouragement, and be an ear if they need someone to talk to. Being an entrepreneur often feels like being on an island and unfortunately, for some businesses, it is hard to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” when weddings have been postponed, restaurants or bars have been closed, or your salon has been closed, or people don’t want to sell their home – the list of people affected by this is pretty long so be kind, be patient, and be supportive. Maybe just as important, say “Thank You” to the people that are keeping this whole thing going. If you know health care workers, teachers, or first responders, do something nice for them. Thank the people at the grocery store or the delivery person that drops off dinner. There are so many things that we have taken for granted as a society and a little gratitude will go a long way.
I want to thank you for continuing to put your trust in me and my firm in order to help you navigate through some of life’s big decisions. I am profoundly grateful every day to have built relationships with you – – some of you for 15 years or more! I am afforded a great opportunity to share in your family experiences, see your children or grandchildren grow into young adults and share my experiences with you. It is one of the things I love most about my chosen profession. I look forward to our next meeting!