Sunday, May 24, 2020

What a Difference a Month Makes

I received the April issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in March as the first restrictions were being imposed in the United States to halt the spread of COVID-19 and as the financial markets began to tumble.  And what an interesting and anachronistic read it was.  Throughout the journal several references were made to “the longest bull market in history” that was “still going strong”.  There was an article comparing “good and bad debt”.  Another pondered whether a college education is still a good investment.  There was some mention of Coronavirus.  On page 18 Capital Group U.S. economist Jared Franz was quoted saying, “U.S. economic fundamentals are sound” and the virus should not present an obstacle to the 2% economic growth he projected for the nation for 2020.  On page 31 a Kiplinger writer noted that the coronavirus had the potential to disrupt economies but assured readers that in other recent outbreaks of infectious diseases (citing 2003 in particular) the S&P stock index posted positive returns in the thirty days after the first reported case in the U.S.

Fast forward to last week (mid-May)  I just got the June issue, a special edition on “Coronavirus and Your Money” (followed two days later by the May issue, I might add; but those things happen).  What a contrast.  The questions posed on the cover were “When will the bear market end?”, “What’s the best way to raise emergency cash?”, “Where can I get debt relief?”.

The whole tone had changed, and in just the span of a few weeks.  The bull market was history.  Right now there is NO good debt.  And colleges, if they open at all in September, will likely conduct classes online primarily.

How can things fall apart so fast and for so many with little or no warning?  How can the pendulum of economic fortune swing so dramatically so quickly?  How can the experts be so off-target?

Quite easily, as it turns out.  If the coronavirus and its trail of woe teaches us anything it should be that precious few things in life are certain.  All our laws and regulations, our safeguards, our social safety nets, our sophisticated monetary systems, are sometimes mostly impotent to stop even things that we might have foreseen.  We forecast in part based on what history has taught us.  But sometimes events are unprecedented or just different enough to throw the models off, to cause the normally effective “cures” to be useless.  Or as my pastor observed, sometimes it is not the event(s) itself but the reaction to the event that creates the chaos and takes a toll on humanity and everyday living.

How this national health emergency will play out for our long term collective physical and fiscal health is a landscape still to be painted.  The government does what it can and hopefully doesn’t harm us in the process, but I am of the firm conviction that your wellbeing on both fronts is largely up to you.

I hope you are personally in good health and financially secure to weather this storm.

Until next time,


“While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you…are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.” I Thessalonians 5:3,4 NIV®*

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
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