None of us are independent.
Last November, I wrote the following: “A young person is dependent on the financial resources of parents. A gainfully employed person is dependent on a company to pay their wage and to maintain their employment. An entrepreneur is dependent on its customers’ willingness to pay and capability of paying. A retiree is likely dependent, in some fashion, on Social Security, maybe a pension, maybe market cooperation. Even the wealthiest person, who may not technically need Social Security or Medicare, is dependent on the rest of society. After all, what is a dollar bill, besides a worthless piece of paper? It’s the system that we all agree upon that has value.”
This is more relevant now than last November.
The great leveler – COVID 19 – has made us all realize that nobody is fully independent, and we all need each other to make the system work.
In many ways, we’re all equally as rich and equally as poor and trying to outrace that truth becomes a fool’s errand.
The wealthy person needs the store open for toilet paper just as much as the poor person.
My kids want to go back to school just as much as an older person wants to go out to dinner.
As much as medical professionals are running on fumes right now, our restaurant owners only dream of having that much work to do.
Grandparents rely on children and grandchildren to spearhead digital communication – thus relying upon the very people that they taught to communicate.
The successful entrepreneur and small business owner rely upon the ‘everyday’ taxpayer to assist in paying for a $2T stimulus package, that is largely earmarked for the ongoing success of the business owners themselves.
As much as I’d love to leave my make-shift bedroom office and see more signs of human life, plenty of people are forced to exchange air with hundreds of people everyday in medicine, public safety, grocery stores, etc.
The paradoxes, ironies, and interconnectedness are endless with the pandemic, and none of us are immune. We’re all dependent and we all need each other. This is no truth easy for me to embrace. Son of a personal finance DIYer, raised as a self-sufficient Midwesterner, and now scrappy business owner doesn’t lend itself to appreciating how much we’re all related to each other’s personal success story – including financial.
The Coronavirus has made this perfectly clear. So, what?
Well, I hope this might be a wake-up that none of us are all that different. Bill Gates needs toilet paper just like me. Our financial planning business will apply for the PPP loan. I’m not special – I need taxpayers to help pay for that. And, what I would do for a dinner out. Once, we realize we’re not all that different and each person is needed, maybe we can enter a cycle – at least for a generation – that is a little less zero-sum. You don’t have to win for me to lose, and visa versa. Both sides can win.
In my mind, this is a masterful case for having a financial planner. And, also, the very reason my wife and I have one, even though it’s what I do for a living. We decided that we each want to be heard from an unbiased person, and that neither of us are immune to bringing our own forms of fear and greed to the table. We each have an agenda and our planner – who we depend on – helps us each win. While many might think of this as a waste of money, I can assure you our execution is ten-fold more effective and swifter with the assistance of an outsider.
Amidst the market downturn, I reflect on the bigger picture of what keeping investors calm actually means. To be sure, on an individual level, I believe with strong conviction in common principles like not panicking, not selling at a loss, and investing more at undervalued prices if you can. But, on an even larger scale, maintaining calm lowers volatility and portfolio drawdowns amongst everyone. Of course, no financial advisor single handedly impacts volatility. It is the collective cooperation of us all – the dependency – to flatten the curve of hysteria, be less reactionary, and to minimize portfolio losses.
We are not independent. We need each other. That is both frightening and beautiful. This tells me that the race for more must only be about adding value to a society, to customers, to employees – not accumulation so that we become mistakenly independent. Because, no matter how far we ‘make it’, we’ll all still need toilet paper.
To end how I began: “It is the system that we all agree upon that has value.”
That system takes all of us.
Stay calm. Stay invested.
Thanks for reading,