Jeremy Strickler
jeremy@wwmgreenville.com 

The market’s just fine. Nothing to see here.

Over the past 18 months, 

  • the S&P 500 hit its peak (Nov ’21). 
  • Then in 2022 tech stocks fell about 30%, 
  • while value stocks fell only about 5% , 
  • the aggregate bond index fell 13%, with long term government bonds falling more than 30%.  
  • Now tech stocks are roaring on the prospect of AI driving everything, 
  • While bonds and the Vanguard Value index are down a couple percent for the year.

 

The market gave us lots of gyrations with very little meaning to it. 

 

If you had a diversified portfolio over that time frame and rebalanced it, you’d probably be down a couple percent or up a couple percent in the past 18 months, even though there was 9% inflation, interest rates rose 5%, the covid era ended, and there’s a land war between Russia and Ukraine.

If you’re like us and you read a lot of news and economic commentary and equity research and bond market commentary and you thought really, really hard — that would definitely not have told you what was going to happen over the past year and a half!  

We figured there was no way anyone could forecast anything, and the best thing we could do was to maintain balance, to own very high-quality assets and to not react too much to the news, no matter our personal sentiments on any given day.  Our disciplines drove decision making much more than this month’s trend in prices.  We think that’s been a sensible way to navigate, and we still think it makes sense.  

When will interest rates be too high? When’s the recession going to start? Why is the job market so strong? When is it going to be normal again?

 

It’s pretty normal.  The world is sneakily, pretty normal. (It’s the rate of change in human evolution that’s breathtaking.) 

Most of the people my age or older grew up in the cold war. The species has been aware of​ catastrophic risk in new ways since the Manhattan project. But there have been 5 mass extinction events in the earth’s history–none of them caused by humans- and at least 4 out of 5, or possibly all 5 of them were caused by…. Volcanos. 

The 5th and most recent mass extinction was supposedly about 66 million years ago when the earth being hit by an enormous meteorite that formed the Chicxulub Crater on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. 

There are apocalyptic stories interwoven into all of human history, because the world has been flooded and engulfed by fire and hit by meteorites and shaken by earthquakes and the continents have moved around and the glaciers melted and re-froze. The was a mediterranean sea of the Atlantic ocean that reached into the central US, which is why you find oil and saltwater in Illinois and Oklahoma.

But we don’t measure our lives in geological time. They’re pretty short. The apocalypse is unlikely to happen to you. It’s certainly not going to happen because you left the stove on, or you drove a gas guzzler or because of illegal immigration or because everyone has become such a ruthless capitalist or because Cousin Rachel is non-binary. These are human affairs. 

Pay attention to your personal business and relationships and tune out the politics. Politics is advertising applied to morals. Gross. It’s misdirection, false associations.  You might as well pick a cardiologist by watching car commercials. This is not your guiding light.

I hope the coming Presidential election cycle will be less crazy than the last one, simply because Covid is over and people can speak face to face. Nobody I know wants to ride the Q- train to Nuttsylvania. 

It seems like people I know personally have learned some things about relationships, mental health, media and political rhetoric. We’re not giving ourselves and our friends enough credit. Everyone is learning a lot, pretty quickly. Because we have to.

What’s cooler than being cool? Ice Cold! 

Suffering is an Opportunity to Connect 

In the job we do, we get to share in our clients’ successes, because they work and save and plan and eventually accomplish a lot. We also see a lot of aging and illness and the challenges that families face as loved ones lose their strength.  

It strikes me that there’s one form of suffering– physical pain, illness, loss of relationships, fear of death, death. 

But there’s a second layer- and that’s being alone in your suffering or feeling that you are. True suffering is isolation. 

All you really need is someone who loves you enough to hold your hair back when you’re shivering on the floor of the bathroom, barfing up your guts, confessing all your sins. And really, what does it matter whether you’re there because of chemo or because you ate a bad oyster or because you stayed out too late and drank too much?

Oh you can blame yourself or not, but we all end up on that bathroom floor as some point. Who are we better than? 

Our injuries can make it hard to connect. That I have little to offer. That I can’t do things other people are doing. That you can’t remember how to feel anything. That we’ll be judged by our faded beauty or physical limitations or not knowing the right words. That we’ve become obsolete, irrelevant and undesirable. 

But everyone is suffering with these fears. And so many people are suffering from loneliness. 

If you are in tune with your own griefs, if you have some respect for them, some respect for what’s happened to you, for what you’ve done wrong, what life has cost you– there’s a positive energy to that and in the expression of it.  There’s compassion in you for the types of pain you can understand. There is a natural sympathy that says you wouldn’t wish some of that pain on your worst enemy.

We cannot always find the answers for physical pain. Some maladies are unsolvable. Some griefs must be carried. 

But there is an answer for the problem of suffering alone.  

Let me encourage you to find the current of your grief. Know it. Value it. What is the frequency and amplitude of those waves? What is their duration?  What is their color and nature? How does it move through your body? What does it feel like when you talk about it? These things must become sacred to you. 

Your pain is a harmonic: other people have that pain too.  It vibrates the same in them. You will recognize it. 

When you encounter a person who has grief you can understand, you have found a friend, if only you have an open mind to see it. Your suffering is a bridge.  Step out on it. You will see that you are not alone. 

Jeremy L. Strickler, CFP®

Portfolio Manager

This material is provided as a courtesy and for educational purposes only.  Please consult your investment professional, legal or tax advisor for specific information pertaining to your situation. 

Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general.  Indexes are unmanaged and do not incur management fees, costs, or expenses.  It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

A bond is a fixed-income instrument that represents a loan made by an investor to a borrower (typically corporate or governmental). A bond could be thought of as an I.O.U. between the lender and borrower that includes the details of the loan and its payments. Bonds are used by companies, municipalities, states, and sovereign governments to finance projects and operations. Owners of bonds are debtholders, or creditors, of the issuer.

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