Author: Marty Moore, CFP®
So, what can we say about Covid-19 that hasn’t already been said? It would be hard to overstate how much of a challenge the pandemic has been … for everyone.
Writer Morgan Housel, in a recent article, posed the question:
What if Covid-19 had happened 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago? Infectious disease was so much more common then – from typhoid to measles to polio to scarlet fever – that the public’s understanding of how dangerous an outbreak could be was greater back then, even if we know infinitely more about viruses now than we did then.
Part of what has made Covid-19 such a shock to us all is that we have become really good at preventing pandemics over the last century. Per-capita death from infectious disease in the US has declined 94% from 1900 to 2010 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
Amazing progress made steadily over a long period of time.
But that’s the thing about progress – it almost always happens steadily over a long period proceeding at a pace that goes almost unnoticed. Setbacks, on the other hand, usually come at us swiftly and unexpectedly: September 11th, Pearl Harbor, The Great Depression, to name a few.
Not to diminish the relevance of these events, and the pain and suffering that these events caused, but they are now just a part of history; a history of progress in our country and around the world that has steadily reduced the percent of people living in poverty while allowing you and I to live at a time when the standards of living are the highest the world has ever known.
A short video of progress, you might say, amongst the disasters:
It’s that way in the stock market too. The history of the market is one of compounding progress routinely punctuated with scary, nerve-wracking declines.
Progress doesn’t always happen slowly and methodically though. When confronted with a challenge as great as Covid-19 the spirit and ingenuity of business can do amazing things. A vaccine for coronavirus was developed in a matter of months when it usually takes years and years, often more than a decade. Truly an amazing accomplishment.
How did this happen? I can’t begin to know, really. I’m sure stories will be written in the years to come that will detail the effort, skill and determination of those involved who believed it could be done. I am quite sure, however, that a sense of realistic optimism was part of the equation.
Realistic optimism has received a lot of attention lately. It’s been the subject of numerous articles and books. Chris Loper describes it like this:
Realistic optimism is, for the most part, the best approach. Realistic optimists take an accurate assessment of the reality and imagine probable outcomes. But because they do not give negative outcomes special weight, they are unburdened by loss-aversion and risk-aversion. The do foresee obstacles, but they also foresee themselves finding workarounds. And, most importantly, realistic optimists believe in their capacity for growth. This allows them to tap into their incredible human potential. They imagine what could become possible, and they work hard to make it a reality.
I feel sure the scientists responsible for developing the vaccine were realistic optimists.
How much better investors might we be by developing an attitude of realistic optimism? It’s hard work, to be sure: envisioning and believing in progress and a better world ahead while having to control our emotions when we experience setbacks along the way. But, just as it has always been, the path to success is likely to be owning a diversified portfolio of the best companies in the world. Companies that are innovative – like those that have developed a vaccine in record time – and work every day to make new products and develop new services that make our lives better.
No guarantees, of course. Life offers no guarantees, and the future is filled with unknowns. Like most parents, I’m concerned for my children’s future. But you know what, my parents worried about my future when I was growing up. And I remember my dad telling me how his parents worried for his future. I think it’s always been that way and probably always will be.
Yes, I’m worried (realistic), but I also have an unbounding optimism for the amazing progress that my three daughters may see and experience over the course of their lives.
Early this year I completed my 30th year as a financial advisor. It’s been a wonderful career – challenging without a doubt, this year being no exception. But it has also been even more rewarding. I hope to have many more years ahead and I have no doubt that the coming years will bring new and unique challenges. And when they come, we’ll find the workarounds, as Loper describes, and we’ll use our knowledge and experience and all the resources we have here at Carroll Financial to find solutions to keep moving forward. That’s what our firm has done for forty years, and what I have tried to do for my 30 years. There are never any perfect answers and we’re often challenged to figure things out on the fly when the unexpected hits us. But that’s our job and we’ll do it to the best of our abilities.
The rewarding part of my career has been the privilege of working with you. I’m grateful beyond measure. Thank you for your confidence and trust.
And while the past 9 months has been a difficult time for us all and the holidays are likely to be very different from what we’re used to, I wish you a peaceful holiday season, one that can still be celebrated with those you love, even it is has to be in a virtual manner.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and here’s to 2021, a new year of optimism and hope.
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