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One For The History Books

WRITTEN BY LEE STOERZINGER, CFP(R)

Where do I begin? Recent times have presented us with events and stories we will carry with us the rest of our lives. From the markets, global economics, how we live in our communities, how we work, prepare, and even process information have all been stress tested. We have been forced to think beyond our financial security and realize that how we live our lives just might be changed forever. This is profound from a historical perspective.

Thinking back, specifically about the markets, in the last twenty years we have now seen three of the worst declines and economic disruptions in our nation’s history. In the early 2000s, we had the tech bubble burst, combined with 9/11. The markets were completely closed for a time and we were at war. In 2008, there was much discussion about the entire global financial system collapsing as we watched our wealth, and landmark financial companies disappear overnight. Today, the unique circumstances feel like both of the previous moments combined. Yet, if I can discern anything from our past, including that which takes us back even further, there is really one thing which comes to mind... We will get through it, if we choose to.

 I have been in the wealth management business for almost thirty years. On a basic level, our foremost efforts and obligations are to help the people we work with build plans which allow them to become financially secure. However, those who spend time with us know that our dedication goes much beyond. In our relationships, through the messages we share, and hopefully the knowledge we impart, our narrative has always been that meaning in this life comes from being dedicated to the things we value most. The financial success we achieve and manage fits into that, and not the other way around. We can hope that during these times, our mission is deemed worthy, and can make a direct difference in your lives. 

With that said, here we sit in another moment of peak uncertainty. We all know the rules of investing, and they can be some of the most difficult things to follow. Not only that, we are now trying to figure out the rules of life. These situations can shift us into “fight or flight” mode. As I think about it, this is the exact cross point which allowed me to enter the business; the unique opportunity to serve people on not only financial, but emotional, intellectual and often spiritual levels. I must admit that it is not always easy being directly tied to the emotional decisions of other people, but it’s what I feel I have been called to do. 

In closing, I’m reminded of a time I spent in Haiti a few years ago. After the earthquake which killed several hundred thousand people in thirty minutes, there was a cholera outbreak. As I wandered through the compound we stayed in, I recall people laying outside in the hot sun, in rusty old steel hospital beds, dying of this monster. They were outside because inside the building was full of dying children. There were big sponges at the entrances, kind of like the inside of old couch cushions, and they would pour bleach on them. When you go in, you had to walk on them with your bare feet. That was all we had for a highly contagious epidemic which killed 9,000 people unmercifully and quickly on one small island. I remember thinking recently that if COVID-19 came to Haiti, it would probably pass through because they have so many other things going on that they wouldn’t even notice. 

I share the above story not as another demonstration of tragedy in this world at the hands of disease, but to remind us of the power of self-preservation. As I remember looking into the eyes of dying children who never had a chance at building all we seek to preserve, I am strongly reminded of my duties in this world, especially to others, and that everything is, and always will be about perspective, my friends. Always.