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Comfort in the Storm

We just came off the best week in the markets since 1974, but it’s really, really hard to put ourselves in the mood for celebration.  The nation is still locked down in social distancing and the number of COVID-19 cases (and deaths) keeps soaring.  Client portfolios are down for the year, unemployment is way, way up, the U.S. economy is experiencing the highest negative growth rate any of us have ever experienced, and the burden of carrying the financial worry of clients seems to never let up.

And now we are entering the period when the difficult phone calls, delayed a couple of months by all those years of training your clients, will start to wear on you.

And yet you fully realize that we’re among the lucky ones.  Millions of people have been laid off, cut off from their health insurance at perhaps the most dangerous time, healthwise, in modern history.  Many others won’t have the resources to pay their bills.  Poverty will go from being extremely inconvenient to deadly.  That, too, is a burden that we carry; sympathy for those who are less fortunate, a sense that we need to help and not knowing exactly how. 

And, of course, even for those of us who are lucky enough to have food, shelter and assets set aside for a rainy day, the isolation, the worry, the many unknowns, are continuing to take a toll on our energy and outlook.

As I said in my last message, these are the days when you earn your fees.

Do I have any advice to offer in this difficult time?  I honestly wish I did.  I know this pandemic will last at least another month, and it’s not hard to envision a second surge sometime thereafter, similar to the deadlier second surge that took so many lives in the 1918 pandemic.  There is no easy way out of the grind of daily volatility, anxious clients, isolation and carrying the weight of worry for clients who look to you for sanity and experience.

I don’t have advice, but I can offer you encouragement.  Please stay strong.  Muster the willpower from deep inside, knowing that others depend on you for support.  Unlike them, you know that our society will make it through this pandemic, that our economic system is strong enough to withstand these shocks to its foundations, and that most if not all of your clients will ultimately weather the storm.  Throw a handful of straw in the raging river, and somehow it will make it past the rocks and eddies into the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.  Let your clients focus on tending the sick, mourning those who were claimed by the virus, and on protecting themselves and their families.

Find a way to go the extra mile to focus on their worries while you do the same things for yourself.  Your mission for the next month, perhaps two, perhaps longer, is to be the comfort in the storm.

This is a time when strength and courage and emotional maturity are incredibly valuable to our social order.  Know that when you offer those qualities, and multiply them by your expertise, you are an important part of the daily struggle of people you care about—and let that be motivation as we all slog through this pandemic, one day at a time, together.

I offer you blessings for your efforts so far, and for what you will do in the future.  I understand, and I think you do too, that your clients are lucky to have you in their lives.