Since my last update on 2nd March all of our lives have changed beyond recognition in such a short period of time, with serious effects on all of us, but for some, the cruellest of outcomes.
I started writing this update about two weeks ago but stalled as circumstances became more and more uncertain and as the reactions by Governments and Investment markets changed daily. I have just finished watching the daily update of our Government on 31st March. One thing I promise not to provide is any more graphs. I have already seen enough for a lifetime – most showing a simple line rising – meaning the increase of the spread of this challenge and for thousands the deepest sadness imaginable for human lives and families. Others going down causing disappointment and sadness of a financial nature.
I think we have all learned a new context of worry over this past month. To put those two contrasting messages in context, I heard a speaker explaining (when comparing the challenge of this virus on the poor of the World to the rich), how it was a privilege to be able to practise ‘social distancing’ and ‘isolate’ ourselves – as we have homes we can go to and close the doors. How it was a privilege that we can wash our hands – as we have safe hot and cold running water in our homes. How it was a privilege to enjoy the use of hand sanitizing cream, gel or liquid – as we can afford to buy and use those products. How it was a privilege to stand in an orderly shop queue – as it showed we were able to buy the food and enjoyed law and order during testing times.
Most of all, how it was a privilege to have our most treasured possession of all – the NHS – where we can all receive the best of care without cost to our family when there are people who can’t access or afford health care. These comments found me ‘counting my blessings first’, rather than focussing on the current disappointment with my own petty family and work challenges.
Our job involves meeting with hundreds of families over our careers. I have attended the very happiest and the very saddest events in many families that I have advised. I have cried with joy as children were born, or clients reached a secure and happy retirement and cried with sadness when they battled with that other horrible ‘C’ word and other life shortening illnesses.
I worry myself sleepless for the financial wellbeing and the advice we give our clients. However, at the end of this current challenge I expect the damage you now see on paper valuations to eventually be repaired. It may take a little, or a lot longer than with previous serious events, but it will ultimately repair itself. Above all we care most that none of you, nor your families fall seriously ill with this virus.
I now turn to the Financial World/Wealth, which we know always comes second to Health, but remains important as it affects our physical and mental wellbeing in the short term.
On paper we have all seen a reduction in the value of almost every investment/pension fund. There are many clients who have a coping mechanism of not looking from one review to another, and that is fine. On the other hand, many have asked for us to run a valuation and although they all show a red figure from last valuation to this valuation, almost all have found it to be less painful to see than they first expected.
The 2020s decade has not started kindly by any measure or comparison in my career. On the other hand, 2019 was a particularly good year for most of our clients with all portfolios showing bright green figures of positive returns – in to double figures in lots of cases. It is worth remembering 2019 followed a very disappointing Sept-Dec 2018 period which was also a ‘red zone’. The ‘Ying & Yang’ of finances and investment markets.
I have shared the following statement/explanation with many clients over the years;
“In every five years there will be one or two good years, one or two average years and one or two poor years”.
The problem is we can never predict the order they come in, nor the severity of the poor ones, nor the scale of the good ones. However, one thing is certain – after every trough, comes another peak, a trough, a peak and so the markets go on. Our aim is to achieve the ‘target returns’ for you in the long run. Extraordinary problems are not uncommon. A look at the years from the ‘Dot.com Bubble’ burst in 2000, and even the Twin Towers in Sept 2001 have caused huge turmoil. However, from experience I always advise not to panic or make any hasty decision to ‘sell in a trough’.
Our advice process starts with a very thorough and repeated ‘Risk Testing’ and ‘Risk Profiling’ of clients. Many of you will know how tedious this becomes after many years, but it is a crucial part of our job. The results guide us to advise you on a suitable portfolio which we almost always describe as one to be maintained and held for the medium to long term.
Q: Why do we do this so many times and repeatedly?
A: For exactly times like this, when a pandemic causes severe economic problems. It remains true that your portfolios will all be widely spread across various economic asset classes and geographical areas, so the returns of one asset class or even one geographical area will never wholly affect your portfolio.
Office & Adviser Support
As we can no longer meet with you in person we have a lot more time in our diaries for telephone calls or any type of video calls (FaceTime, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Zoom etc. etc). Other than to open important mail with cheques, all our staff are now working efficiently from home, and all are available 9am-5pm to answer your questions, provide valuations and hopefully reassure you.
Last but not least, for our elderly clients, especially those living alone, we are also here for you even if you just need a chat. We are paid by you to provide a service. Don’t ever hesitate to contact us.
Stay at home. Stay safe. Help the NHS to save lives.
SIP Wealth Management