A World of Extremes

In Retirement Thinking, The Insider by Adam Cufr

I’m well rested and exhausted, comfortable and at great risk, fed up and hopeful. Which is it, you ask? All of them.

It seems that now, more than at any time I can remember, people are feeling ALL of the feelings every day. It’s some sort of bizarro world where we get to sample all of the human emotions each and every day yet never have an opportunity to settle in and really feel deeply about anything for very long. On a daily basis, we hear stories of people contracting COVID and showing no symptoms at all while thousands die of it the very same day. The unemployment lines are growing while the stock market reaches an all-time high. Everything is going wonderfully for some while others are living in a personal hell. If we have any empathy at all, we hurt for others while we attempt to enjoy our relative comfort. It’s no wonder we’re anxious and exhausted!

I wish I had the answers to this dilemma we’re facing. I can suggest that you plan your retirement finances in a way that protects you from a significant decline in the markets while also allows you to prosper when markets perform well. That’s a combination of guaranteed assets like annuities and Social Security and pensions while also owning stocks in high-quality companies. These things I feel good about. It’s the softer stuff that I wish I could remedy. I wish I knew how to feel closely connected with family this season while not being able to see and hug them. I’d love to say I know how to enjoy shopping for gifts when your family’s restaurant supply business is so deep into its credit lines that the debt seems insurmountable. These are problems not easily solved.

I sometimes imagine what it was like living during one of the big world wars. I simply can’t imagine how tense it would be to wonder every day how it would end and whether loved ones would survive to make it back home again. And if they did make it home, would they even be the same? Contrast that with the situation we’re facing now with the pandemic. Rather than a war against ‘those people’, we’re fighting an invisible virus that thrives on the very thing that should get us through this, real face-to-face human connection. So, unlike a war against ‘them’, we’re finding ourselves in a war among ‘us’. It’s somehow political and moral now, a war that allows us to blame our friends for bad behavior and or bad politics. To say it’s a mess is to put it lightly.

So, what to make of this? I’m not sure. Are you? Each time we see the open door to get out of this room, it’s suddenly slammed shut or we rub our eyes and realize it was just an illusion. I suppose there’s never been a better time to find those silver linings but that seems so trite when death is a possibility for so many of our friends and family. I just don’t want to trivialize this. I’m cautiously optimistic for a vaccine. I’m cautiously optimistic for herd immunity. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll beat this and not beat each other up too badly. Cautious optimism.

I suggest we do this: wish each other Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Happy Chanukah and keep in mind that we’re all fighting for the same things. We’re all wanting to get through this with the least amount of suffering possible. While doing so, we’re trying to keep our spirts up and our anxiety down. Some days are better than others, so be kind. And since 2020 is a year of extremes, consider being…extremely kind.

All the best,

Adam Cufr, RICP®