Covid 19 and Your Investment Accounts

With the Covid 19 panic in full swing right now, I wanted to take an opportunity to connect with our StrongTower family. My hope is to shed some light on what has happened over the past few weeks on the stock market and how to best act in times like these.

Our Clients are Amazing

First, can I just say that we are spoiled at StrongTower? I’m serious! When the markets get rough, many firms are overwhelmed by phone calls from fearful investors. I’ve only had two phone calls from clients that voiced concern and wanted to adjust their portfolios reactively. In fact, I’ve had more clients contact us about how to take advantage of the current drops by investing wisely while stock prices are low. The truth is that investing often requires nerves of steel. If you weren’t at least slightly uncomfortable with the recent volatility, I’d be surprised. Yet, by in large, you have remained calm and strategic. That’s great!

The Christian Difference

I don’t have concrete evidence or data to support this, but I’ve personally witnessed Christians making more wise investment decisions than the general population. They tend to be less prone to fall for the emotional, knee-jerk reactions to sell out of fear (sell low) and buy out of greed (buy high). Maybe this is because we take the scriptures to heart. “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf”. Proverbs 11:28.

Stewardship Responsibility

Our faith may not be in money, and we may not get overly-rattled when the markets drop, but this does NOT mean we ignore our stewardship responsibility. In fact, good stewardship is what calls us to be shrewd. It is stewardship that motivates us to act with wisdom and keep our hearts in check.

Some Perspective

Let’s take a step back to see what has actually happened on the markets recently.

The markets have been roaring upward for quite some time. This chart shows growth of the total stock market (as measured by iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF) from January 2019 through February 19, 2020. Look at that gain of almost 35%!

January 1, 2019 - February 19, 2020
34.64% gain

Now, let’s look at the past 3 months. Notice how quickly the markets declined. In just three months, the total stock market declined by 13.97%. Let’s pause for a moment to think about that. Is a drop of 13.97% unusual? Is that crazy? Is that unheard of? Absolutely not. In fact, drops like that are very common. It certainly FEELS big though when you factor in the media coverage of Covid 19. You can’t help but feel like the sky is falling.

Past 3 months
-13.97%

This graph shows the past 12 months. As you can see, the markets were soaring before this recent drop. The end result is less than spectacular, though. A 3.74% drop doesn’t sound all that scary, does it? Yet it FEELS huge in the moment because we remember the high-water marks we reached along the way.

Past 12 months
-3.74%

Now we are looking even farther back. This is a 36 month time frame. Even with this deep dive in the markets presently, we still see a 12.69% gain overall. Sure, that’s not a stellar return, but not bad either.

Past 36 Months
12.69% Gain

What do we learn from looking back over the past three years? We learn that maybe it isn’t quite as bad as we were led to believe by the media hype. Don’t get me wrong, the quick decline on the markets is painful, but it’s not unusual. In fact, we’ve been proactively preparing everyone for such a drop because the markets have been doing so well for so long. Statistically speaking, we were overdue for a drop. The problem is that no one can predict what the catalyst will be and there is ALWAYS going to be fear when it happens. The Coronavirus is no exception. Fear pervades right now.

What is the WISE thing to do in times like these?

To answer this question, we must consider the phase of life you are in right now.

  • Accumulation Phase

    If you are still saving towards your goals, you are in the “accumulation phase”. So, if you are still saving towards college, retirement, or other goals, this one is for you. Market declines like this can sometimes work in your favor. So, go ahead and say, “Woohoo! The markets are down!” OK, don’t do that or you might get slapped by someone in the “distribution phase”. The reality is that stocks may be selling below fair value right now, which provides buying opportunities. So, keep making those regular deposits into your accounts and buy stocks while they’re cheap. We don’t know where the bottom will be on this particular market cycle, but we know that stocks are priced better today than they were 3, 6, or even 12 months ago.

  • Distribution Phase

    If you are already at the point where you are taking money from your accounts, then you are in the “distribution phase”. So, if you’re already getting those monthly withdrawals from your account for retirement income, this one is for you. Market declines are harder to handle when you’re in this phase because monthly income is dependent on your account growth. There are some very important things to keep in mind:

    1. When we project your retirement needs, we assume that market drops like this will happen. They are built into our calculations.
    2. When you are taking money from your accounts, you are typically invested more conservatively than you were in the past. This is vitally important. For example, if you have a “moderate” blend of investments, you have roughly a 60/40 split between stocks and bonds respectively. Not only does this help protect you when the markets drop like this, but we can take your monthly checks from your bonds, which allows more time for your stocks to rebound.
    3. We like to keep about six months of your monthly withdrawals in cash. This also helps us to avoid selling stocks while they are down.
    4. Some clients have enough margin built into their finances that they can reduce their monthly withdrawals during a market drop. This isn’t usually necessary, but it can be wise to “tighten the belt” through a rough patch.

Summary

The Coronavirus is an odd global event. On one hand, it has been compared to a strong version of the common cold. So, why all the fuss? The uncertainty of the virus and the mass hysteria related to the virus have caused a much greater impact that anyone expected. Is it real, or is it hype? Time will tell. The markets have dealt with all sorts of viruses, oil crisis, political unrest, wars, and more, yet they have proven resilient. As long as people are buying their smart phones, driving cars, buying gifts, building homes, shopping online, buying groceries, and other day to day activities, there are opportunities for businesses to make profits. Other than temporary travel plans, I don’t see many people reshaping their spending habits. This could mean we have many great investment opportunities available. Hang in there, StrongTower family! Let’s hope this downturn is short-lived and the markets get back on track soon. Let’s learn from the past, consider the present, and look towards the future! As always, your advisor is ready and available to speak to you and help you with whatever you need.

21 Comments. Leave new

  • Well stated. Thank you Todd.

  • Diane Spence
    March 12, 2020 3:51 pm

    Thank you for you reassuranceTodd! Looking at the overall picture makes me feel better. I know God is in control!!

  • Sal Pappalardo
    March 12, 2020 5:06 pm

    We really appreciate you Todd. I am constantly reminded that God promises to do His part. We have to do our part. Our part is to be obedient and good stewards. Thank you for being a stewardship partner and friend for many years!

    • Todd Sadowski
      March 13, 2020 8:25 am

      Thanks, Sal. We’ve both grown in our stewardship journeys over the past several years. Great having you as a partner as well!

  • Debbie Chunn
    March 12, 2020 6:41 pm

    Thank you, Todd!

  • Colleen Vasques
    March 12, 2020 7:09 pm

    Thanks for the update and the level-headed perspective, Todd! May God continue to bless you & your family & this company, and we can trust that God is in control of whatever happens.

  • Becky Roddenberry
    March 12, 2020 7:23 pm

    Thanks so much, Todd.

  • Deborah Skarda
    March 12, 2020 9:05 pm

    Totally agree with everything you said! Thanks!!

  • Gary and Lin Carnahan
    March 12, 2020 9:20 pm

    We appreciate your well written summary and graphs.
    Thank you,

  • Doug Goodman
    March 13, 2020 9:19 am

    Thank you Todd. Our trust in God and the promise in Phil 4:19 keeps us at peace. And we trust you and Strongtower to make wise decisions. Praying for you and all who work with you.

  • Bill and Brenda Benz
    March 13, 2020 5:11 pm

    Thank you for communicating with us about what is happening, it’s comforting and helps us understand.

  • Thank you Todd for reiterating what we as believers know to do, have faith and do not waiver for the Lord is on our side. Thank you for keeping watch for us and helping us be good stewards of what the Lord has given us.

  • Starr Pistole
    March 16, 2020 12:13 pm

    Thank you for the update–I appreciate your words and graphs of encouragement. We love Strongtower’s Godly perspective! Prayers for continued wise discernment as you steward His resources for us! 1 Chronicles 29:11-12

    • Todd Sadowski
      March 16, 2020 12:16 pm

      Thanks for the prayers, Starr! Great scripture reference. Maintaining an eternal perspective is SO helpful in times of fear.

  • Finally a sane and calm response! Thank You!

  • Sheila Green
    March 17, 2020 5:29 pm

    We are at peace. We pray for you and your family daily as well as the entire staff. Thank you for keeping us in the know about the current events. Our faith in God keeps us grounded and praying without ceasing. The angels encamp around all of us as God’s children.

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