Beyond Your Bubble
By Gary Silverman, CFP®
I live in a little bit of a bubble. This has been exaggerated by COVID-19 and my penchant for leaning on the side of caution. But the bubble I want to talk about is one of economic awareness.
As y’all know, I’m in the investment management and financial planning business. Many of my clients are retired. They have no job to lose. Many others are in management and professional trades which are not seeing nearly the number of layoffs others have experienced. Most of the small business clients I have are seeing acceptable cash-flows and are not in danger of closing. And my firm is doing just fine.
Not only that, when I go to the store, pick up some take-out, or interface with customer service reps on the phone, I am talking with people who still have a job. Closer to home, as I’ve alluded to, only a couple of my clients are seeing a decline of one form or another due to the pandemic.
In other words, the last eight months have been inconvenient for sure, but not truly detrimental for my firm, myself, or most of those I know. That’s my bubble. It looks quite a bit like the bubble of many others. But that doesn’t mean that suffering isn’t happening all around us.
The reality is that many Americans have lost or are losing their jobs; those with jobs are seeing reduced paychecks, and countless small businesses have either closed permanently or will be doing so soon.
While many have been propped up with stimulus checks and expanded unemployment insurance, for the most part, those programs have ended or are scaled back. The income has gone away, the expenses remain, and job prospects are bleak.
You see, while I am in my bubble, I do look out from it and see that my reality isn’t what many in my community are experiencing.
I say this because I am hearing people say that this is a non-event, that everything will be fine, and that it’s really not that bad. They’ll point to an article here, a study there, and a data point or two. They’ll report that they don’t know anyone who lost their job. If you look hard enough you can justify almost any belief if you pick and choose what information you back it with.
For many, at least economically, this is a non-event. For some, it has been beneficial. Jobs will come back. Small businesses will rebuild either themselves or in the ashes of those who failed before them.
That does not diminish the pain felt by those whose careers have been destroyed; those whose savings has been wiped away; those whose medical care or education are put on hold or worse; those who have lost their homes. These are real people and real stories that those of us safe in our bubbles need to see and care about.
Lest we forget, bubbles can pop. And there is plenty of time left in this crisis. While any individual economist is often wrong and mostly gloomy, when you examine their consensus historically, they tend to be predictive. And their prediction is that the shock we’ve experienced will reverberate in the economy for years to come.
Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing
November 1, 2020