Just over a year ago, on March 16, 2020, everyone at New England Capital packed up our equipment and said our goodbyes. I didn’t know when we’d be back together in the office – hopefully within a month, or certainly within two months. After all, some scientists said it would take 15 days to slow the spread of the Corona virus. Even our President said the virus would be gone by Easter. . .
Fast forward past another Easter, the development and distribution of vaccines, and 5 trillion dollars of government spending later, it’s time to gradually be guardedly optimistic about life after the pandemic. It seems longer than 14 months since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a worldwide pandemic.
I distinctly remember saying to clients and on radio and TV interviews that we need to focus on the long-term. I felt if we could look out over the valley, we’d know we’d be okay when we reached the other side. After 14 months trudging through this valley, we are approaching the other side.
As the stringent lockdown measures come to an end, and the economy starts to open back up, what lessons were learned as individuals and as a country?
As a country, this was a grand economic experiment. We had never put the economy in a medically induced coma and attempted to revive it. The stock market certainly panicked because that’s what stock markets do. If you’re prone to panic, a worldwide pandemic is a pretty good reason to panic. Investors and traders acted quickly and the market lost 1/3 of its value! But this bear market was the shortest we ever experienced. Since March 23, 2020, the S&P 500 index has risen over 77% through March 31, 2021.
The stock market’s reaction to the pandemic and its subsequent historic rally shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, the stock market finds something to panic about once or twice a decade.
As a company, I relearned what I already knew: that I work with fabulous people who always do what’s right for you. They truly care about you and each other. I learned doing our job for you isn’t limited to a physical location. It wasn’t easy but we kept it together even when we were apart. I also learned to embrace change and technology. I think we adopted over seven years of technological advances in the past 14 months. We look forward to seeing you back in the office for in-person meetings soon, but we know some of you will continue to prefer the convenience of zoom meetings.
To describe this year as strange is a huge understatement. It was a year of doubt and frustration. We were all forced to change and adapt. We went from in-person learning to remote learning. Then back to in-person. . . then back to remote. Our dining room tables became our work desks, and our kitchens became classrooms. We traded in suits for sweatpants or yoga pants or anything with an elastic waistband. We all experienced longing and loneliness as well as grief and loss.
I personally experienced all of those and more. But I learned to take some of the lemons and make lemonade. I find I now take less for granted. I am more grateful for all the blessing I have been given. The lockdown slowed me down enough to enjoy the simple things. Like many, the pandemic brought both of my adult children home as we all worked remotely together. Quarantining together certainly had its challenges but I describe it as my bonus year with them, one that we would not have shared together if not for Covid.
I think we had more dinners together last year than in any other year while they were growing up. Anyone raising kids today knows dinner gets squeezed between practices, sporting events, dance recitals and homework. We even developed a rotating schedule, so each was responsible for making dinner. I will cherish the memories of those meals and dinner conversations for the rest of my life.
I will try to take other gifts from the pandemic as we move forward to a new normal. I hope I’ve become a better listener because of having to change from face-to-face meetings and zoom meetings and conference calls. I hope I’ve become more kind, more empathetic and less judgmental. I hope I become more humble and compassionate knowing others have had a much more difficult year and lost more than I have.
These feelings and these values well-lived and expressed should help me become a better husband, parent, son, brother, financial planner and human being.
As we all go back out into the world, back to our offices, workplaces and schools; as we get back on planes, ships, trains and subways; as we meet again at restaurants, bars, concerts, theater and sporting events, please be patient with me. And be patient with each other. We’ve all had a difficult year and remember, we’re still all in this together.