March 3rd, 2020 – 11am –
I did an amazing thing this morning, which seemed to be exactly what the Dr. ordered. It was both profound and comforting. Believe it or not, I actually turned off CNBC and neglected to jump on social media. Now, I’m not saying it is wise to simply pretend there are no issues; but, like a refreshing vacation, it sure has been nice to take a break from the noise.
I always enjoy listening to Warren Buffet. Someday, he won’t be around to deliver his calming, grandfatherly advice during such turbulent times. A few days ago, when asked about the market and stocks in free-fall, he made mention of the fact that investors don’t buy a business based on what its prospects are today, tomorrow or for the next few months; but, rather, what are the prospects for years and years to come. He followed up by saying, ‘in fact, investors should use the words, buying a business, rather than buying stocks.’ Here’s a great run down of his most recent interview. I highly recommend it HERE.
I love this perspective. While it is true that a company, such as Disney, is seeing a drastic fall off in park attendance and will suffer in the short term, make no mistake about it, the company itself, its countless brands, its timeless iconic characters, its ‘Main Street, USA’ parades, are not going anywhere. Disney, a company within the Dow, is exactly the type of name that long-term investors should be looking to scoop up. Or, how about, the great American brand, Starbucks? While folks may not enter the store for fear of picking up an unknown pathogen, there is no question that the drive through lane will still be the place where folks can pick up their early morning caffeine fix. It may be early, and the stock certainly could have further to fall; but, make no mistake about it, Starbucks will be here long after you and I are gone.
For the last several months, I have been writing about how stocks were expensive and it was a time to reduce risk. Heck, one of the most timely radio shows I’ve ever produced literally time-stamped the top of the market, and I spoke about making sure portfolio allocations were appropriate in order to withstand a 10 – 15% decline. Listen HERE.
Now, we’re here. Now, we’re in the mess. Of course it is not fun, and it feels horrible; and, despite already being conservatively positioned, it is downright awful to lose money. However, now is precisely the time we must start to prepare for opportunities that will arise. I’m not saying we run out and buy stocks today. In fact, I still would not be surprised for lower prices down the road. What I am relaying is that I want to be the small voice out there saying,‘This too shall pass; and, when it does, we want to be buyers and not panic sellers.’
Yes, I am concerned about this virus, and I am connected with many older folks who already face difficulty with their health. I am concerned about the state of our country and employment should we continue to see events, universities and any other large gatherings cancelled. However, I know that this will pass eventually, and we will be stronger for it. Yes, I am concerned about the Russian action of war against our oil companies. I am concerned about the thousands of jobs that may be lost if the oil and gas industry suffers. I’m concerned about the incredible amount of high-yield debt associated with these companies and how this ripples through our country. However, I also know we’ve been through many booms and busts before. After listening to BoomTown, a podcast I highly recommend, I have an incredible respect for these people and know they will not only survive but thrive. Our country can easily be energy independent now and it will be important to see how our government ensures the industry’s long term viability. It will not serve us well to see it go bust.
Just this morning, I was thinking about my grandfather, who passed a few years back at the ripe old age of 92. He was a Marine through and through, and he stormed the beach at Iwo Jima. I was pondering his bravery and the current state of our country. Yes, times are troubling; but, as a parent of three boys, I couldn’t imagine sending all of them off to war. I can’t imagine the daily reports of young men who would never make it home. It was a strange trip down the road of history, but it reminded me of how resilient our country is, and how I am certain we will get through this.
If you find yourself getting caught up in the hype, I encourage you to take a break from the news and shut off social media. Go for a walk, reflect on the past and remember all the challenges we’ve already faced and will face in the future. The current challenges have different names, but the uncertainty is extremely familiar. With time, we will survive and, most certainly, thrive.