Terry’s Columns What a Week!

What a Week!

By Terry Savage on March 14, 2020

So glad this week is over — at least for the financial markets. We all need some time to reflect. But while the financial markets can be “turned off” for a couple of days, the threat of illness is with everyone. That can’t be measured in Dow points or percentages.

Sadly, the “cure” for the Coronavirus is recession. That is the inevitable result of “social distancing” which is grinding the American economy to a halt, jarringly quickly. Obviously, this is the right thing to do for the country as a whole. And the concerns of investors’ retirement plans now pale in the appreciation of what this will do to those losing their jobs, to children home from school who rely on school lunches, to their parents who must make tough choices about childcare vs paying the rent.

Tax cuts and fed rate cuts won’t help the people most directly hit. I’m not talking about the golfers, basketball and hockey players, or even the Broadway stars. They should have savings to get them through what will likely be only a few months. But the restaurant servers, hotel maids, and countless others who are paid daily for their work, have no sick leave, and now no income (much less healthcare plans) deserve not only compassion, but direct help.

Yes, our national budget deficit will double, and there will be long-term consequences eventually. But the need is NOW, and we’ve managed to put off fiscal concerns for years after rescuing the banks and the auto companies. Put me down for helping people first and worrying about the fiscal consequences later. And the only other time I remember taking that attitude was when I urged passage of the rescue bill in early 2009.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned a word about the stock market. I suspect it will either move lower at some point, or stay lower than expected for a while. I base that not only on the economics of the situation, but the fact that I have been challenged by many readers to give them a “time to buy” or a “stock pick for the turnaround.”

I have always been — and remain — a believer in the long run success of the United States. And I am quite certain that the stock market will recover and move higher eventually. But “eventually” can be a long time for people who need to live on their retirement funds or sleep well through volatile markets. That’s why I advocated “protecting profits” over the past year.

It’s a bit late for that now. But it’s not too late to reassess your need for liquidity and peace of mind. Don’t look back, as the saying goes, “you’re not headed in that direction.” Take this weekend to think about what’s really important now — both in your finances and our society.

Take the actions necessary to protect yourself, your family, and your financial future. If that means making decisions about stock market mutual funds, consider that a luxury. And while we are practicing “social distancing” please let’s not forget those less fortunate in our communities — the elderly, the poor, the gig workers. There are ways to reach out and help that do not involve shaking hands or physical contact.

Drop off supplies at your food pantry. Remember the elderly in your apartment building who may be alone or scared. Offer to shop for shut-ins. Don’t forget to bring dog or cat food. Start an email chain of good wishes for seniors in your community or ask your Church or community center to pass offers of help on to their email list. Share some of the toilet paper you hoarded.

The stock market will take care of itself in due time. Maybe the universe is trying to teach us a lesson about what’s really important. And that’s The Savage Truth.



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