Ten years ago, when I was a retail broker, my life would have been a living hell at a time like this. The clients were mostly gamblers and the portfolio holdings were all high-octane equities, all the time. We weren’t giving advice so much as we were facilitating speculation. As such, corrections were devastating – financially, emotionally and spiritually. You’d see a year’s worth of gains vaporized in 30 days.
Back then, our job in an environment like this one was akin to triage – some days it felt like I was working in a Civil War-era military hospital tent. We ran to address the patient who screamed loudest and sawed off limbs to make margin calls. It was a terrible way to earn a living and, in the end, despite the best of intentions the market always wrecked everything.
But that was a long time ago.
I’m thankful to have had that experience because it’s a good contrast for me to look at as we go about our business.
These days, the phones aren’t ringing off the hook and there is very little panic in the air. Investors are concerned, as of course they should be, but our investor education program is built on preemptive contact and evidence-based insight. Plus, the portfolio construction for each household is centered around a holistic financial plan built by a CFP.
In addition, our portfolio strategies – both strategic and tactical – are designed and implemented based on the simple truth that volatility is a constant, not an aberrant occurrence. What we do is rules-based – there are no predictions and no one is calling audibles based on their gut. Thinking about the old days from where we are now, it is inconceivable that I could ever go back to that chaotic existence.
Instead, it’s just another day at the office. As I said in When the Flood Comes, this is the time during which advisors earn their living. Coincidentally, that post went up within a few days of the US stock market’s peak last May.
This morning, our client-facing professionals are doing their jobs – methodically and calmly. Here are two posts we’re sending out that Michael and Ben put up over the last 24 hours. They perfectly encapsulate the kind of advice I wish I was giving a decade ago:
We don’t know what’s going to happen any better than anyone else does. We only know how we will behave when the time comes.