During a recent virtual question-and-answer event with Thrivent clients, one of the questions was particularly illustrative of this trying period. An individual asked: “How can I think about what’s going on in the markets when I don’t even know how I’m going to pay all my bills this month?”
There wasn’t a lot that I could say in response to this anonymously submitted question, other than to offer sympathy and recommend the assistance of a financial professional.
There are no clear comparisons for the COVID-19 pandemic. When we’ve had discussions among the members of our investment team, the word that comes up over and over is “unprecedented.” We’ve never before seen seven million unemployment claims in a single week. The Federal Reserve (Fed) has taken actions that dwarf any of its activities during the Great Recession of 2008-09. The federal government has provided fiscal support far greater than at any time in history and is running a correspondingly large fiscal deficit.
And that’s without even mentioning the unprecedented impact to our daily lives of school closures and stay-at-home orders.
While there’s no real comparison for these difficult months, I personally can’t help but think of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and that’s part of my answer to the question of how we can even think about markets during times such as these.
In 2001, prior to joining Thrivent, I was practicing law in Chicago at a large international law firm. That awful morning, I happened to be attending board meetings for a large mutual fund complex. Although our meeting was in Chicago, that particular firm had its primary offices in the World Trade Center. We quickly adjourned the meeting so the executives could turn their attention to the safety of their employees in New York.
I knew there was nothing I could do to help those at Ground Zero. But, like many of you, I felt a call to do something. Knowing that markets would be closed for an undetermined period and financial instruments would be impacted, I threw myself into legal research and worked most of the night. With so much uncertainty that would affect every one of the firm’s clients, I found it fulfilling to do whatever I could to contribute to the common well-being.
Just as I wasn’t a firefighter or police officer in 2001, I’m not a doctor or medical researcher either. We have several PhDs on our investment team, but none in medical fields. We have more than 85 individuals with advanced degrees or credentials, even a second lawyer, but no MDs. But just as with 9/11, we as a team, want to do anything and everything we can to help all of you, and society as a whole, during this pandemic. For our investment team, that means managing your money with every bit of care, attention and professionalism possible.