Unprecedented! Challenging! Uncertain! During these difficult times!
Updated: May 18, 2020
UGH! I have gotten to the point where I cannot stand to hear these words. Yes, we are living in uncertain and challenging times, but I am not sure that they are unprecedented. I love British history, particularly the Tudor period. I have read extensive biographies of Queen Elizabeth I (QEI) and currently devouring a biography of Bess of Hardwick, a contemporary of QEI and the wealthiest woman in England at the time. I am also reading Wolf Hall, which is a novel about Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry VIII’s advisors.
And one thing stands out, they were constantly facing unprecedented times. Plagues of smallpox and sweating sickness (Which to this day they have no idea what caused this) ravaged towns and villages. These illnesses impacted rich and poor alike. Royalty fared no better than peasant.
What is interesting is these medieval people had a pretty rigorous protocol for handling these outbreaks. For sweating sickness (which could kill you within hours) the family would hang a bunch of straw outside the door and restrict entry for forty days and you were not allowed to go abroad. If a ship coming into port had a sickness onboard, the entire ship could be burned- dashing the fortunes of the shipowners.
Another thing that is clear from reading history is there will be winners and losers from an economic sense. For some, no matter how well they prepared, the capriciousness of the disease could destroy their fortunes. For others who saw an opportunity, they jumped at the chance to secure a new customer or new trade route.
We are seeing the same thing happen today. Companies that can adapt quickly by moving their business to online sales, or manufacturing companies that change their workplace to ensure employees feel and are safe so they can continue operations will end up stronger. Our firm has adapted quickly and using technology to make sure we are contacting all our clients safely. Those who are slow to adapt or put their head in the sand will not survive. This is the unfortunate truth of business.
In the stock market, it can be difficult to know who the winners and losers will be, so making sure you have your investments spread out amongst many quality companies is wise. Do not lose sight of your long-term goals. And do not let fear overcome your financial decisions.
In Merry Old England, they were also diligent will and contract writers. Marriages were never entered in lightly and money was of constant concern. A solid marriage contract would detail what the bride was bringing to the marriage, what the children could expect, and how much “Pin” money the bride could expect from her husband for the running of the household. Because lives could be short, one did not wait until old age to write a will out. While we can hope to live much longer than the average Tudor did of thirty-five years, we should not let our estate planning go to the wayside.
Follow the boring tenants of basic financial planning: keep an emergency fund, spend less than you earn, keep consumer debt low, and have your estate planning documents drafted. These basic financial strategies are not glamorous, but they are proven to be a foundation for long term success and can help you and your family weather these unprecedented times. Whoops- I said it.