These are difficult times. Nobody surveying the scene in January and February of this year could have predicted what we’ve all just experienced. In fact, the expectation back then would most likely have been extremely positive, given the almost unending stream of positive economic data.
The economy and markets were riding high, unemployment was at historic lows, and the future looked like “more of the same.” But, as life so often does, we were quickly reminded of the wisdom of King Solomon, who inscribed “this, too, shall pass” on a ring to remind him of the fleeting nature of both the celebrations and challenges of life.
Covid hit and was quickly followed by an economic shutdown, which has challenged us sorely. No doubt that each of us has been negatively impacted or knows someone in our close circle of friends and family who has been negatively impacted by the illness or economic dislocations. In some instances, lives and/or livelihoods have been lost.
It may seem strange then to speak of gratitude. Certainly, for those who have lost loved ones or lost the ability to provide for their family, we cannot seek to ignore, or even diminish, their pain. No word or phrase of this commentary is meant in that way. We here at First Financial are included amongst those who have either experienced loss personally or within our friends and family.
And yet, we are writing about gratitude because there remains much for which to be thankful. We can acknowledge loss – and grieve – while also acknowledging that we have not lost all. We can all say one, and hopefully many, of the following:
- We still draw breath
- We still have family
- We still have friends
- We still are loved and have those whom we love
- We will be able to recover, and for many, that process has already begun
Even though we are a financial firm, we will always emphasize the value of life over property, and so we give thanks that we have two – if not actually three as of this writing – new drug treatments for Covid, which offer 90%+ success rates. That these were developed in record time under the “Warp Speed” project is the icing on the cake. We can and should be grateful for the lives which will be saved as these drugs come online in the weeks ahead.
As these drugs are rolled out, we can hope that the fear which has attended this epidemic will subside. In so many cases, the psychological damage has been as great or greater than the physical. We can now know that there is a cure and that the tide of illness and death will recede. We can be grateful that eventually – hopefully very soon – confidence will triumph over fear.
As a financial firm, we also consider the economic environment as we offer advice and counsel to our clients, and, here again, we can find reasons for gratitude. The US economy continues to heal. Several statistics from retail sales to industrial production to housing starts to employment levels continue to evidence a stronger recovery than we could have predicted even as recently as June of this year.
We wrote at that time that the recovery would take a while and probably extend well into 2021 before it was finally complete. We do not have an exact new date, but that timeframe for complete recovery now seems dramatically shortened. To a question we hear often, we can respond that there is no double-dip recession on the horizon. If those we have just elected at the federal and state levels make wise policy decisions, there should not be any intermediate future recession.
As of this writing, the S&P 500 is actually up 11% from the beginning of the year. That is not a typographical error. From January 1, 2020, when Covid was not yet in the headlines, we have risen 11%. Under “normal” circumstances, that would be a phenomenal year. It is almost hard to offer adjectives to explain this growth’s magnitude, given what we have been through. These were not “normal” circumstances.
Still, we’re not wholly healed; there are more miles to travel on this path, both medically and economically. We all know people who are recovering but not yet fully recovered. Fortunately, there is gratitude to be found in that process, not just in the arrival of full recovery. We can celebrate the success that is made each day, week, and month as family, friends, and acquaintances recover their physical vigor and/or economic standing, even if it is only one step at a time. We would wish for great leaps forward, but we can be content with slow, steady progress forward.
And so, this holiday season, we want to wish everyone a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving, regardless of the format it takes. This, too, will be different for all of us. Gatherings will look different from what they have been in our past; each of our family traditions will see a new chapter written, but the day can remain one where we celebrate the many blessings that remain. And as we close that day -wherever and with whomever it may be – we should all acknowledge that this, too, shall pass; in fact, it is passing now.