16 Jun 2022 Puke Days
In Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel Dune, there is a phrase—really a mantra or incantation—used by the main character and his mother at various times when they are facing particularly challenging circumstances:
“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.“
This week has had a couple of instances of what Blaire duQuesnay correctly termed a “puke day.” The market has already been down large for the year, Monday rolls around, then wham! Another 4% haircut. Then we got an up day Wednesday, then wham! Again, another haircut Thursday. It was a week when the cumulative effect of the last 5 ½ months made some folks begin second-guessing years’ worth of planning and disciplined investing.
In the “puke days” phase of a market downturn, blogs like the one you’re reading are only good for so much, because your body is the captain now. Rational thought and reasoned responses to the perfectly natural fear we all face become nearly impossible. But we can’t just sit with our fear indefinitely, or it will obliterate us. We have to face it and let it pass through us. Our instinct in these moments may be flight, but in fact fighting back is the only way forward. So here are a few ways—more visceral than intellectual—that we can fight the fear together.
Financial. The common temptation in these moments is to make changes to our investment portfolios, but if you feel compelled to do anything with your money when the market is down, the better answer is to do something with your spending. See these puke days as a challenge to spend less and set aside more cash savings than you usually do, and if you’re feeling in the fighting spirit, consider putting some of that extra cash to work in the down market. Or, for the especially feisty, give the extra away.
Physical. Fear is in your body, so one extremely helpful thing to do when we are fearful is to get our bodies moving. Long walks, runs, lifting weights—these challenging physical activities are not generally in the realm of financial advice, but in these fighting moments they are.
Relational. In the Christian scriptures the most challenging note about fear is this: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.” In those same scriptures “love” is defined as self-sacrifice. In the puke days it is dreadfully easy to be focused only on ourselves, allowing the fear to overcome us, but the antidote to that is service. When we serve our family, neighbors, and the vulnerable people in our communities, we are forced to reckon with a perspective and a time horizon that transcends even the worst of what the stock market is doing.
We can do this. It’s difficult and scary and the fear is natural. But giving in to the fear is the only way to let it win, and when the fear wins, people make investing decisions they end up regretting for a lifetime. At Beacon, it’s our job to prevent that whenever and however we can, even channeling the pep-talk-at-halftime vibe that I’m attempting right now. Turn off the market news, try one or all three of the fighting techniques above, and as always, call us whenever you feel the need.
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