Are we there yet?

September 29, 2022

We took a lot of road trips when I was a child. Much to my parent’s chagrin, I would usually ask (at least a few times per trip) the age old question – “are we there yet?

I wasn’t trying to be annoying, I promise! I was simply tired of sitting still, tired of waiting for the next event, tired of being a bit uncomfortable in my seat, anxious about when we’d stop for a break, and uneasy about not knowing exactly where we were going or when we’d arrive. Tired, anxious, and uneasy. On repeat. For hours.

As we approach the end of the third quarter in an exceptionally challenging year for investors, I find myself feeling tired, anxious, and uneasy yet again – just like I did in our family station wagon all those years ago.

We’ll see how the quarter ends today (I’m writing this on September 30, 2022) and I’ll come back to the final quarterly results next week. But regardless of today’s market action, it has been a difficult and exhausting year.

Interest rates keep rising, inflation is sticky, markets are in bear market territory, outlooks are bleak, the world is on edge for a whole host of reasons, and every day there is seemingly something else to worry about.

Tired. Anxious. Uneasy.

Needless to say, we are all ready for this part of the ride to end and for us to arrive at our destination. So, are we there yet?

Your definition of “there” may vary from mine. Maybe you are wondering when we’ll find a bottom, or when rates will pause, or when inflation will abate, or when the market will stop moving 2% on a daily basis, or when you can stop working, given the market decline…. Whatever destination you have in mind, my guess is you too are ready for it to arrive – and soon.

I wish I could give you an answer as to timing for your specific leg of the journey. But sadly, I don’t know for sure. No one does, no matter how confident they sound on the financial news.

How are we going to handle the rest of this ride? Here are a few strategies that worked for my parents on all those road trips (with a few words on how I apply them today when it comes to investing in these markets). Maybe, just maybe, they can help us to

  • Distract yourself – Our minds are very powerful. They can fixate on a topic and make it hard for us to think about anything else. Fight hard against that. Turn off the tv. Log out of your brokerage account. Put down your phone. Focus on something other than markets, even if just for a few hours. Odds are, your daily life is progressing as it otherwise would. So inhale and switch gears. (On road trips, I’d be given a new book or a travel board game whenever I got antsy. Anything to take my mind off the hours yet to go)

  • Talk thru your feelings – As humans, we all want to be seen and understood (even as kids in the back seat of a car!) You have every right to be feeling confused, saddened, and frustrated by this year. It helps to name those emotions and talk thru them with someone (your financial advisor or a trusted person in your life). These conversations won’t change reality but they can help you see it in a different light

  • Control the controllable – In times of stress, many of us have an urge to do something. Anything. We believe that by taking action, we can mitigate some of the angst we feel. (I remember asking for a new song on the radio or an increase in AC on road trips, just to have some control.) There is nothing wrong with seeking to control the controllable – just ensure that your actions will be long-term beneficial to your financial situation. Completing exercises such as reviewing your budget, confirming you have sufficient cash, examining the longer-term trajectory of your net worth, and considering possible investment strategies in a down market (such as Roth conversions or added savings) are all productive exercises and are likely to actually put your mind at ease that things aren’t as dire as you fear

  • Focus forward – our financial journeys are long. If we’re lucky, they will span 7+ decades. Has this year been very hard to endure? Yes. Have some years been better? For sure. Have some been worse? Also yes – even though we don’t really recall that now. When I find myself feeling anxious or depleted by what’s happening today, I remind myself that all we can do is move forward down the road. There is no going back and we had plenty of road yet to cover. Pick your head up and look forward – after all, that’s the way we’re going (Just like I did on those road trips when trying to find license plates from various states at my parents’ urging – see distract tip above!)

We’ll get there eventually – and once we do, we’ll simply begin the next leg in our journey. Accept this one for what it is, do all you can to endure it, focus on the bigger picture, and most importantly, stay the course. As was the case for all those family road trips, the journey is always worth it in the end.

Onward we go,

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