Remembering What Matters

Sam Swift, CFA, CFP®, AIF®

Apr 8, 2020

I was in the middle of another piece about market basics when I heard the news that John Prine had passed away due to COVID-19. Prine was one of the great American singer-songwriters, though he flew a bit more under the radar than others in his class. I was fortunate enough to discover his music several years ago and I would urge you to seek it out as well. In any case, I have been so focused on explaining markets and helping to calm that it was easy to lose sight of the big picture; and Prine’s passing turned into a moment that triggered my own reflection. I’ll get back to talking about markets and investing soon enough, but please allow me to take a different approach this week.

In investing, the truth is that market setbacks are temporary, and if we stick around for the long-haul things will work out very well. The truth to life in this pandemic, of course, is that there are changes that are not temporary. The health and welfare of our friends, family, and fellow humans sits above all, but there will also be permanent social and psychological change. I don’t say this to be pessimistic, but to be realistic. In fact, I’m accused frequently of being an eternal optimist (a label I’m happy to be tagged with). We will come out of this stronger as we always do through crisis, but not without major cost. For that cost not to be a complete waste, I would suggest we take extra time to revisit what matters to us personally.

The most important question in personal finance is figuring out what you want in life. How much you need, after all, is determined by what you want to do. Our money is just a means to an end. It’s a tool. It allows us to travel and see the world (something more precious now than ever). It allows us to give our kids an education. It allows us to retire and make art; to pursue our hobbies and take care of our aging parents. It gives us peace of mind and allows us to protect our family and serve our community.

Tragedy forces a return to what matters, so I urge you to take this time to reflect. Many of you will confirm what you already knew about yourself, but some may find a new clarity of purpose.

John Prine is now one of many losses we will have to cope with. In honor of who and what we have lost, let us find a renewed passion to march forward. Prine, after all, was also an eternal optimist. Rob Harvilla, in an article for The Ringer, summed it up nicely: “He was the best of us because he saw the best in us, or anyway made the best of it.”

“I wish you love, I wish you happiness
I guess I wish you all the best” – John Prine

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