In a time when it seems difficult to reach consensus on anything, or even distinguish reality from fiction, I am confident that we can all agree that 2020 was unique.
Now, like every January, I am compelled to reflect on the previous year, recognize its major milestones, and set off resolutely into the future with hope and optimism.
While reflecting on 2020, the word that stands out most to me is crisis. It has been impossible to avoid this word as it has been used ad nauseam in article headlines, email subjects, and constant in-your-face graphics on most major media outlets.
Unfortunately, the novel coronavirus that sent the world into a tail spin early last year did not vanish at midnight on December 31, 2020, and even as management of the virus improves and the hysteria subsides the ripple effects of it are likely to be felt well into the future. Regardless of your opinion on how the world responded and continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact it has had on a sense of normalcy for almost every individual, business, and community certainly justifies the use of the term ‘crisis’ to describe the year.
A crisis is most often characterized as a time of difficulty, uncertainty, danger, and distress. This is all true, but my annual exercise of reflection and resolution reminded me that these challenging experiences also breed a sense of urgency and a willingness to embrace a new set of rules and procedures. Often this will lead to productive results or even a critical turning point.
In a speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy, in 1959, he famously said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.” While the linguistic accuracy of this translation has been challenged by many, I appreciate the message that it conveys. This notion of intrusion as a catalyst for progress is reminiscent of the popular concept of disruptive innovation. Other common phrases include “no pain no gain, or “a blessing in disguise,” and “light at the end of the tunnel.”
In the context of our own lives, this more balanced perspective on the long term impact of any crisis can help us recognize the positive changes that have already occurred and resolve to identify and optimize the opportunities that materialize in the future.
The COVID-19 Silver Lining
If you are like me, I would assume you can look back over recent months and recognize a few things that have changed for the better since the beginning of “the COVID-19 Crisis”.
Has a shock to your sense of financial security caused you to revisit your long-term financial plan? Data suggests that many Americans are spending less, and if possible, saving more.
Have you reimagined the way you accomplish your professional responsibilities or even reevaluated your career (cut out time-wasting activities like certain meetings, reprioritize how you spend non-productive time, redefine routine working hours to better accommodate your non-work priorities, take steps to move your business or career in a new direction, etc.)?
Have you and your family spent more time together, enjoying activities that our busy pre-COVID-19 lives were slowly squeezing out of the American experience (home cooked meals, family movie night, board games and puzzles, riding bikes, etc.)?
Have you noticed yourself focusing more on the well-being and needs of others (volunteering in your community, contributing to your church or a non-profit, helping a neighbor, supporting a struggling local business, etc.)?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may realize that we are already well on our way to a new and better normal.
If you would like support in executing your personal finance related new year’s resolutions, then now may be the perfect time to consider the expert assistance of Argent Financial Group. With a wide range of fiduciary-based services and resources, Argent’s advisors are ready to help you achieve your goals.
Jason McDavid, CPA is vice president and wealth manager with Argent Trust in Ridgeland. He is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 10 years’ experience helping individuals, families, and organizations set, monitor, and achieve their financial goals.