The start of the coronavirus pandemic and the recession that ensued gave many Americans — especially younger ones — an economic shock they hadn’t experienced before. The past few months have not only forced them to adjust how they work and socialize, but also how they approach their finances: In our latest Planning and Progress survey, Millennials and Gen Z respondents were the most likely to say they wanted to create a financial plan because of the pandemic.
Truth is, economic shocks aren’t unique to this generation. It’s something financial advisors know well. A good financial plan assumes things will go wrong — which means you’ve planned for bumps along the way as you work toward your big goals in life.
But don’t take our word for it. We spoke with three different Northwestern Mutual advisors to see how they’re thinking about the path ahead. And although these advisors span three different generations, a single thread ties their thinking together: unwavering optimism.
Scott DeSantis, 27, Wealth Management Advisor and CEO of Civic Financial, Boston
This is the first major financial crisis I’ve lived through in my career, but really, this is a first for everyone.
Very few people alive today have experienced a pandemic. We’re living in an unpredictable, emotionally charged environment that’s substantially affecting our daily lives.
First, I have deep sympathy for the pain people are experiencing. People are getting sick, losing loved ones and their jobs. We can’t forget the human toll right now. We all need to be compassionate to each other.
But, as an advisor, I want clients to ask, “Where are the opportunities?” Market volatility is likely to stick around, and that can create opportunity for long-term investors. Interest rates are low, so what does that mean for borrowing? Are there ways to reach your goals faster in this environment?
I’m 27, so it’s been enlightening working with clients who are older than me, or even in retirement. Over the past several months some have been able to respond to opportunities — they planned well. Others, strategically, are having to make difficult choices right now. Their experiences have impressed upon me the importance of planning for the future.
Nicole Holland-Hong, 46, Wealth Management Advisor, Fairview Heights, Illinois
We’ve all established new routines since COVID-19 has arrived, but the fundamentals and core values of building financial security haven’t changed.
My team and I spend quite a bit of time educating our clients about long-term planning, and that education snowballs every time we do an annual review of their finances. My goal is to empower people to have confidence in their plan and understand the up and downs they will undoubtedly experience in their lifetime. When the market drops, most of our clients are expecting it and don’t overreact. That’s because they have a plan in place. They don’t have to stress about things that are out of their control.
Amid this turbulent environment my team and I are doing what we have always done, and that is being there for our clients and helping them navigate planning opportunities. More broadly, I’ve noticed planning is becoming a top priority for people who may have put it off for some time.
Again, COVID-19 has changed a lot, but the core principles of financial planning have not.
Richard Goldman, 75, Wealth Management Advisor, Strongpoint Wealth Advisors, Wall Township, New Jersey and New York City
In times like these, you have two choices: You can think pessimistically or remain optimistic.
If you think pessimistically, you’re more likely to make the wrong decisions. History has proven, through every crisis, that people make bad decisions during bad times. That’s why we plan for hard times, so it’s easier to be level-headed and optimistic when they arrive.
At my age, I’ve seen it all. I lived through the turbulence of the 1960s, the riots, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. They each caused a certain amount of market turbulence and had a lasting, deep emotional effect. And that all happened in the beginning of my business life. More recently we’ve experienced several market crashes, natural disasters, terrorism and now a pandemic. Still, I always remain optimistic about the future.
I remember when the Dow Jones passed 1,000. It’s around 25,000 today. Someday it may eclipse 100,000 — but so what? In 1982, mortgage rates were about 15 percent, but interest rates are low today. It’s all relative. The only thing I can predict is change is going to happen, but there will always be opportunities. Our job is to help ensure our clients can seize them.
The longest bull market in history recently came to a close. Make sure you’re prepared for the next one, and always remain optimistic. And, most importantly, never underestimate the moral character and resolve of the United States.
Scott DeSantis uses Civic Financial and Richard Goldman use Strongpoint Wealth Advisors as marketing names for doing business as representatives of Northwestern Mutual. Civic Financial and Strongpoint Wealth Advisors are not registered investment advisers, broker-dealers, insurance agencies or federal savings banks.
All investments carry some level of risk. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss.