True lifelong financial planning for the serious business of life.

True lifelong financial planning
for the serious business of life.

First, a confession – I am an eternal optimist; apparently, it is difficult to live with. My wife Anne says that if she came through the door with an arm missing, I would say: “It’s good that you still have one arm and think of all the great things you can still do”. Although that might be taking the point a bit far, I admit that I do tend to see the positive side of things, perhaps best illustrated by my approach to golf.

As anyone who has played this wonderful but unpredictable game with me will attest, golf is not my strongest point. However, I do get my clubs out maybe once or twice a year and, I hope, manage not to embarrass my playing partners.

Standing on the first tee, I carefully go through my routine and have absolute confidence that the ball will fly straight and far, with a slight fade or draw as required, just beyond those bunkers to the left, leaving me with a clear second shot to the green.

A whoosh of the driver later and I could be walking down the fairway, but let us assume (as is often the case) I’m heading off to the clump of trees on the right to search for my wayward ball. Having found the offending article and not wanting to hold up play, I’m now nestling my feet into the leaves and undergrowth in preparation for my next shot, when a strange thing happens; I’m once again drenched with a feeling of certainty about the ball’s destiny, it’s going through that tiny gap in the foliage and will fall gently onto the green. It is not that I hope it is going to happen, for those few moments, I ‘know’ it is going to happen.

Irrespective of whether the ball then finds the green or ricochets off the first tree, as sure as night follows day, I get the same feeling as I address the next shot and so on it goes. Whether it helps me get the occasional one through the trees or not, I really don’t know. I do however believe that life rewards us if we can stay positive, and seldom have we needed to stay positive more than we do now amidst this terrible coronavirus pandemic.

So far, in the UK alone, there have been 28,466 deaths from this awful disease and while statistically that falls short of the horrors of past crises, such as the World Wars, by modern era standards this is an exceptionally testing time for people in the UK and across the world. The current crisis also has its own unique challenges such as the need for isolation, and I can’t think of another major national or world crisis in modern times in which the people suffering have not been able to be together physically to comfort each other.

Coronavirus will, of course, be defeated and although life will never be the same for those who have lost a loved one, life for most of us will in time return to normal. At the same time as we should not lose sight of the human suffering that will continue for some, I believe it is also important to look forward in anticipation of better times to come, both in personal and financial terms.

As surely as coronavirus will be defeated, investment markets will inevitably recover to their previous levels and beyond, and those who have taken the long view by remaining invested will be rewarded. Indeed, although the recent ‘top to bottom’ fall in the UK stock market was 34.93%, it rebounded quickly from that new low, rising by some 22.45% over the following five weeks (albeit that it has since retreated slightly from there). As the old adage goes ‘it is time in the market that counts, not timing the markets’.

So, we can say with some certainty that markets will get back to normal. In the meantime, and more importantly, what about us as people, how have we changed and what will the post-pandemic world look like?

Change for the better

I wholeheartedly believe that we have already changed for the better, and in ways for which I am personally very grateful.

As a keen sportsman, running has over the years formed a staple part of my efforts to stay healthy and as much as I enjoy it, one thing has always perplexed me; why do so many people not smile back or return a friendly hello? Are they pre-occupied or just miserable? Is it for personal safety? How heart-warming then that after ‘just’ six weeks of lockdown, the question no longer needs asking; EVERYBODY now responds with a happy smile and a cheery hello. Have I stumbled onto the set of a remake of Stepford Wives I thought, but no, people really do seem happier and, ironically, less stressed.

The same experience is repeated during walks with my wife; there are so many more families than usual out on our streets and country lanes, toddlers trailing on bikes and yes, everybody says hello and looks happier. I am sure this is happening up and down the country, and long may it last.

Hoping to understand this phenomenon, I set about doing some research into how people are feeling about lockdown and their hopes for life after the pandemic. I am incredibly lucky that some of the smartest, most successful, and nicest families in the UK see Clarion as their trusted advisor, so where better to start?

Many of our clients lead (normally) very busy lives and now would be a good time, I thought, to ask via email a few questions about how they are feeling and their hopes for the future after lockdown. The questions were quite deep and I confess to harbouring a nagging doubt they might be seen as unwelcome during a crisis.

Happily, my fears were unfounded and the responses, for which I am extremely grateful, were quite astonishing, leaving me in no doubt that the smiling faces I’d witnessed on those runs and walks are not an aberration, they are the tip of the iceberg and something significant is happening amongst us.

When asked if anything good has come out of lockdown, hard-working successful businesspeople have spoken of “being around my family full time. A rare and wonderful experience” or “much easier to hear the sounds of nature” and “more time to reflect on your life and the state of the world”, “the slower pace of your surroundings”, “being forced to live a ‘needs’ based lifestyle versus a ‘wants’ based one”. Others have commented “I love the way huge numbers of people are now engaging in nature and their surrounding world”, “the air is fresher, and colours are brighter”. The list is long and from the bottom of my heart I thank everyone who took part for their time and personal thoughts.

The clear message that emerges is that people are enjoying the simpler things in life and are all the happier for it.

The answers to the questions I posed and the changes in our collective mindset they portray are so uplifting, my only fear is ‘will it last’, can we maintain these feelings post-lockdown when the shackles of self-isolation are off and commercialism once again tightens its grip?

I was talking (Zooming) last week with a friend Bob Sheard, somewhat a guru in the branding world. He’s an insightful chap is Bob, so I asked for his take on the world post-coronavirus.

I learned that his company had taken an interesting approach to analysing people’s future hopes and desires post-coronavirus by looking at previous major crises and noting which movies had captured the public imagination at the time (as reflected by the Oscars). Two patterns emerged regarding the type of movies people were drawn to, idealism and gritty realism. For example, World War 2 (Wizard of Oz/All the King’s Men) or 9/11 (Chicago/Gangs of New York). The resultant narrative I’m informed, is that in the face of crisis people want to either escape reality, or confront it and change it.

I sincerely hope that in the wake of coronavirus, the recent positive changes in our outlook on life will be maintained and we are able to harness this new consciousness to confront and change the future for the better.

For me personally, and it might sound strange coming from a business owner, I hope the world will be a bit less commercial, businesses will be more caring about people and that we maintain our new collective sense of what is important in life.

It seems like a lot to ask for, but as I stand here metaphorically nestling my feet into the leaves and undergrowth, I can see light between the trees; and yes, I just know it’s going to happen.

Stay safe and keep smiling.

Ron Walker

Clarion Founder

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