Most will find from our monthly newsletters that I tend to look at life through my years as a youth. It was a special time when you could savor the simple things life had to offer and take those exciting moments and defeats a bit more in stride. Of course we didn’t have families to support, financial responsibilities to meet, and those never-ending deadlines that collectively seemed to have stolen those precious moments of reflection and appreciation from our lives. We just savored the simple pleasures of life, oftentimes taking them for granted. I always considered myself a “summer kid,” as my fondest recollections revolved around summers spent outdoors at our home on Shelter Island, New York.
After what seemed like an eternity being confined indoors due to harsh winter weather, I couldn’t wait for spring to arrive with the awakening of its colorful plants and trees signaling summer was just around the corner. It was like watching a black and white picture come to life with color and air that smelled so fresh and clean. Once again we were outdoors looking forward to endless hours of bike riding, the start of the little league season, and a host of other outdoor activities along with those special holidays of Mother’s Day and Easter.
This year we are experiencing a different kind of spring, and one not so different in some ways from those I experienced as a child. While we are starting to “awaken” from the “confinement” we’ve experienced over the past few months and resume our “physical” connection with friends, I think we are doing it with a greater appreciation for our home life, our families and the friends who make our lives so special.
During these past few months, I’ve seen couples taking walks hand in hand, families bicycling and kayaking together, neighbors celebrating cocktail hour on the quiet streets in which they live, and with joyful amazement, I watched a group of couples from the condos across the water from our home dancing on the lawn and docks to songs from years gone by. There is no doubt in my mind, while we are experiencing a very different chapter in our lives; our inherent desire to be socially connected and enjoy the simple pleasures life affords us has not changed.
While we are adjusting to our new way of life in how we live, work and play, I find myself saying “History has a way of repeating itself,” and I’m not going to squander the lessons learned from this reset. I am going to savor my times with friends and family, along with the blessings I received, with a renewed appreciation long after the challenges we currently face have passed. I also feel our community will be the beneficiary of this renewed personal connection with each other. I sense more of a community spirit as we look to support those local businesses fighting to stay alive while doing their best to serve the community. Like many I speak to, there is a pent up desire for people to embrace their communities and each other during this time with a spirit of “We’ll get through this together.”
In an article I recently read by internationally acclaimed speaker and bestselling author John O’Leary, he describes a conversation he had with his grandfather during lunch twenty years ago that changed his perception of the meaning of success. With vivid detail he recalls his grandfather’s question, “Do you know why they call my generation the “Greatest Generation?” It isn’t because we survived the Great Depression…. It’s not because we served in World War II…..It’s not because we came home and built the most productive society in the history of the world. They call us the Greatest Generation because we never forgot all the lessons learned along the way. The Depression taught us to value the little things and to live within our means. The war taught us what real evil looked like, what real sacrifice looked like, what real heroism looked like.”
John continues, “The Greatest Generations conception has much in common with the situation we find ourselves in now…. The collapsing markets and soaring unemployment witnessed by my grandfather evolved into the practice of appreciating the little things, living within their means, and taking nothing for granted.
Likewise, we have the opportunity to shift into this mindset for the long haul, instead of shifting back to the over-scheduled, over-extended, avaricious society we found ourselves in before we were rocked by shelter in place orders.”
He concludes by saying, “Although the journey forward remains unclear, the Greatest Generation reminds us that what defines a society during adversity is not only how they respond in the midst of it, but whether they afterward apply the lessons they’ve learned from it.“
This is just one of the many lessons I’ve learned and one I remind myself that “All is well.”
We sat on the tailgate of our parent’s Ford Country Squire station wagon on our way to the beach where we swam all day, made sandcastles and threw jellyfish at each other. As if we didn’t spend enough time together during the day, many times we would sneak out at night to play flashlight tag or just sit and talk about the day’s events or what we would like to do when we grew up. My fondest recollections are those of summer when life seemed sweeter and gentler with each day being more savored.
As a community, we all seemed to grow a bit closer. Today I see something vastly different. While we aren’t consumed picking up the pieces from homes and properties lost during Hurricane Charley, we have been forced to ” pause,” and with that pause, I am seeing people going back to those things I was so fond of as a child. I see couples taking early morning walks and riding bikes together. Many have taken to the water paddling kayaks or taking out those boats that have been sitting idle for months on lifts. I can hear the laughter of neighbors planning impromptu cocktail hours in the streets or on front lawns as they socially distance themselves from one another. Long overdue phone calls are being made and facetime chats are now allowing us to speak with loved ones in real-time.
During this time I’ve often wondered if this was God’s way of bringing us back to the way of life he intended for us. Where those simple pleasures and friendships we enjoyed as kids were meant to be enjoyed as adults, and not to be taken for granted.For those who celebrate Easter and the significance of its meaning, this year will be one that is very different. No longer will people be getting dressed up to go to church. Children won’t be participating in community-sponsored Easter egg hunts and small gatherings with only immediate family for Easter dinner will become this year’s norm.
It seems like yesterday when the New Year started with a bang. The real estate market got off to its fastest start than we had seen over the past couple of years. People were giddy watching the stock market on its meteoric rise reaching an all-time high on February 14th of 29,398.
Restaurants were packed; sports bars were getting ready for college basketball’s March Madness and people were shopping and enjoying life “as usual.” Then came news out of China of a Coronavirus and since then the world has been in turmoil, or so it seems.
As I look back over my life I think of all the upswings and downturns in life I’ve personally experienced and Billy Joel’s 1989 hit song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” comes to mind. In just over 3 minutes, he takes us through a recap of history, highlighting man’s greatest achievements and the devastating events that impacted us all from wars, and worldwide epidemics, to political and social unrest. Nothing summarizes this better than his choral lyrics:
We didn’t start the Fire
It’s been always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it.
So what have we learned from our experiences? Apparently, not much! Instead of looking back to how we overcame Polio, SARS, Ebola, H1N1 (Swine Flu), Aids and Influenza, we have driven ourselves into a panic that is being heightened by the media and the emotional roller coaster inherent in the stock market.
Now before you think I’m making light of this pandemic and oversimplifying the cautionary steps that need to be taken,
this newsletter is being written by someone who during the seventh grade missed over a month of school due to Whooping Cough. Back then it wasn’t common for someone to be out of school for over a month where homework, class notes and assignments had to be brought home with the expectation that I had to keep up as if I were attending class daily.
Throughout the years, I’ve not only experienced the same worldwide epidemics as most of you, but I’ve gone through economic downturns in the Texas economy in the late ’70s with the devaluation of the Peso and plummeting oil prices. While the rest of the country was experiencing great economic growth, Texas was in a recession. I remember gas lines, as do most of you, the stock market crash in 1987, subsequent recessions, Y2K, the crash in the housing market, and who can’t remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Charley with almost no advanced warning and how our area came back better and more improved than ever? Wow, with that recap I’m starting to sound like Billy Joel myself!
Writer and philosopher George Santayana wrote in his book, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” You would think our past experiences would have enhanced our coping mechanisms, but the example we are setting for this next generation is that of panic and hoarding, instead of seeing the opportunities afforded in challenging times and taking advantage of them.
One of my clients who does financial consulting, restructuring and sales growth for businesses recalls the 1987 stock market crash. He was working on Wall Street at the time and ready to go into a corporate meeting when it was delayed by 45 minutes due to brokers actively working the phones. Conventional wisdom would have you think there was a frenzy with everyone looking to sell, but they were swamped with investor calls from those looking to capitalize during the markdown downturn. He said it was during those times the “men were separated from the boys.”If you were to speak with the likes of Rich Dad, Poor Dad writer, and Entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki and Warren Buffet, they will both tell you the times we are presently going through are the times that savvy investors wait for and then jump back into the market.
We saw the same thing in the housing market when Hurricane Charley scored a direct hit on Punta Gorda in particular. Most won’t recall that home prices within a week increased by $50-100,000 due to the demand and limited inventory. Then when the housing bubble burst, again some took advantage of great opportunistic buys in a market that had been over-inflated. Those who had bought their homes years before the unprecedented upswing in the market, found themselves still ahead of the game when the market corrected itself.
I feel when the economy is robust and we are seeing meteoric rises in the stock and real estate markets, for example, we get caught up in the excitement, much the same way we do when the team we are rooting for seems to be scoring at will. What we lose sight of during our euphoria is that adjustments or events are going to occur that are going to temper those gains, and those that anticipate those adjustments insulate themselves to a degree from the drastic downturns we are currently experiencing.
In speaking with Faiza Kedir, Director, Business Development Financial Advisor of the nationally recognized Private Wealth Asset Management company of Lansberg Bennet, she stressed how they are a non-commission based fiduciary, whose sole focus is protecting their client’s investments.
In a letter written to their clients a few weeks ago by Principal Financial Advisor and the company’s Chief Investment Officer, Michael Lansberg CIMA, CFP, it read in part:
Your performance is different than what you see on TV.
Does CNBC have you scared to look at your portfolio? You should sign onto the Landsberg Bennett client portal or the fidelity.com webpage and look at your balances instead of listening to all the gloom and doom on TV. Although you will be down from where we were January 1, we think you will be pleasantly surprised by your portfolio’s performance.
In every balanced account (where we own any amount of bonds), we trimmed our stock positions in January to protect some of the gains from a superb 2019. This has given us some more downside protection in this recent sell-off as well as giving us some “dry powder” for when we see some attractive opportunities in the market.
We have been watching market metrics over the last week or so hoping for an opportunity where we would see an abundance of fear creep into the market.
This morning, a number of our metrics gave us a clear sign that a great deal of fear and anxiety had entered the market and provided us an opportunity to start slowly buying at these lower levels.
Baron Rothschild, an 18th-century British nobleman and member of the Rothschild banking family, is credited with saying that “the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.” It appears to us as this may be starting to happen, figuratively not literally.
We are not suggesting that the market
cannot go lower from here, but we believe this is a good entry point to start adding to existing positions. For long term investors, volatility is a good thing that allows entry points into the market for those that have prepared ahead and have liquidity. We did and you do.
Michael W. Landsberg, CFP®, CIMA®
Principal, Chief Investment Officer
Not being one to make light of the current situation, just as there is a big difference between calm and complacency there is between panic and preparedness as you see from Michael Landsberg’s letter above.
As consumers, we are always in the market looking for good buys and now we are seeing sellers reacting to the market and making price reductions in their list prices.
Don’t think for one second the real estate market is only open a few months of the year. Some of our strongest selling months have been during the summer and fall, as buyers are not going to let the time of year dictate when they will pounce on an aggressively priced home. With affordably priced airfares we’ve seen more and more clients fly down in a matter of days so as not to miss a great buying opportunity. Just remember, this current situation will pass, but inclement weather and high taxes in many northern cities and states will remain and that is what has led to a very active real estate market these first few months.
The silver lining in all this is our real estate market is not characterized by over-inflated pricing, excess inventory and over-leveraged banking industry.
Our industry is very healthy and to coin a phrase from Denny Grimes, a Realtor who I have great respect, “We are selling water, warmth and a way of life,” and that is what will enable our state to thrive better during this time than those from other parts of the country.
One person who through the years has shown me an attitude of gratitude is my very dear friend Donna Gill Cardenas. For those who don’t know Donna, she and her brother Dennis are the owners of Port Charlotte Florist, and in one way or another most likely you’ve either seen or received some of this special lady’s floral arrangements.
When she turned thirteen Donna’s father decided to move the family to Florida as the cold upstate New York winters were taking a physical toll on him and Florida looked like the perfect place to retire, a retirement that didn’t last very long. Her mom went to work for Charlotte County Clerk, Barbara Scott, while her dad bought a small flower shop. Being the entrepreneur he was, Donna’s dad expanded the business to five locations throughout Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. While her three brothers owned and worked in their wholesale garden center, Donna worked for her dad. However, as the business grew her dad felt with perishable items such as flowers it would be more beneficial to consolidate everything into a centralized location. So in 1983 he built the store at 900 Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte where the business operates today.
In 2007, Donna met her husband Steve. At the time she was a foster parent having already adopted one child of her own however, once Steve became her husband Donna became an instant mother to five children. She joked, “No longer was I able to foster as we literally ran out of room!” She added with a smile, “I always wanted a large family and suddenly I had one. Steve’s kids meant the world to me and I was blessed beyond measure, taking my role as being a Mom very seriously.”
Her business partner and brother, Dennis, was there to take care of things so she could care for Dominic. Her sister Mary, who also works with them, was a tremendous help as were the countless other family members and friends who were always willing to lend a hand. It was through their generosity that enabled Donna to be where she needed to be, caring for her son and family.However, it was years ago on a Mission trip to Ecuador that Donna was inspirationally touched by a man named Chavez. Donna said, “Here was a man who lost his entire family to a guerilla militant group and was surrounded by poverty, but he looked like he had a hanger stuck in his mouth as he had the widest smile I had ever seen.” Today she says, “Each day, during my thirty minute drive time to and back from work I use this time to think of Chavez who lost everything and think how fortunate I am.”
Another great example of their creative giving, Port Charlotte Florist is hosting a special class where they donate the time and flowers for 50 people to create two floral arrangements each and these 100 arrangements will then be delivered to families who wouldn’t have flowers for Thanksgiving. Donna said, ” The premise behind this gift is many times special loved ones can’t be together, but the person on the receiving end feels those that couldn’t be present physically were there emotionally to share in this special day of Thanksgiving .” She added, ” It also teaches the giver the reward they receive will be even greater than the receiver, and I for one have always felt we were blessed ten times over the amount we gave.” Donna continued her thought by saying, “I was always fortunate to have parents who were very giving and gracious. I married a man who embodies the same principles in giving of your talents and treasures to comfort others. I’m blessed to be in business with family that also shares the belief we should bless those around us, and to share our love.” With humility Donna said, “Having all these people in my life is what makes me look so good, and that includes Dominic.” “Dominic always wanted to help everyone,” Donna shared with me, and to perpetuate “Dom’s” desire to give, especially in a sport he loved, Donna and her husband Steve have started the Dominic Cardenas’ Scholarship Fund which awards a scholarship to a high school male and female cross country or track runner.
I asked Donna if she had any final thoughts, especially for this time of year when we sit around the Thanksgiving table giving thanks for the blessings we’ve received. She replied by saying, “I think about the day I will die and go to heaven and God says to me, “I gave you a gift. What did you do with the gift I gave you?” Her reply made me realize there is a lot to be thankful for that we take for granted, and that I too need to use the gifts I have to help brighten the lives of others.