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.
As I’ve grown older I seem to have gained more of an appreciation for history and particularly for those who played such an important role in our country’s rich heritage.
Compared to some other countries that have been in existence for hundreds, and in some cases thousands of years, how our nation has evolved in less than 250 years boggles the mind. It is equally hard to comprehend that just under 250 years ago a country that started with only 13 colonies, who bravely fought for their independence from the oppression of a motherland, is today arguably the world’s foremost super power and provides a quality of life second to none.
While the growth of our country is the envy of most, it hasn’t been without conflict within its borders as well as those on foreign soil. Details of these wars are graphically written. Volumes of pictures depict the ravages of war and the sacrifices made by so many of our servicemen who came to the aid of our allies, while preserving the freedoms we oftentimes take for granted today.
Scarred by the horrors of war they had to endure, most of those who I met that served in World War II or the Korean War never wanted to talk about the war.Oftentimes I’ve tried to envision the fear they faced as they stormed the beaches of Normandy or the naval battles at Midway or during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. As I came to realize later, to relive these moments was too painful, and for so many years the emotions these men and women have lived with have been bottled up inside. They came back to little or no fanfare and were expected to resume their lives as though they had been on an extended leave of absence from work. None of those I ever spoke with ever mentioned post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and how to cope with it. They all said, “Our duty was to serve our country.”
My generation was the last to experience the draft. Unfortunately Vietnam was not a “popular war,” as most felt it was a political war and not one that was waged to be won. Unlike those who fought in previous wars, these brave men and women didn’t come back to a hero’s welcome and to this day many feel the sacrifices they made have largely gone unnoticed.
Today, we face a different kind of battle within. We have political parties who seem more concerned with preserving the best interests of the party than the nation of people they serve. We have a generation that has grown somewhat immune to the sacrifices so many have made in order for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. With advances in our military’s technology and capability, we have greatly reduced our loss of life on the battlefield. Video games depicting realistic war settings can be fought from the safe confines of a couch with little concern for the consequences. Unless there is a friend or family member currently serving in our military, the sacrifices made by those protecting our freedoms is going unnoticed as their sacrifices have been moved to the back page behind the infighting going on in Washington. As each member from what many call “The Greatest Generation,” passes, the appreciation for their ultimate sacrifice may soon be totally forgotten.
Years ago I had a client who was of Russian Jewish heritage. He spoke eight languages fluently and was brilliant when it came to world politics and what the Russians would do throughout the world, which he outlined in a letter many decades ago to the Governor Connelly of Texas. In the late seventies when Russia and the United States were once again at odds, I asked him if he ever saw the two countries going to war. He quickly replied, “Absolutely not! They (Russia) understand the ravages of war as it has been fought on their soil, where an American President could issue a declaration of war and be out on the golf course later that afternoon.” He continued by saying, “You know how America will be brought to its knees?” When I said I didn’t have a guess, he replied, “Economically!”He continued by saying, “When Cuba started to flex its muscle, Russia slapped them on the hand and said, “Don’t wake the sleeping giant.” To this day I have never forgotten his prophetic words.
On this very special holiday where we proudly display our patriotism with flags, parades and firework displays, I’m reminded of the hard fought battles that continue to this day in order to protect our country’s values and way of life. For me, it is not just this day that I give thanks for my freedom, but every day when I get that subtle reminder just how fortunate we are when seeing a service member in uniform or a veteran wearing a hat inscribed with the ship or war in which they fought. Their valor I will never take for granted, something I hope every generation to come will do as well.