Wow, What a Year.
So, what can we say about COVID-19 that hasn’t already been said? It would be hard to overstate how much of a challenge the pandemic has been … for everyone.
Part of what has made COVID-19 such a shock to us all is that we have become really good at preventing pandemics over the last century. Per-capita death from infectious disease in the US has declined 94% from 1900 to 2010 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Amazing progress made steadily over a long period of time. But that’s the thing about progress – it almost always happens steadily over a long period proceeding at a pace that goes almost unnoticed. Setbacks, on the other hand, usually come at us swiftly and unexpectedly: September 11th, Pearl Harbor, The Great Depression, to name a few. Not to diminish the relevance of these events, and the pain and suffering that these events caused, but they are now just a part of history; a history of progress in our country and around the world that has steadily reduced the percent of people living in poverty while allowing you and I to live at a time when the standards of living are the highest the world has ever known.
It’s that way in the stock market too. The history of the market is one of compounding progress routinely punctuated with scary, nerve-wracking declines. Progress doesn’t always happen slowly and methodically though. When confronted with a challenge as great as Covid-19 the spirit and ingenuity of people can do amazing things. A vaccine for coronavirus was developed in a matter of months when it usually takes years, often more than a decade. Truly an amazing accomplishment. How did this happen? I’m not smart enough to know, really. I’m sure stories will be written in the years to come that will detail the effort, skill and determination of those involved who believed it could be done. I am quite sure, however, that a sense of realistic optimism was part of the equation. I feel sure the scientists responsible for developing the vaccine were realistic optimists. How much better investors might we be by developing an attitude of realistic optimism? It’s hard work, to be sure: envisioning and believing in progress and a better world ahead while having to control our emotions when we experience setbacks along the way. But, just as it has always been, the path to success is likely to be having a plan