Podcast: COVID-19: Stay Calm


Roger: Where are we going? Why are we saving? Why are we investing? What do we want our future to look like?

Clark: You’re listening to Retire Happy with Roger Gainer, president of Gainer Financial and Insurance Services Inc. Thanks for joining us. I’m your host, Clark Buckner.

The world is changing in a way we’ve never seen before, but one thing does remain the same, and that is, we all want to retire happy. But there’s this enormous amount of fear and anxiety right now due to COVID-19’s global pandemic. In the last episode, we talked about what do we do in the midst of global uncertainty, and today, Roger continues this theme in this message of encouragement. You’re going to hear Roger share his number one message to his clients. These are challenging times, and we want you to know, from our team to yours, to be safe out there. Follow CDC guidelines. Roger’s team is standing by to be a resource to you. Together, we will get through this. For more content like this, head on over to gainerfinancial.com. Enjoy the show.

Roger, a lot of things are happening right now, but I’m really glad we can take a few minutes to chat here for your podcast, for your audience, for your clients, for your friends, for their friends. This is going to be an important message, and we’re going to expedite to get it out as quickly as possible. So, this world, there’s a lot of things happening right now.

Roger: It sure is. There’s an old saying: “May you live in interesting times.” I’d like to get bored for a little while. It’s been pretty crazy. It seems, not just day-to-day anymore, it’s hour-to-hour, and in some cases, minute-to-minute. So, we’re making adjustments. We’re all making adjustments, and they say on the news there’s a new normal out there, and we’re trying to keep things as normal as possible for our clients. I understand you’re not working from your normal studio. You’re working from home, just like I am.

Clark: Yup. I’ve got my little makeshift podcast studio here at the house. I’m actually in our closet. I’ve got my little dog. She came in here too. Yeah, so I am camped out in here. It’s the best-sounding place because of all the clothes. But that’s just a little behind-the-scenes thought.

But you’re right, this… I mean, this might be my new normal for a little bit, but, I mean, that’s the whole reason that we are talking right now, is a lot of things are changing fast, and you’re hearing a lot from… Your clients are reaching out, and this is sort of a message for them in what can seem like such an unusual time, well, and also, a time filled with fear.

Roger: Well, fear comes when you don’t know what’s going on, and it’s been hard to get straight information, and the markets, certainly, have been very, very volatile. And when I talk about markets, I’m not just talking about stocks. Bonds, mortgages, gold, oil has hit multi-year lows in the last couple of days. There’s a lot of ramifications out there, but it doesn’t mean you need to give up, throw your hands up in the air, put your head in the sand, say, “There’s nothing I can do.”

We are monitoring things closely. We’re staying on top of these changes as they come along. You know, we’ve been talking, you and I, and to our clients in our messaging that markets have been overvalued, and we’ve been recommending that people take advantage of the valuations that we experienced up to a month ago and reposition, take profits, lay in defensive strategies. I had no idea what was going to come, but when things are overvalued that way, eventually something is going to come along.

Now, nobody knew it was going to be COVID-19 and we’d all be locked in our house. You know, we’ve all been asked here in Marin County to shelter in place for the next three weeks, so we’ve got all our supplies laid in. And, you know, I was going to run out to the store today, but Davey [SP] and I sat down and took stock and said, “You know, we can last three weeks without going to the store. We have enough toilet paper, and paper towels, and cleaner, and food, and you know, sanitizer, and all that kind of stuff. So, let’s just hunker down and stay in touch with our clients.”

Clark, that’s one of the things I hope we get across. I’ve heard from a few people that they’re concerned about calling because they think, “Wow, it’s really busy.” And it is really busy. There’s a lot of moving parts and, you know, we’re not the only ones working remotely. Many of the companies we work with and the brokerage firms, they’re also doing the same thing. They’re cutting back on their staffs, and they’re setting up remote working protocols.

So, I want everybody to know that we’re here for you. Call the office. I’ve forwarded the office to my home. There is a machine that will answer. We don’t have multiple lines, so you’ll probably get the machine when you call. Leave us a message. We will get back to you and we’ll get back to you just as soon as we possibly can. Matt’s also working from home, and we’re going to be in constant communication. He took his desktop home. I brought my laptop home. You know, we have access to the database. We don’t have access to paper files, but almost everything, now, is in the cloud.

So, you know, we’re here to help. Call the office, 415-331-9030. Shoot us an email. We will get back to you. I really want people to understand that. I know there’s a lot of, as you put it, fear, anxiety out there, and there really doesn’t have to be.

Clark: Let’s talk more about that because, I think, on this series, Retire Happy, we’ve been talking now for a couple years, and we’ve not only been hearing things from you like, “Hey, you know, we know something’s coming. We don’t know when or what it’s going to be.” But we’ve also heard some inspiration, and I know you’ve shared stories before. We actually had Andy, a little interview with Andy a while back. Andy is one of your clients, and as I remember, he actually was able, in a time when there was a recession, he was still able to retire happy.

And in moments like this, when there can seem to be so much panic and fear, what story do you want to share from people like Andy, who you’ve worked with in the past, that have made it through the other side, it’s going to be okay? But can you normalize any of this for us?

Roger: Sure. Andy’s story is a good one. He built his dream home and moved into it during a bad real estate market. He was able to sell his home here locally, and he used the proceeds to finance the construction and the purchase and the move. So, that’s quite a lot of activity during a time when people felt there just wasn’t any hope. You know, markets were down by the early part of 2009 by 60%.

I’m going to be sending out a blog post, hopefully a little later this week, if time allows, talking about one of my clients who is an engineer, and he had retired early, and always came in and talked to me about how… He’d bring in spreadsheets and show me how great he was doing. And then, finally, one day, he showed up in my office. We would meet once a year and he would tell me everything was fine. We had some other business together, some insurance things that he’d been referred to me about, but we’d get together once a year for lunch.

Anyway, long story short, he came to me in February of 2009, said, “I just can’t deal with this anymore.” He was concerned that he was going to have to un-retire. At that point, he’d been retired for about 10 years. And we made some adjustments at the very bottom of the market in March of 2009, and today, he’s still retired. I talked to him a few days ago and he said, “All my friends are really stressed out. Their portfolios are taking a beating, and they’re really concerned.” I said, “Well, how are you feeling?” And he said, “We’re fine. We’re living our lives.” Thanks to some of the strategies we were able to put in at that time, they’ve got the income they need, and they’re living the life they want to in retirement.

So, check your gut. How has this felt the last few weeks? If it has been unnerving… You know, in our last podcast, I talked about a client who had called me and… Well, actually, they sent an email, and it was somebody new. We were just starting to work together, and she sent me an email and said, “I got up in the middle of the night. I had so much anxiety, I had to take a tranquilizer. I am just not able to deal.” And when you feel that way, you’re in the wrong stuff. It’s really that simple.

Now, I would put it to you, if you were within five years of retirement, to be fully exposed to the stock market is probably not a great idea, just even if this stuff that’s going on right now wasn’t going on. So, look into those alternatives. It’s a great time, since a lot of our listeners are going to be at home. Sit down with your spouse, sit down with those people that are important to you, and get in touch with what you’re doing. “Where are we going? Why are we saving? Why are we investing? What do we want our future to look like?” It’s a good inventory time. We’re all going to have a little more time on our hands. Wouldn’t you agree, Clark?

Clark: Yeah, totally.

Roger: I know that it’s tough to stay optimistic right now with what we’ve got going on here, but I do want to encourage our listeners to hang in there, to know that we’re here to support you, and that there’s strategies and alternatives that are still available today. In fact, some of them are even better-looking and provide more stability than, really, we’ve had for years. So, I do encourage you to keep an open mind, stay calm. You know, what’s that saying in England? Stay calm and carry on? Because retiring happy doesn’t have to go away just because we have some market volatility.

Clark: I’m really glad we were able to get on the phone because, you know, I’ve been nervous, and I’ve been anxious about all of this stuff too, so I’ve been just waiting when we could have our call today. And you’ve sort of already answered this, but sort of as a recap as we’re starting to wrap up, what would you say is your number one message right now to your clients and to their friends. You know, they’re getting a lot of questions too. What’s the main message that you want to be leaving us with as we’re entering in a season that will be pretty unreal.

Roger: Well, it’s definitely going to be different. There’s no question about that. We are kind of in the unknown. There are some things that are known, of course, and there are still nooks and crannies. Even on the worst days last week, there were still a few things that were up. There’s still a few things that are available. There are investments in different niches that are still going to do just fine, you know, and we’ve kind of been investing from a recessionary anticipation for a while, and those strategies are holding up very nicely. We can talk about more specifics on those kinds of strategies in a different podcast.

But the message I really want people to understand, and I’ve probably said it a couple of times already, is take advantage of the extra time you have now. Maybe you’re working remotely. Maybe your business shut down or your employer furloughed you, and you’re really not sure what’s going on. There are support programs that are being rolled out pretty quickly. We’ll see what it’s going to take to access those funds. They announced today that they want to start getting checks in people’s pockets by early next week. We’ll see how that occurs, but I’m going to stay on top of that.

So, you know, again, we’re a resource for you if you just want to call up and talk through some stuff, understand what kinds of options are available to you right now, today, and just process whether it’s a good time to hold on, or should you sell and let things calm down. Are some of the strategies we’ve been using still working? Absolutely. The conservative stuff is still doing really, really well. So, given where interest rates have gone, your bond portfolio is probably a little more at risk than it’s been before. We have bond alternatives that are looking stronger, literally by the day. We have a white paper from Dr. Robert Shiller, a Nobel Prize winning economist, on some of those strategies. If any of our listeners would like a copy, just give me a call and we’ll get one out to you.

But mostly, mostly, this is the time to figure out, “Why am I saving and investing?” Once you’re clear on that, decision-making becomes much easier. You know, if I’m just investing to make money, well, then it’s a really scary time. But if you’re investing to pay for college, or if you’re investing to start retirement on time, there’s still plenty of options available to you. We have a number of tools to help you with that process. Clark, you’ve mentioned the Thought Organizer before. That’s available on our website. Download it. It’s a great conversation starter for you and a spouse or a significant other.

And mostly, make considered, not rash judgments. I really want to encourage people to pay attention to the guidelines that have been issued. Stay home. Stay safe. Sanitize. Wash your hands. My fingers are kind of starting to crack a little bit from all the handwashing. But, you know, it’s really the only way this is going to be manageable, is if we all manage it together. This really is going to take everybody pitching in.

So, you know, think globally, act locally, and stay focused on what’s really, really important to yourself. And if we can help in any way, shoot me an email, call the office, and we’re here for you.

Clark: Thanks, Roger. Those are comforting words in a time that is pretty scary, but awesome to know that you are standing by and just being able to put those nerves at ease. So, until next time, I am looking to when we can chat again soon. And hopefully, by the next time we talk, I don’t know, maybe our spirits will be lifted a little bit more, but until then, just like you said, stay healthy, stay safe.

Roger: Thanks, Clark. Take care of your family.

Clark: Roger L. Gainer, RICP, ChFC, California Insurance License Number 0754849, is licensed to sell insurance and annuity products in California, Illinois, Arizona, and Nevada. Roger L. Gainer is an investment advisor representative providing advisory services through HFIS Inc., a registered investment advisor. Gainer Financial and Insurance Services Inc. is not owned by or affiliated with HFIS Inc. and operates independently.