Putting 2020 Into Perspective


The following is a transcript of Episode #40 of the Retire Happy podcast with Roger Gainer.

All episodes of the podcast can be found at Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcast, and Spotify.

Roger: It’s more important than ever to understand that we can’t know everything. Now, the world has become a far more complex place. And if 2020 taught us anything, it could come at you fast, furious and with a lot of unknown. I see a lot of people worry constantly, and we have to know what we can control and understand the things that we can’t control.

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. This episode is all about putting 2020 into perspective. And to do that, we unpack something Roger often says, “We have to know what we can control and understand the things we can’t control.” So Roger shares what we need to be thinking about to gain the confidence, to navigate the unknown ahead, all while putting 2020 into perspective. For more content like this, head on over to gainerfinancial.com. Enjoy the show.

Welcome back, Roger. I’m looking forward to another wonderful conversation here on ”Retire Happy.” How are you?

Roger: Doing well, you know, in some ways better than can be expected, given all the crazy stuff that’s going on.

Clark: It has been a wild time. And I know we like to have conversations that can be relevant any time of the year, but especially right now, the head space that we’re in is we’re starting to think about what’s on the horizon in 2021. So today, I was hoping we could talk a little about 2020, put 2020 into perspective and just get two or three guiding principles of what we need to be thinking about in this upcoming year. So with that said, where would you like to kick off?

Roger: Well, it’s an interesting topic for sure. A lot of us, 2020 has been a brutally rough year. We can focus on all of the incredible upheaval of the year, COVID, we’re in a recession, millions of people are unemployed, homeless populations are increasing. I mean, there’s just a lot of negative stuff. But I’ve learned that sometimes the most negative things that happen to us are our best learning opportunities. And I think what I’d like to try to talk about with you today is some of the things that we can learn having, well, survived 2020.

Clark: Right? It’s an achievement. [inaudible 00:02:50].

Roger: You know, so how do we take that survival and change that to thrive? You know, what can 2020 give us? You know, it’s so easy to fall into that, the negative mindset, it’s terrible, it’s never gonna get better. And I think as we go forward into 2021, I’m gonna wanna focus on those types of self-improvement, how you can extrapolate the lessons that had been available to us because of all the challenges in 2020, and how to really pull those into our every day decision-making lifestyle choices and all of those kinds of things, really to make us better.

You know, there’s an old saying, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think in the case of 2020 that may well be the truth. So I think the first and one of the most important lessons is that we just can’t know everything. This has been a year of rapid changes on the unexpected, of stuff that was really beyond imagination, and that made 2020 a unique experience in most people’s lives. You know, it will be one of those watershed moments in lifetimes.

People will think about their life before and after the pandemic, for example. And of course, we’re not out of it, but we do see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is a virus, and by this time next year, hopefully, we’ll be able to get together and celebrate the holidays together and enjoy all of those gatherings and the events that we used to take for granted.

Clark: So much for granted, so much. You’re absolutely right.

Roger: I remember having a conversation with you, a podcast from January of 2020. And at the time, you know, usually in January, we like to look forward and talk about what’s coming up this year. And instead, this past January, we talked about what’s coming in the next 10 years. Thank goodness we did that because I think anybody that predicted anything for 2020 had to be wrong. Nobody could have predicted this year. People didn’t sit down in January and go, yeah, we’re gonna have this virus. It’s gonna spread like wildfire, and we’re gonna be shutting down the country and you won’t be able to live the way you’ve lived, and there won’t be any sports. I mean, back in the spring, it was so quiet, you know, and I don’t think there’s been a time in history without sports, you know, going back to the Romans and beyond.

Clark: That’s a great point. I mean, it is like a cellular part of humankind.

Roger: Right. Competition, testing yourself, all of those kinds of things. So knowing what you don’t know, we have an old saying in financial planning, if what you thought to be true wasn’t, when would you wanna find out? And in financial planning, I hope the answer for most people is as soon as possible, because you can do long-term damage to your financial security if you’re building your future on incorrect assumptions.

These days are so much information, misinformation, disinformation, you know, we’ve seen that plethora of info create lots of divisions, lots of speculation, as we’ve jumped to conclusions or closed our mind to opportunities. So I would say that one of the great lessons for me is to have multiple channels of data and be able to have an analytical process where I can read and look at things and ask the person, the author, the newscast, or the broadcaster, what is their perspective, do they have an ax to grind? Are they trying to make a point because they’re selling something? Whether it’s a subscription, you know.

I used to say, if you turn on the financial news channel, any of them, and somebody is being interviewed and they’re going on and on about what a great time it is to invest in small cap, third world, emerging market companies, and they are offering a very, very convincing argument for that type of an investment. And then at the end of the interview, they say, “And John, is the manager of the small cap…

Clark: Oh, great.

Roger: …emerging market fund for XYZ mutual fund company.

Clark: Propping up his own thing.

Roger: Right. He has to. I mean, he has to. So there may be some good information in there, but you have to filter that because of the old, “consider the source.” And, you know, it doesn’t mean don’t listen to people because obviously he knows more about…that person would know more about small cap, emerging market growth stocks than I do, because that’s what they do all day. But again, you have to have good filters and not just take things from their face value. And part of the best way to do that is to build a good team, you know, have advisors you can count on. If I need tax advice, I know exactly who to call. If I need estate planning or legal advice, I have people to call. If I need to understand something with real estate, I have folks to call. I’ve built a very reliable network of experts.

And I share that network, frankly, with clients, because one of my mentors, 32 years ago, when I started told me, ”Roger, don’t try to learn everything because it’s impossible. Stuff is occurring and evolving much too rapidly.” So the thing to learn is where to go when you need to know, right. Who do I ask that’s gonna give me reliable information. It may not always be Uncle Bill or Aunt Sally, even though you’re gonna sit around the holiday dinner table and they’re gonna tell you things. So that would be my first recommendation.

Clark: Yeah. It seems like it’s…it’s almost like a moderation of a healthy diet of media and information you’re consuming. You can’t just have one source. It’s like, what you just said, consider the source.

Roger: Right, healthy skepticism. You know, kind of a prove it kind of an attitude. You know, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I tell clients that all the time, the only bad question is one that isn’t asked. Nobody’s gonna hurt you for asking a question. So the second thing I hope, that has really been driven home for me is to expect the unexpected. Like I said, back in January of this year, nobody could have expected how things went, that the NBA season had a three-month interruption in the middle of it. And they still came back and formed a thing called a bubble when finished or other visuals that we’ve seen throughout.

What’s a ventilator, and why are they important pieces of equipment? Anyways, when we make financial plans, especially for people’s retirements, we try to anticipate everything that can go wrong. And by the way, if you’re working with somebody who’s not asking the question, what can go wrong here, and building in a contingency, you may need a second opinion. Because the one thing I know about life is it’s constantly changing and it doesn’t proceed according to a script. So if you’re of a mindset that can roll with the punches, as it were, and you have things in place so that you can deal with unexpected things as they pop up, you know, a lot of times, Clark, unexpected stuff can be some of the greatest opportunities ever.

Clark: I like that optimism in there.

Roger: Well, you know, nothing’s bad for everybody. And for those that can maintain perspective, you know, there was a lot of people who did very well in 2008 in terms of building wealth and financial security. As the next year unfolds, we’re gonna talk about some of those stories and some of the ways that, you know, people have taken hard times and turned them into tremendous opportunities for themselves. And they’re enjoying the happiness that comes from taking advantage of those opportunities. So yeah, expect the unexpected. If you’ve got a plan for what can go wrong and it doesn’t, you’re just that much better off. And if it does, you’re gonna be way ahead of the curve.

Clark: I know you were talking about healthy skepticism, and there’s also a theme I’ve heard you talk about before of gratitude. So I wanna ask you about how that fits in all of this.

Roger: I think it’s really, really important to hold on to that gratitude thought. It’s so easy to think everything is bad. It’s so easy to fall in that negative mind trap of, “Oh, it’s horrible.” “What’s the point?” “Who cares anyways?” You know, we see certain statistics that alcohol consumption is up. In states where marijuana is legal, consumption of that is up. I’ve seen some incidental reports that show that certain types of tranquilizer prescriptions are up, that sort of thing. And it can just feel so heavy sometimes.

So if you take a moment, we try to do this at least once a week, and just clear your mind and decide, what am I grateful for? It can be something as simple as a roof over your head or a warm meal, a friendly conversation. But if you take that moment to stop and consider and create perspective, even at the worst of times, there’s things that we can focus on to give us that optimism to get through. Because it’s just not gonna last forever. The only thing that’s forever is death. Everything else, we have an opportunity until then that we can change it. There used to be a disc jockey years ago here in the Bay area, and he used to sign off his program, “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”

Clark: I like that.

Roger: Yeah, that was…he was a real character. And he would do these news programs on a rock and roll station here, and then he’d interview people. So it was…I really think that that is one of the great things about where we live, is that we can go out and make it our own. We can make a life for ourselves. So staying grateful for those things that we do have, I think helps with the perspective.

Clark: Right. And I feel like a lot of what’s happened in 2020, there has been just tremendous loss and pain. I do think if you look in all of that, there is some moment where I think people have maybe started to reevaluate what matters to them, what doesn’t, you know, maybe what they were valuing before all of this, now they’re like, you know what, that’s really…that doesn’t matter as much as I used to think it did.

Roger: That’s a really great point, Clark. I’ve had some wonderful conversations this year with clients and friends who’ve reconnected with people in ways that they hadn’t, you know. Life has gotten so busy over the past number of years that we’re staying in touch through email and texts. I’ll shoot you a text, you hear that all the time. But is that real communication? Is that the give and take? Is that the personal connection that we all crave? Human beings are social animals. We need to have that interaction.

And it’s been tough with isolation and everything. But I’m hearing more and more that people are connecting. They’re picking up the phone and calling somebody, they’re having a one-on-one Zoom conversation. And they’re touching on things that are deeper and more meaningful. And I think there’s a real opportunity here for a less materialistic society. We were in a situation where it was all about just…it’s about the money, we need money.

I’m gonna get money. The ends justify the means, and it doesn’t matter how I get money or how I build wealth as long as I do it. And if you sacrifice everything in the pursuit of wealth, a lot of times important stuff goes with it, relationships, our health, because we worked so hard and didn’t take care of ourselves, stuff like that. And, you know, it’s kind of a devil’s deal.

There’s an old saying that people spend their health to gain wealth, and then they try to spend that wealth to get their health back. And it almost never works. Stay fixated on the things that are important. I think we can be pretty optimistic that this year has reminded us of what’s important. I think that that’s worthwhile.

Clark: I like that. Well earlier, you were also saying to surround yourself with a good team of advisors, people with the perspectives, no one person knows everything. So that, I think, might be a good transition to that point of just asking for help. And that is where you come into this too.

Roger: Well, yes I do. Asking for help is okay. We wanna be the strong, tough folks, but sometimes you need a helping hand. It’s really just that simple. And the help may come in form of expertise, or it may just come in the form of a kind word or a supportive person. I’ve had some clients who one spouse has encountered health issues, and they’re trying to deal with it on their own, you know, spouse is feeling overwhelmed, and they just happen to let it slip in a conversation.

I have one client, we sat down and talked because the spouse is having a little bit of mental issues, they’ve had some mini strokes. Another family member had mentioned this and the spouse looked at me when I said something, and they said, ”Well, how do you know that?” And I said, “Well, I was talking to so-and-so.” And that’s the whole, “We’re trying to do it on our own” thing. And you could tell that there was a lot of stress, and there were some very important decisions that had to be made.

And once we got past that little bump in the conversation, we were able to have a really deep and significant conversation about the next steps for them to make the best of what they’ve been dealt. It’s a tough situation. We can’t undo the physical damage, but we can make it easier going forward so that everybody involved has more confidence that there’s still family times to enjoy and that human interaction. So it’s okay. It’s okay to ask for help.

There’s a lot of new services and ways to access help. You know, because we’re not meeting individually, there are now websites. If you need to access a counselor or a therapist of some sort, there are just communities through our congregations, our churches, our synagogues, clergy, there are networking groups. There’s all kinds of infrastructure that’s already there, and most people actually appreciate being asked for help and will do so gladly.

So kindly get over your ego, and it’ll relieve stress. And right now, relieving stress is really, really important because stress will knock down your immune system, make you more susceptible to getting ill. And those are things that we just don’t wanna be happening these days. And if you’re worried about your investments or your retirement plan, is it working, if you’ve got questions in the back of your mind and you just didn’t wanna bring them up because your advisor talks down to you or you don’t understand their answers anyways. If you just want somebody to run things by so that you have a little bit more confidence in where things are going, you can give us a call. We are here to talk and we are here to support you.

And one thing I will promise you is I will never guess an answer. If I don’t know, I will tell you that and use my extensive network built over three decades to see what we can do to find you an answer. So asking for help is okay, and I would encourage you to do it. Know where your limits are and have those trusted people that you can work with.

Clark: That’s good. You are a trusted person to work with. Roger, thanks so much for taking some time to share a little about what we can be thinking about as we go on to another year, and lots of things that we’ve learned. And there’s still optimism in all of this, especially when you have that right team around you. So thank you. And as always, I’m looking forward to our next conversation.

Roger: Me too. You take care, Clark.

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.