Happy New Year! Later this month, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the next American President. He has made an audacious promise to vaccinate 100 million Americans within the first 100 days of taking office. It is an ambitious, optimistic and highly laudable objective.
One of the concerns I have in promoting the idea of advisors being overly biased toward optimism (read: Bullshift) is that the attitude can involve a tacit reluctance to be reasonable. Allow me to explain what I mean. Too often, I have been dismissed (i.e. don’t Semmelweis me) because my message is allegedly negative, pessimistic or bearish. That’s not my intent. In fact, I consider myself to be an optimist. My concern is that for some people – and for many advisors – optimism comes at the expense of realism… and that worries me.
As we embark on a New Year full of hope for a better tomorrow, I cannot help but feel anxious. I worry that the next 100 days or so will be more challenging than most of us are prepared for and I worry that part of that lack of preparation can be traced back to the “don’t worry; be happy” mentality being repeated as if by rote by the industry I work in. Being positive is a good thing but being positive to the point of downplaying material risks is less good.
If we can make it to the second week of April without having a major market correction, I will be pleasantly surprised. My critics will likely quibble regarding my use of the word ‘pleasantly’. For my part, I will likely scoff at their being ‘surprised’. To be clear, I very much want 2021 to be unambiguously better than 2020 was. My simple fear, with respect, dear reader, is that it will be worse. One way or another, I think we’re likely to find out in the next 100 days or so.