Financial Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda

All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little did.

A poem by Shel Silverstein

As I write this newsletter to share with our partners, friends and loyal clients, the worldwide number of confirmed Coronavirus cases has just passed 1,000,000. The financial impact of the virus  on the financial health of many Americans has been troubling. As the “curve” of the virus stubbornly inches upward, the average investor can’t help but think back to hearing the first news out of China and wonder if he “shoulda” liquidated his entire investment portfolio that day, then “shoulda” run to Costco to buy out the entire inventory of Charmin jumbo packs. We know one thing, he “woulda” been better off if he’d ignored the ugly coronavirus bear market.

Investors young and old are facing two challenges: 

  1. Don’t panic. It’s scary to watch your financial future disappear and it’s tempting to bail out. Don’t.
  2. Be sure you have a balanced portfolio that can tolerate future wild stock market rides.

The U.S. and worldwide economic situation was healthy before the coronavirus outbreak. Recovery should eventually be swift. Expecting a full restoration to pre-COVID-19 markets is only a Shoulda, be we can pray for one little “did.”

Do You Really Know St. Patrick?

Ah, you say in your best Irish accent, “the lad is the patron saint of Ireland who drove those slimy snakes off the Cliffs of Blarney into the Irish Sea while wearing a shamrock on his Irish flat cap.”

St. Patrick, bishop

Uh no. Actually, born Maewyn Succat to Roman British parents, he was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16 and forced to work as a shepherd in Ireland. At 22, he converted to Christianity and escaped back to Britain. He was captured again by the French where he learned to become a cleric and missionary for, of all places, Ireland. Choosing the name Patricius, he had a vision that caused him to return to Ireland and eventually become their patron saint and bishop.

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

However, the journey from shepherd slave to Christian Bishop was not easy. He was often forced to leave to preach and live on small offshore islands where over time he gained enough followers to ensure his safety back on the mainland. He eventually converted the sons of Kings and witnessed the building of over 300 churches.

Ah yes, the snakes. There are early written records of a legend similar to the Biblical account in Exodus where Moses and Aaron face off with the Pharaoh’s sorcerers, staffs in hand. The staffs turn into snakes, and Aaron’s snake-staff consumes the Pharaoh’s snake staff to win the day. However, Patrick lived in the 5th century and the absence of snakes in Ireland has be recorded from as early as the 3rd century.

So what about the shamrock? It’s not impossible that St. Patrick actually used the 3-leaved Shamrock to introduce his converts to the concept of the Trinity. The Irish already had triple deities and held the number three with high regard, so Patrick’s use of the shamrock may have helped him win favor with the Irish.

All this said, in 1737, “The Wearing of the Green” was being played at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, a full century before the huge influx of Irish immigrants to New England after the great famine in mid-19th century Eire. St. Patrick’s Day was indeed destined to become an American tradition. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Reap What You Sow

When you decide to invest for your financial future, what do you consider to be important? Do you want to accumulate money for retirement or to purchase something big, like real estate? Do you need money to get your children through college or to start a business? You may also think about your risk tolerance, impact on taxes, and personal comfort zone. As Stephen Covey says, always start with the end in mind.

For Christian investors, this saying may have a deeper meaning.

Reap What You Sow

As investors, we ask ourselves these questions:

  1. What is the best use of my money? Should I invest now or use my income to pay off or avoid debt?
  2. What is my objective for investing? Do I want safety, long-term appreciation, or high gains? 
  3. Where and how much should I invest at my age? Should I invest while I’m young, have more disposable income, and can recover should my investment choices fail? Or should I wait until middle age when I am making more money and thinking of retirement?
  4. How much time do I have before I need to turn my investments into cash for living expenses? 

As Christian investors, we may also ask:

  1. How does God want me to invest my money? We should be good stewards by investing wisely, a concept emphasized in the Parables of the Talents in Mathew 25:14-30
  2. What investment opportunities should I seek? Our investment objective should always be to make the world a better place. No one can serve two masters. We cannot serve God and worship money at the same time, as we read in Luke 16:8-13
  3. What should be my attitude about the future? Keep a wise and humble attitude about the future and avoid boasting about wealth. Proverbs 27:1
  4. Can I be sure my investments will be profitable? Trust in God and make thoughtful choices about investments. Romans 8:29

Someone paraphrased the challenge of Christian life as “living in the world without being part of it.” There are no easy answers as to how to do this except in Scripture. Understanding God’s Word on wealth, money, and stewardship may not offer financial success, but we will all reap and sow more confidently by investing according to His teachings.