Welcome to our April newsletter which we bring to you at a time of enormous economic uncertainty. At times like these it’s important to have someone to talk to, so we urge you to contact us if you have concerns about your finances.
The health and economic impacts of the coronavirus increased exponentially in March, as did the response of national governments and central banks. As part of a suite of emergency measures, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cut the official cash rate twice – first to 0.5 per cent and then to 0.25 per cent – as official rates in the US and Europe were cut to near zero. The RBA also began buying government bonds to bring yields down in line with the cash rate, as well as offering a term facility to banks so they can supply credit to small and medium businesses.
It’s too soon to know if these emergency measures will stave off recession (technically two consecutive quarters of negative growth), but Australia was better placed than many countries heading into the crisis. The Australian economy grew 0.5 per cent in the December quarter, up 2.2 per cent over the year, while company profits rose 8.1 per cent in calendar 2019 to record highs.
Global markets remain extremely volatile. Australian shares fell around 17 per cent in March while US shares fell around 15 per cent. Crude oil prices fell more than 56 per cent as a production agreement between OPEC and other oil-producing nations broke down. Australian wholesale petrol prices fell to a 16-year low, while the national average price of unleaded petrol fell to a 13-month low of 127.6c a litre. The Aussie dollar fell about 5 per cent over the month to just below US62c, after briefly dipping below US56c.
Life constantly challenges us with unknowns, yet some of these hit closer to home and harder than others in their impact.
The coronavirus is unprecedented in our lifetimes, so we are charting new territory in the world’s response to this crisis. The uncertainty around its far-reaching impact is creating fear for many around the globe, as governments act to minimise the spread of the virus.
Due to the fast changing nature of the government response to this momentous challenge, there are significant unknowns. There are short term unknowns around the government’s evolving response to the crisis and you could be concerned about the stability of your work situation. And longer term about how will this impact you into the future? Perhaps you’re wondering when you will be able to retire as your super balance takes a dive? Will the economy and businesses survive the disruption? How will you be supported through this period?
You are not alone in experiencing these fears. As humans we like to deal with ‘knowns’ and plan accordingly, rather than be at the mercy of uncertainty and instability. Whether it’s something as big as the coronavirus or a smaller unknown, there are however ways we can become more comfortable with uncertainty.
Planning for the unknowns
Planning for the unknowns sounds like a contradiction. After all, if we don’t know how, when and if we will be impacted, how can we plan for it? Yet planning for potential outcomes can help us feel more in control and be one less worry to deal with.
You don’t need to think of every possible eventuality, but given the challenges society is facing, consider what the implications mean for you and your family. What can you do to minimise the impact?
Then the next, possibly more challenging thing to do, is to accept that you can’t plan for all eventualities and acknowledge that there may be some things out of your control. Focus your attention on what you are able to have some control over and then look at narrowing the list down to what really matters most to you, letting the rest of the ‘noise’ dissipate.
Stay positive and engender connection
The situation is changing rapidly and it’s tempting to constantly monitor news feeds, as it can feel more empowering to feel like you know what is going on. Just be mindful of taking breaks from the updates if they are fuelling feelings of uncertainty. Step outside and enjoy a little fresh air, call a friend or just do something small that gives you a bit of a breather and a little perspective.
The societal impact of the coronavirus is huge and is having a significant impact effect on many of our lives. It’s important to remember that these changes aren’t necessarily permanent and that we are all in this together.
Connection is important in helping us feel grounded and supported during a period of uncertainty. This crisis is first and foremost a health and human crisis, so we need to be respectful of not only our own health, but those of others. We can help those who are more vulnerable. There are many good news stories arising of people assisting and connecting with their neighbours and those in need.
Understanding the impact on the markets
Markets have experienced a significant downward trend as the impact of the coronavirus continues to develop across the globe. This has had a significant impact on investments and more broadly on superannuation account balances.
While it is understandable to feel unsettled, consider your long term financial goals. Avoid making rash decisions based on fear, as this can crystallise your losses and put you on the sidelines for when the market recovers and as history shows, it always does.
Especially during this period of uncertainty, I hope you are keeping well and looking after yourself. We are here for you every step of the way. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need assistance.
Being called childish isn’t usually a compliment, however there are many things we can learn from children. Here are some important life lessons that they can teach us (or remind us of).
No dream is too big
Think back to the earliest memory you have of being asked what you’d like to be when you grow up. It’s likely your answer was a bit out of the ordinary – perhaps you even wanted to be a dinosaur or a princess! When kids answer this question, their imaginations run wild and they don’t stop to think of feasible career pathways to their goal. For them, no dream is too big (even ones not grounded in reality).
While being realistic is an important life skill, as we grow up we can lose the knack of dreaming big. We can talk ourselves down by thinking that our dreams aren’t possible or that they’ll take too much hard work to achieve.
Playing it safe and not challenging limiting beliefs can keep us in a place of dissatisfaction. So whether you want to climb the career ladder, try your hand at a new hobby or go off on an adventure, channel your inner-child – let yourself believe that these dreams are possible and start fearlessly working towards them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Children are encouraged to ask questions and seek help from adults when they need it. You may have had no issues putting your hand up in class, but as an adult you’re hesitant to reach out for assistance.
Research paper ‘Why Didn’t You Just Ask?’ (published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology) explains that “even a minor request can invite rejection, expose inadequacies, and make a help-seeker feel shy, embarrassed, and self-conscious.”i
Perhaps you could do with career advice or need help with a more personal matter. Moving beyond a tentativeness to ask for assistance will help you feel more supported and capable, so ask away. Remember, all of us need a helping hand from time to time.
We’re not that different from each other
When you watch children interact, you’ll often notice how willing they are to make new friends and interact with each other. They might be poles apart in terms of their personalities and backgrounds, yet they tend to find common ground and band together to play.
Adult relationships tend to be more complicated. However, approaching people and situations with an open mind can bring you in contact with a diverse range of views and experiences.
Look beyond your differences and remember you all share the human experience. You may find yourself establishing great friendships and partnerships you otherwise would have missed out on.
It’s great to try new things
Kids are constantly exposed to new experiences as they grow and are generally pretty enthusiastic about trying something they haven’t done before. Yet as we grow older, we become more set in our ways and can be reticent to feel like a beginner again.
Trying new things is a fantastic way to challenge yourself and build your confidence. It can also help you recognise strengths you never knew you had and also pinpoint what you’d like to work on.
Don’t worry what others think
If you’ve heard the quote that begins with “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching …” (William W. Purkey), you’ll know that as adults it helps to be reminded its ok to let loose.
As our self-awareness and understanding of social conventions (where dancing in public can be looked upon as a tad eccentric!) grows, we can also lose the ability to block out other people’s opinions. Enjoying yourself without worrying about how you’re coming across is something kids excel at and adults can struggle with.
While you don’t have to take to tap dancing in the streets, simply letting yourself have fun and not being in ‘serious mode’ all the time can be very energising and uplifting. It’s a fantastic way to feel like a kid again!
So, channel and nurture your inner child – don’t be afraid to dream big and be open to new experiences and soon you’ll be viewing the world with the wonder and wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child.
Let’s be honest, the number of folks who still read their favourite broadsheet over a morning coffee and croissant is dwindling. Most of us these days engage with our financial news on some sort of touchscreen device, with the content often suggested to us by applications and online news feeds.
That’s right. The tech revolution has caused a watershed shift in the way media is delivered and how we consume it. Rather than editorial teams setting the day’s agenda, it is algorithms. And people have mixed feelings about it.
Those who advocate for algorithmic curation say it avoids human prejudice in what gets screen time. The result however has often been that click bait and sensationalist headlines are preferenced over detailed financial analysis.
Now no one is arguing against some sort of filtration in the content we receive. There is simply too much news for any online platform to show us everything that is posted. But there are some questions regarding how this is managed, and how we as consumers can ensure we’re still reading a variety of opinions.
Tale as old as time?
Even in the golden age of print media, newspapers always had either progressive or conservative biases. We took this as a given. By the same token we also expected editorial oversight to ensure some level of impartiality in the topics discussed.
Social media on the other hand doesn’t have this oversight. The algorithms that choose what we see, reflect the views of our tribe.
Now it is news to no one that most of us surround ourselves with people who share our values, online and offline. Problems arise however when these people become our sole source of information thereby creating a bubble, meaning we are not exposed to opinions that differ from our own.
These bubbles can evolve into echo chambers which reject alternative opinions. When this happens, respectful dialogue can turn nasty. We’ve all witnessed comment threads turned sour.
Change on the horizon
The tech giants have been responsive to these issues recently. In 2018 Facebook made landmark shifts in the shape of its algorithm to promote ‘meaningful’ connections over branded content and to reduce the impact of sensationalist, clickbait articles.i
Similarly, Apple News, recognising that algorithms sometimes lack subtlety in their curation, put a team of journalists in charge of curating their feed.ii
A foundation of trust
The question at the centre of this changing media landscape is who we trust. Algorithms? Experts? Our friends and family? The pack mentality we sometimes see on social media has led to many analysts commenting on an erosion of trust in both public institutions and subject matter experts.
But on a practical level we still put our trust in experts every day. We go to a doctor for our ailments, and a mechanic to fix our car. Much like a newsfeed simply couldn’t fit all of the news on one wall, we simply can’t know everything. As a result, we rely on others as sources of truth, or experts in their fields, all the time.
Where to from here
It’s up to you to find an approach towards consuming media that works for you. That might mean subscribing to a variety of publications you trust and doing further research to find out the whole story.
It also means having a sounding board you have faith in. The state of media is noisier than ever and the finance sector is not immune. The volume of opinions we’re exposed to can be daunting for even the savviest of investors.
That’s why we’re here to help. It always makes sense to have an expert in your corner to cut through the clickbait and make sense of financial news as it relates to your individual circumstances, while also thinking big picture and taking into account the natural ebb and flow of markets.
The news changes daily but media has changed for good. If you need help making sense of any of it, talk to us. We’re always here to help.
Norman Sinclair – MastFP, DipFP, AFP ASIC No. 249943.
Stephen Vigh – CFP, B Bus (Acc & Man), Dip FP ASIC No. 239508
Sef Pandzo – BComm (FinPlan) ASIC No. 278807 Kyle Medson – Certified Financial Planner ASIC No. 328912
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