Spokane Journal of Business

As black swan event, pandemic strains coping capabilities

Unpredictable events, however, can inspire future preparedness

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Chances are, you’ve probably heard the saying “life is unpredictable.” Albeit true, this statement can quickly become cliché. 2020 has been nothing short of unpredictable, and for many of us, the events of this past year have left us with many questions about our future. 

Whether it be physically, emotionally, or financially, coronavirus has impacted us all. It’s safe to say, 2020 is one for the books.

In a few years, 2020 may be a distant memory, but right now, we’re reeling from COVID-19 and its impacts to our everyday lives. It’s hard to fathom how drastically life changed, seemingly overnight, and even harder to remember what life was like pre-COVID. While it seems as if we’ve never experienced anything like this before, from a societal impact perspective we’ve actually endured a handful of similar events. Those events have been coined black swan events.

A black swan event, or black swan theory, is a metaphor for an event or series of events that come as a surprise and have permanent, long-lasting effects on society. These events are classified by their rare and sudden nature.

Examples include the 2000 dot-com crash, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the 2008 global financial meltdown. Black swan events change the way we go about our daily lives and coronavirus has been a loud and very recent example. The question is, what can we learn from events like these?

We can learn to prepare, create a plan, and get through this together. We know one thing is certain and that’s change. Change happens every day, and while it can be scary and overwhelming, if we create a plan that can weather the storm of change, unpredictability, and even black swan events, we can endure. While it’s easy to become panicked, concerned, or feel helpless, it’s actually a great time to develop a plan for the future.

Here are some helpful tips on how to manage uncertainty and work toward creating a plan:

•Review your goals. Now is a great time to review your situation and long-term goals. Has this pandemic changed your priorities? What is most important in your life? Are you saving for a one-time event, or looking toward retirement? How much do you need to retire? Do you need someone to assist with outlining these goals? It’s a great time to start a conversation with your family, partner, or a professional financial adviser.

•Avoid herd mentality. The problem with herd mentality is it often lacks accuracy and research. It’s easier to go with a crowd, even if objectively, it is not the best or wisest decision. This is where having a financial adviser whose experience and qualifications can give you peace of mind and provide you with advice on how to stay the course. Instead of knee-jerk reactions, let your financial advisor evaluate the best approach for you, your family, and your investment portfolio. In my 34 years as a financial adviser I’ve endured many black swan events, and with time and data, I’ve come to an understanding that persevering and sticking to your plans during uncertain times almost always results in better outcomes.

•Be mindful of media. It’s important to limit the frequency and the amount of time you get market updates. This is one of the best things you can do to keep finances on track and keep your mental health intact. Chances are if you have a financial adviser, they are aware of any financial-related news and can offer advice and assist you in deciphering the frequently sensationalized news that permeates the industry.

•Take mental health breaks. Make sure to take the time to turn off the television, put away your phone, and pick up a book or go on a walk to give you time and space to process your emotions.

•Be aware of someone in need. Look in your neighborhood, your family, friends, and community. If there is someone you have not seen or heard from recently, reach out and call them to check in. See if there is something you can do to help them in their black swan pond.

Black swan events like coronavirus may shape the way we look at our future, how we communicate, greet, and connect, but they can also make us better prepared for the future. Each black swan event we experience, we learn, endure, and overcome. Coronavirus isn’t the first worldwide pandemic, and it won’t be our last. Instead of dwelling on the unpredictability of life, let’s create a plan and persevere. Take heart, we’re all in this together and that’s how we’ll get through.

Sarah Carlson, a certified financial planner, is the owner and founder of Fulcrum Financial Group LLC, of Spokane. She can be reached at 509.747.2075.


Sarah Carlson
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Sarah Carlson is the owner and founder of Fulcrum Financial Group, of Spokane. She can be reached at 509.747.2075.

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