Don’t fear the bear

05 N1508P50004CThe investment world is full of colorful terms, but perhaps none is better known than “bull” or “bear.” As an investor, you’re typically rooting for the bull market, when prices are rising. But you also want to protect yourself for periods when prices are falling. Now that we’ve entered a bear market — typically defined as a market in which stock prices have fallen 20 percent or more from their recent highs — how concerned should you be?

First, consider where we’ve just been. For 11 years, from 2009 to early 2020, stock prices kept rising, with some interruptions, resulting in one of the longest bull markets on record. During this time, stock prices rose around 400% — which means we entered bear territory from an extremely high point. This doesn’t mean the recent losses are insignificant, but market pullbacks present more of a pothole, rather than a complete detour, on the road to your financial goals. If you’ve been investing over time — at least a decade — you still have likely made significant progress toward your goals.

Here’s another point to keep in mind: Bear markets are a normal occurrence in the stock market. There have been eight previous bear markets since 1945, not including the current one, which have lasted an average of less than one year. The good news is bull markets have, on average, lasted five times longer. Of course, as you’ve no doubt heard, the past performance of the markets can’t guarantee how they will perform in the future.

While we can’t predict how long this bear market will last, given the ongoing uncertainty of the coronavirus health crisis, it’s highly likely a rebound will eventually emerge, as has happened before.

So, given all this, how should you respond to what’s happening? When market volatility rises and the value of your investments declines, you might feel tempted to abandon your long-term strategy in favor of one you perceive to be lower-risk. But instead, ask yourself some questions:

  • “Have my long-term financial goals changed?” You’ve probably had your long-term goals for quite some time. For example, perhaps you’ve always wanted to retire at a certain age and spend part of the year in a different location. Do you still have this goal today, despite all that’s happened in the markets? The answer is likely yes. If that’s the case, you probably don’t want to abandon the investment strategy you’ve been following, especially given the unique nature of the current market volatility.
  • “Am I comfortable with my risk tolerance?” Some investors know that markets will go through occasional shocks, and can live with this knowledge, but others worry to the point that it negatively affects their quality of life. If you are in this second group, you may need to re-evaluate your risk tolerance and, at some point, adjust your portfolio accordingly.

  These are challenging times for all of us, as we think about the health of our loved ones and our ability to achieve our financial goals. But it’s important to have confidence that the current health crisis will eventually pass, and that normalcy will return. And as an investor, remind yourself that investing for the long term requires patience and discipline. 

Paradise by the dashboard light

04 person holding bmw steering wheel 2526128Watching Dr. Fauci testify before the Senate about what will happen if the country opens up too soon and the COVID-19 Cooties resurge got me pondering the Greek myth about Cassandra. Cassandra had the ability to predict the future — like Dr. Fauci. It got both of them into trouble. Let’s take a ride in Mr. Peabody’s Time Machine to see what we can learn from Cassandra about what lurks down the road for Dr. Fauci.

Once upon a time, in an Aegean Sea far away there lived a beautiful maiden named Cassandra. Cassie, as her friends called her, was not just an ordinary gal. Oh my, no. She was a princess, the daughter of the King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. She was a very special lady. Pretty as a picture. But such a pity she as was considered to be a nut by the world. Her beauty put Snow White
to shame. She was such a looker that
 she came to the attention of the god Apollo. You can probably see where this is going.

Apollo was smitten by Cassie. He had to have her. In an effort to woo Cassie, he wrote her a beauteous love song that was later stolen by Andy Griffith. Apollo took a bath, got all gussied up, dry cleaned his best toga and went to see Cassie at the king’s castle. Apollo stood outside the tower where Cassie was sleeping. He started plunking out a song on his lyre. For those of you who slept through Greek mythology class, a lyre is not a Washington politician. A lyre is sort of harp that Greek gods would play when they went courting their lady loves. Most of his song has been lost in the mists of time and swamps of the Potomac. The fragment that remains gets Apollo’s point across pretty well. Apollo sang: “Sure as the vine twines round the stump, you are my darling, Sugar Lump.” No gal, not even a Princess of Troy, could resist a suitor armed with such an amorous song.

Cassie came down from her ivory tower to see what Apollo was doing. He told her right then that he had to have her for his girlfriend. Cassie was intrigued but knew about Apollo’s reputation as a lady’s man like Freddie Mercury. She was concerned that any love affair with Apollo might not last. Being a smart gal who knew how to take care of herself like Sharon Stone’s character Ginger in the movie “Casino,” Cassie decided to ask for some insurance in the event things didn’t work out. Instead of getting a safety deposit box full of jewelry, like Ginger, Cassie asked Apollo to give her the gift of prophecy.

Apollo was so hot and bothered by the prospect of getting down with Cassie that he resembled Meat Loaf in his immortal song, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Meat Loaf is out parking and smooching with his girlfriend in his car. Things are about to get jiggy. Mr. Loaf sings “Though its cold and lonely in the deep dark night/ I can see paradise by the dashboard light/ Ain’t no doubt about it we were doubly blessed/ Cause we were barely  17 and we were barely dressed.” Mr. Loaf sings a few verses using a baseball analogy about getting to first, then second, then third base. (Remember baseball?) He is trying to steal home when suddenly his girlfriend throws up a red flag.

  She says: “Stop right there/ Before we go any further/ Do you love me? /Will you love me forever?/ Do you need me?/Will you never leave me?/ Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?/ Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?” She concludes with the haunting lines: “What’s it gonna be boy?” Mr. Loaf is so worked up he promises her anything: “I started swearing on my mother’s grave that I would love you till the end of time/ So now I’m praying for the end of time so I can end my time with you.”

And how is Mr. Loaf’s song relevant to Cassie and Dr. Fauci, you might ask? Cassie promised Apollo some paradise by the dashboard light if he would give her the gift of prophecy. Apollo granted her wish. Then Cassie refused to live up to her end of the bargain to snuggle up with Apollo. Apollo was really cranky, but he couldn’t take back his grant of prophecy. So, he laid a curse on Cassie that even though she could accurately predict the future, no one would believe her. That’s why when someone is called a Cassandra it means that person is predicting doom and gloom.

Fauci’s testimony about the COVID cooties that will result from reopening America too soon puts him in Cassandra’s category. He is predicting troubles. Dear Leader doesn’t want to hear any of that kind of negative talk, he isn’t going to believe Fauci’s prediction. Magical thinking is the order of the day in D.C. Fauci better update his resume. Fortunately, unemployment benefits have been extended.

Truth to power: Where is the outrage? Part II

I am yielding my space this week to Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. It is refreshing when a North Carolina politician stands up and boldly speaks out in defense of our fundamental American freedoms. It makes no difference that Hudson is a Republican. He is asking the questions all North Carolinians and Fayettevillians need to be asking — regardless of their political affiliation. We need to know things like when will life get back to normal? When will the country open up again? How long will it take for us to recover?

 These questions transcend political affiliation, and it’s disappointing more people are not speaking out and objecting to the curtailment of their rights, lives and livelihoods.

 Where is the outrage?

 Personally, I’m proud of Hudson for standing up for what he believes in and not being afraid to make his positions known to the public. That’s bold and fearless leadership that deserves, if not support, at least our respect. There are far too few people in our community with such conviction willing to speak “truth to power.” Tisha Waddell, Matt Richardson, Troy Williams, Margaret Dickson, Karl Merritt and Pitt Dickey. Like I said, too few.

  In conclusion, I hope that more citizens, regardless of race, political affiliation or creed, will come forth and use their First Amendment rights to express how they feel about their freedoms and liberties before the harsh reality sets in that freedom isn’t really free.

Thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

                 — Bill Bowman, publisher 

When will life get back to normal? When will the country open up again? How long will it take for us to recover? These are the questions I hear every day from folks at home and, the truth is, nobody can say for certain. Just like you, I’m eager to get back to the way things were so we can restart our economy and go on with our lives.

By now we are all familiar with terms like quarantine and social distancing. For the most part, it is encouraging to see that these strategies are having an impact. However, I believe that now is the time for us to begin to look to open the country through a safe and deliberate process, especially for communities or people that are not at high risk.

Many business owners I have met with over the phone or video conference say they have gone to great lengths to make sure that their employees and customers they serve are in a safe environment. Because of these efforts, it has become clear that more businesses are able to safely open, and as I said during a town hall last week, I believe this is the path we need to be headed down while maintaining proper safety precautions.

As part of this effort, last week I partnered with Lowe’s to secure 100,000 face masks for our communities. Together, we delivered 50,000 masks to Cabarrus Health Alliance in Kannapolis and 50,000 masks to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, I have worked every day to get workers and health care providers the resources they need. I’m proud to work with Lowe’s to make 100,000 masks available for our region, which will help meet the needs of health care workers and patients on the frontlines. This is one small, but important step in advocating for more resources for our community so that we may reopen the country.

With this in mind, I believe one group of people that should return to work immediately is the United States Congress. I have joined many of my colleagues in repeatedly calling for Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to bring us back into session so that we can negotiate a bipartisan response to the coronavirus crisis. However, instead of bringing us back to work together on behalf of our country, this week we were in session one day to vote on a partisan, 1,800-page Democratic wish list written in secret in Pelosi’s office.

Not only did this $3 trillion bill — the largest spending bill in American history — fail to address real needs of the country, but it also included a laundry list of items not even related to coronavirus. These included direct payments to illegal immigrants, a blanket release of federal prisoners, a taxpayer-funded bailout of union pensions and an overhaul of our election laws. That is no way to serve the American people.

It’s beyond time for the House of Representatives to come back to work. Folks are hurting and expect us to work together on the problems facing our country. Thankfully, this bill has zero chance of ever becoming law. But the time for politics is long over. I’ll continue to work every day to help our community and get our country back to work.

If you open, they will come ... maybe

03 maskwomanEver so cautiously, North Carolina has begun opening back up for business. Unlike other nations with stronger federal systems, in the United States, each state is making its own decisions about resuming commerce. North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, is following Alexander Pope’s advice to “be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.” While other states have opened up more extensively, North Carolina will do so in stages, a strategy that does not please everyone. Heavily armed protesters have appeared on Raleigh streets, begging the question of whether they plan to shoot someone if they cannot get a haircut or go to the mall immediately.

The numbers of people diagnosed with the novel virus all around the world, in our country and our state are astounding and growing, as is the death toll. But numbers, no matter how big they get, are just numbers until each of us puts a face on one of them. That moment came for me earlier this month. A dear friend of more than a decade did not respond to my happy birthday text in April, and I now know why. She was fighting COVID-19 with all her might.                                          

Let’s call her Ellen. She is a 42-year-old woman, happily married with two children, one a freshman in college and the other a rising ninth-grader. In late February, I had enjoyed seeing photos of Ellen and her husband on Instagram, taking their first vacation ever without their children — a cruise. By then, we were all aware of COVID-19 and cruise ships in quarantine, and a shadow of alarm crossed my mind. The cruise was an obvious culprit for the virus, but Ellen came home and stayed home but did not come down with the virus within 14 days. Then came the call that her freshman’s university was shutting its doors because of COVID-19. Ellen and her husband drove five hours to scoop up their student and clear belongings out of the dorm, which was full of hundreds of other students and parents doing exactly the same thing.

Ellen got COVID-19 and was isolated from her family, communicating only through walkie-talkies, and sleeping most of the time until it was clear that she had recovered.

As Memorial Day approaches, Dr. Anthony Fauci, our nation’s top infectious disease expert — and other medical voices — continue to warn of ongoing viral spread, renewed outbreaks, a second wave of infection, and the “needless suffering and death” that will come if our nation opens up too quickly. No one wants to hear this, and we are all stir crazy. We all long for our former “normal,” whatever it was, and we are all anxious to establish something close to it in a post-COVID-19 era.

Our immediate reality is, of course, that we are not in “a post-COVID-19 era.” We remain in the thick of the pandemic, though without its initial urgency. As of this writing, North Carolina is meeting most but not all of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention benchmarks for reopening, and all but one of our 100 counties report COVID-19 infections, and most have had deaths.

Our long-term reality is that each of us will have to figure out our own safety based on our family circumstances, our age, our risk factors and our risk tolerance. Getting comfortable with reopening will likely be different for each of us. For me, at least, and for the time being, it will not include crowds or trips away from home without a face mask. Researchers say a COVID-19 vaccine is at least a year away from proven development, with mass manufacturing, distribution and inoculation more distant yet.

As for Ellen, she is healthy now and just as stir crazy as the rest of us. No nights out with her hubby, but they are thinking about a weekend road trip with the family, masks handy.

See you soon!

09 PeopleThe thrill of gathering with old friends and making new ones around the spectacle of a live concert with a favorite musical artist is hard to beat. Whether the music  is locally, nationally or internationally popular, there's something about those events that level the ground for us socially. The music doesn't care if you pulled up in a new sports car or spent your last dime on a ticket. It's just there to please.

By the time you read this, we've missed more than a dozen opportunities to hang out together at local venues for an evening, afternoon or weekend of some ground-leveling. But, soon that will all end. And when it does, we need to remember how much we longed for time together during the isolation chamber known
as COVID-19.

I can hardly wait to walk the concourse in search of party food and artist memorabilia or stroll the aisles of artisan vendor booths at a local festival while greeting unmasked acquaintances. I genuinely miss freely gathering with people, and it only took a few weeks of semi-forced isolation to send me into a social tailspin.

The truth is, we're made for relationship — built that way from the origin of humans. Way back near the front of the Bible, God says, “'s not good for man to be alone.” And, it's not. We can see that more clearly now than perhaps ever before — unless you were a space station astronaut or something, in which case you already knew.

So my question for you today is this: What will you take away from this COVID-19 thing? Will you be more thoughtful in accepting and following through when invited to local gatherings? Will you celebrate extended family birthdays and reunions with new vigor? Will you still choose church online on a busy Sunday, or will you carve out the time be with people you love being with?

It's easy to stay in the same lazy habits of avoidance when gathering freely is possible, but I hope after a period of standing six feet apart in line at the grocery store and returning home because there's nowhere else to go will help us return to the truth that we are built for relationship.

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