Now had the sun rolled through the year’s full circle, and the waves were rough with icy winter’s northern gales

Virgil – Aeneid

Winter conditions have been late to arrive this season, and suddenly it has all seem to come at once. At a time when we may start to expect the more gentle West winds of Zepharus, we were dealt with the harsher, bitter North Winter winds of Boreas. And we seem to have come carried away with these winds. The storms Ciara and Dennis have brought forth all manner of headlines, and this has been roundly topped off by the Coronavirus.

To lead with a low-key manifestation of panic, recently some friends of mine have complained on social media that their local shops have sold out of toilet paper due to the coronavirus mania. While commentary like this might be well-meaning and aiming to calm the public opinion, it is ignoring a fundamental fact. The fact being that behaviour like this should be completely expected in situations like this. People who believe that things are going to become scarce are always going to act irrationally.

Boreas, the god of the Northern Winds brutally abducted Orithyia either out of anger caused by her father King Erechtheus rejecting him, or Orithyia herself refusing his advances. In fact the fable of Boreas abducting Orithyia is a reminder for how the news and the media have abducted the public opinion along the way, whipping up the hysteria, perhaps in an attempt to divide us.

Strategic Preparedness

In a similar way, the connected decline in global equity markets should also be seen as completely expected. Not in the way that it is pre-ordained or that anyone could have predicted it of course, but in the way that no market behaviour should take you by surprise.

Not to say that storms and worldwide epidemics are not devastating in their own way to those affected, but on the most part the headlines are short-lived. Financial independence on the other hand is much less specific, a lot more amorphous and much longer term. Unless you are directly affected, these daily swings should not influence your behaviour unless you are taking the opportunity to improve your situation or the situation of others.

We build walls to protect us from outside winds, but occasionally these can be overcome. How do you deal with it? By planning. One arm of financial independence is preparedness for future events, through having either an emergency fund, or ‘FU’ money. What is this, other than emergency preparedness?

Although it may seem strange, there are some people who place value on preparing for running out of toilet paper. But there is a difference between rational preparedness and blind panic. Although both could be considered normal evolutionary behaviour, the first is what we engage in every day of our lives through planning for financial independence. Blind panic, on the other hand, should always be expected of others. Our systems, policies and ‘just in time’ models are not resilient enough to cope in extreme conditions, and so while we might consider ourselves superior for planning ahead, we should treat with compassion those who panic, for simply for acting to try to protect themselves in a failing (or correcting) system.

4 thoughts on “Panikos!”

  1. I had a quick peek (couldn’t help myself) and I think I’ve lost at least a year, ie my portfolio is back to what it was early 2019. I think it will go down some more before recovering and who knows how long that will take.

    I do wish I had spare cash to deploy but can’t risk dipping into my emergency cash reserves so I will just invest as normal, ie when I get paid!

    Lots of sport being cancelled so soon, no more matched betting!

    1. Hi Weenie – I imagine it’s down a bit more since you last looked, at lease it has been for me! I’m just gradually trimming any fat off my matched betting accounts and putting it into my ISA. I can hold it in cash there if needed and gradually (albeit currently more frequently) drip it into investments. Otherwise, as it’s a flexible ISA I can pull the cash back it out. I’m getting to the point now where I’ve taken as much out of my matched betting pot as I can. I do have some regular saving accounts cooking away in the background too, but can’t really withdraw them yet.

  2. It’s been a weird few weeks hasn’t it? Somehow I’ve managed to time my own retirement almost perfectly with the market crash. I’ve got enough cash to weather the next few years if needed, but I still can’t quite believe how I managed to time it.

    1. Hi Baldrick, it has been eventful…I think I was reasonably well prepared for it, but the speed of the crash took everyone by surprise. It sounds like you’re in a good place if you’ve got a couple of years of cash… hopefully this market will rebound as quickly as it dropped and it won’t take a couple of years to do so! Thanks for the comment and all the best for the next few weeks.

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