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The Long Haul


So long as you’re prepared for the long haul, reaching your destination can be a piece of cake. (Tres leches cake… favorite.) 


Friday. 6am. Quiet. The sun is already brightening the sky - the sky you’ll be flying through soon enough. But first, coffee. Freshly brewed and steaming hot, to melt the last of the morning cobwebs away. The kids are still sleeping so you say goodbye with a light kiss to their foreheads. You’ll only be gone a week. Your suitcase waits by the door, packed neatly with everything you need and nothing more. 


The airport is busy, but you have plenty of time. Maybe enough time to pick up The Da Vinci Code paperback and read a chapter. Or to savor a flaky croissant from the little cafe in the middle of the departure lounge. Or — ooh — is that the latest edition of People?


The plane isn’t full yet. You make your way to your seat - business class! You’re excited because you were able to upgrade using the air miles on your AAdvantage account. It’s just as you hoped it would be. Clean, comfortable, but you have a loooong journey ahead. 10 hours, give or take. You don’t think about the jetlag. Paris will be too beautiful for jetlag. You settle back into the seat that feels like a hug and pull out your Macbook for company. Thank god you brought that with you, complete with the latest 3 episodes of Game of Thrones. 


3 hours in. The Nike loose warmup suite was an excellent choice. Emails have been sent. Sparkling water has been drunk - you’re onto champagne now. Episode 1 of GOT has been watched (and OMG it was a good one). 7 hours to go - that’s a whole working day. You wonder if the kids are ok. (They are.) You send them a quick in-flight email, wishing them all a great day at school from 35,000ft. (They’ll get a kick out of that!) A severe case of the fidgets is looming. But that’s fine. You have The Da Vinci Code to scratch the itch of impatience. 


7 hours in. The plane shakes. The bubbles in your champagne rise and pop a little faster. (*ding*) On go the seatbelt signs. The air hostesses hardly notice. Plane now bounces. A lot. Panic. You grip the armrests, fingers going white. All instincts are telling you to run, to escape, to jump out the window. But, of course, you don’t do that. You look around to see how the man over the other side of the aisle is reacting. He seems calm enough. Maybe you’re worrying about nothing.  


BOOM! Another sudden jerk of turbulence drives the 787 Dreamliner down fast. Sweat forms on your fingertips. You scan to see where the emergency exit doors are located on the plane.


At last, you hear the pilot over the loudspeaker. He’s telling you that it’s just a bad bout of turbulence. It’ll be over in a few minutes. He’s telling you not to worry. The calm confidence in his voice reassures you. You shut your eyes. You sit tight. And you wait. Sure enough, the time passes and so does the turbulence. The fear subsides. You wonder why you were panicking in the first place. Time for episode 2 of GOT. And maybe another glass of champagne.


Judging by the natural human reaction of many of us who fly, one would assume that turbulence = a crasher of planes. It’s understandable that when a plane soaring at 35,000 feet takes a walloping on the outside, people are going to feel jittery on the inside. But, 99.9% of the time, that’s all it is. Jitters.


If we look at it in a practical sense, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket. (My good friend Jeff, a veteran pilot, reminds me this fact all the time!) The conditions might be uncomfortable or disturbing, but that doesn’t mean the plane is going to crash. Turbulence is an anxiety-inducer for everybody — including the crew at times — but it’s also normal. Any seasoned pilot will tell you that. They won’t panic about the wings falling off. Their concern will be keeping passengers relaxed - and the coffee in its cups.


Just like a flight, the long-term investment journey can be bumpy. Uncomfortable at times. Not much fun. But, turbulence in the financial markets is inevitable. Necessary, even. And, like airplane turbulence, every sudden drop in value of the equity markets has historically been temporary, not permanent. Economies go up and they go down. Fluctuation may make an investor feel panic, and that’s okay. That’s normal. But panic is a crappy decision maker. Panic tells you to jump out the window when you definitely shouldn’t. You’ll never get to your destination of choice that way. (And Paris would be too beautiful to miss.) 


One of my biggest discoveries from working as a financial planner for 25+ years is that the more successful financial journeys are thanks to sound behavior with money. Especially in turbulent times. And that path to good behavior can be smoother with a trusted advisor by your side. I listen to what matters most to my clients and help them weigh the best options to align their long-term desires, values, and money. You can also consider me an objective sounding board for those times the market mimics a turbulent plane journey and clients want to jump out the window and cash out.


When you’re heading off on a long haul journey, good behavior and an experienced crew by your side make it so much easier to deal with any discomfort and worry that may come with the trip. Because the important point to remember? 


Is that the journey matters as much as the destination does.

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