GOSHEN — Goshen financial adviser Matt Szynal is suited up for game day.
“We’re here to help. This is the Super Bowl for financial advisers,” Szynal said by phone Tuesday from his Edward Jones office.
An adviser for nearly 14 years, Szynal has been meeting virtually with clients as of late due to travel restrictions and social distancing related to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Everybody has been very even-keeled. This is obviously a medical issue first, which has kind of crept and become an economic issue, and a lot of clients understand that,” he said. “We’ve been really just revisiting their goals and their long-term goals to make sure that this kind of short-term fear and fluctuation in the market really isn’t taking them off the path to hit those goals, whether it’s retirement or sending kids to college.”
Diversification is a key component of the company’s portfolio assembly, Szynal explained, allowing clients to have a buffer against market volatility in climates of economic uncertainty.
In other words, investors need both an engine and airbag, he said.
“If we do run into an issue like this … you don’t want to have to sell your Eli Lilly stock when it’s trading at 75 cents on the dollar or it’s down 25%. That’s a great, quality company that, six months or a year from now, is still going to be in business; it’s most likely going to be higher than it is today, so you don’t want to sell those good, high-quality companies,” he said.
“You want to have some cash on hand in things like CDs and money markets and bonds that do the opposite of the market — when the market goes down, those investments go up. So if you do have a client who has a short-term need, ‘Hey, I need a new car’ or ‘We need some money for a roof repair’ — which everybody in Goshen’s doing right now — you have some cash on hand to be able to get you through those tough times.”
Asked what kind of advice he’s offering clients, Szynal broke down a general, five-point volatility checklist to help people navigate their respective situations.
• Avoid the temptation of panic.
“We live in a 24-hour news cycle where you’re getting bombarded with news in print, on TV, on Facebook. There’s a lot of information out there, but what you have to remember is this won’t last forever,” he said. “Every pharmaceutical company on the planet is working on a therapeutic to help people, you know, get better faster or not get as sick. The government is stepping in to help make sure the economy continues moving forward.”
• Measure yourself against long-term goals.
“If you are retiring in 10, 12, 15 years, you have volatility, you have short-term fluctuations, but you can’t look at your account and base its merit on the highest it’s ever been. You want to kind of look at that long-term road and stay on track,” he said.
• Put time on your side and evaluate the next one or two years.
“The media wants us to worry about the next one or two minutes,” he said. “But when you’re looking at a portfolio of investments, we’re talking in years, not in days.”
• Be diversified.
“If you have a good mix of stocks and bonds, you have a lot less volatility than quote, unquote, ‘the market’,” Szynal said. “ ... So, if you’re diversified, you’ve got that airbag built into your portfolio, you’re able to ride out these times and you’re not forced to sell good, high-quality investments at the wrong time.”
• Lean into the volatility.
“If you do have cash on hand, if you have a long time before you need this money for retirement, there are great high-quality companies that are trading for 80 to 70 cents on the dollar that are really well-run companies. They’re very well-managed, they’re diversified, they run great businesses,” he said. “This is a national opportunity to actually go out and buy shares of some of those companies that you have confidence in that will help you reach those long-term goals.”
As some assess investments, a portion of the U.S. population has little to evaluate.
According to the 2018 Federal Reserve Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, nearly 40% of Americans faced with an emergency expense of $400 would either not be able to pay for it or have to borrow money or sell assets.
“I feel for them and think the impact of what we’re experiencing here is probably less about the stock market and probably more about employment and their ability to weather this storm, depending on what kind of job they have,” said Everence Financial Chief Investment Officer Chad Horning by phone.
“ … I think we’ll find our way through this. I do think it will take a long time to recover. I think if people are believing this will be over quickly, they will be disappointed eventually. So, we’re preparing for this to take some time.”
Horning has worked for the Goshen faith-based financial institution since 1999. In his CIO role, Horning said he’s responsible for the investment management team, among other duties.
His organization’s enduring the Great Recession “doesn’t make it easy or fun this time around, but we’ve experienced it. I would say we’re actively managing through it,” he said.
“ … A major downdraft like this for the markets, if someone was heavily invested in some stocks, it took years to come back out of it. We try to work with clients to make sure that they’re diversified, that they have investment strategies in their portfolios that behave differently based on the different economic environments, and so the headlines right now are of the worst-performing stocks or even stock classes; not everything is down that much. Our goal with clients is to keep them diversified across a broad range of asset classes so the down isn’t quite as hard, then they have room to recover over time.”
Szynal and Horning spoke to The Goshen News prior to the early Wednesday morning announcement of Congress putting the final touches on a $2 trillion stimulus bill.
Asked what he believes to be the most crucial aspect of the proposed legislation for regional residents, Szynal did not hesitate in his response: saving small businesses.
“At the end of the day, the largest employers are small businesses. And these are not businesses that did anything wrong; they’ve simply been mandated to shut their doors. So you think of local restaurants and nail salons,” he said.
“The large corporations, yes, are absolutely vital. You look at the airlines and Boeing — you want to make sure that they’re around at the end of the day because not only do they employ a lot of people, the supply chains that supply them employ people, and there’s a domino effect. You have to make sure the large corporations that are hugely affected by this continue to operate. But it’s those small businesses that need lines of credit, who need access to capital, to make sure that they can make it through as well.”