The Past Decade, Where Have We Been?
We are ending a decade that a decade ago we could not have predicted. And, ten years from now, we may be wondering how did we end up here?
In 2009, Barack Obama became president, won a Nobel Peace Prize and promised to overhaul healthcare with a “Public Option.” Sandra Sotomoyor joined the Supreme Court. Politics were divisive—the worst ever, said many people. Could anyone have seen the political divide worsening over the next ten years? Could anyone expect that the “public option” for healthcare would be among the least dramatic changes proposed among the candidates for office in 2020? I certainly did not think so. I recall talking with many business owners that year about their “worries and concerns” over the new President’s promises of “hope and change.”
In 2009, we were just beginning to recover from what we would later call, the “Great Recession.” We didn’t even understand, at the beginning of 2009, what happened. We were in shock. Our retirement accounts seemed doomed to go down, or so I was told by clients and friends. In spite of the stock market’s dramatic bottom in March 2008 and more dramatic recovery, at that point in time things seemed dire. It was easy to be a pessimist and hard to be optimistic. Financial service companies created all sorts of creative retirement income products, alternatives to investing in equities. And who would have predicted that the next ten years—ending with a surprisingly good 2019–would be among the best years for equities of all time?
In 2009, scandals made headlines, but could anyone see the #MeToo Movement in the various infidelities of movie stars and politicians captured in mobile phone pictures? Not likely. Perhaps all of this is was past due and it took this last decade of year-after-year scandals to bring about the cultural changes happening all around us in 2019.
In 2009, technology seemed amazing, at that time we had the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, the combination of a mobile phone and social media would turn out to be one of the biggest forces of the next decade. Perhaps the stock market knew. Valuations for those three companies, Facebook, Twitter and Apple were high back then. (1)
The market is not always right but it is one of the best predictors we have. If you’re wondering about the market, talk to your wealth manager. As we look at the world around us today, and think about low interest rates, government debt, and high stock prices, our answers to your questions will be optimistic. We remember when things were unsettling, and how we could not see our way out of the situation we were in, just ten years ago.
2019 was a predictably surprisingly good year. And so was 2009. If you’ve forgotten, check out this brief “Jib Jab” video of 2009 in review. You may enjoy a little blast from the recent past.