Turns out it’s been raining all along

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, June 17, 2020

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by Andy Millard

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“Problems are problems, even when they are not a problem to you.”

This simple truth was spoken to me last Thursday by TJ Jeter, a Black singer-songwriter and elementary reading teacher from Union, SC. To emphasize the point, he added, “It’s still raining, even if you have an umbrella.”

Turns out it’s been raining all along. Some of us with umbrellas just haven’t noticed. The phenomenon shows itself in several ways.

One way is financial. A debate has been raging over the last couple months that pits health against economics: should we open the economy to save jobs, or keep everyone at home to save lives? This question looks increasingly moot.

Stock markets plunged in March on fears of a recession—or worse—but came roaring back in April and May as many states reopened their economies. Then last week, as cases of Covid-19 spiked in many areas, investors suddenly realized that the economy may be at the mercy of the virus for the foreseeable future. Sick or scared people don’t make the best customers. On Thursday, the market acknowledged that fact by sending stocks plummeting.

Turns out it had been raining all along.

The rain also appeared in the form of protests—thousands of them, across the country and around the globe—kindling a long-overdue conversation on race in America. Black Americans have been disproportionally dying at the hands of police for generations, but the George Floyd video exposed the appalling problem in a way that millions found impossible to ignore. As more videos surfaced and more deaths were exposed, more injustices were recognized. Turns out this too had been a problem—just not to people like me.

This particular rain has been falling for a long, long time. Many of us with umbrellas are finally starting to see just how hard.

Here’s where it gets complicated—but also, perhaps, easier to understand. On top of issues with law enforcement, Americans of color have been bearing an outsized share of the coronavirus burden, both in terms of the disease itself and the resulting economic fallout.

They are more likely to get sick from the disease, more likely to die from it, and less likely to afford the health care needed to get over it. They’re the most likely to be unemployed by the pandemic and the slowest to be rehired. They’re less likely to work in the types of jobs that can be done from home. On average, they have less in the way of savings to carry them through the storm.

When it rains, it pours.

I think this is why we see so many white faces in the demonstrations happening across the country—including here in Polk County. Most people are fundamentally fair-minded. It’s raining really hard right now. We say we’re all in this together. If that’s true, then we must recognize that some of our fellow travelers are getting soaked to the bone. And we must recognize that far too many of them are Black.

At this point you might rightly ask, isn’t this supposed to be a column about money? Oh, it is. Events like these have a profound impact on your money. We’re all in a sort of financial pit, and it looks like it’s going to be a long climb out.

Which may be a hopeful sign. As our nation and our community begin to climb, maybe this time we can do it together. Maybe we can appreciate one another a little better, give one another a boost, and start to rectify some of the inequities of the past.

TJ Jeter closed our conversation last week with a simple request. “We have two different experiences, and we don’t hate you guys for not living it, because we don’t want to live it. We certainly don’t want you to live it. We just ask to be believed when we express it.”

Sounds reasonable to me.

Andy Millard, CFP® is a retired financial planner and former principal of Millard & Company, an investment management firm. He does not offer financial planning services; this column is not intended as advice but rather education, commentary and opinion. Consult a professional advisor. If you have general questions about financial planning or investments, feel free to submit them to Andy at camillard@mac.com.