For those of you not familiar with these personal updates, I write about my personal, business, and financial life and provide updates every six months (you can read the back ones if you want here).
Having spent so many years building a business and dealing with the constant pressures of family and business life, I’ve found it somewhat challenging to just step off the roller coaster. I do sometimes feel pangs of guilt that I’m not part of the worldwide rat race.
But, I am busy, just at a completely different pace than when I was running a business.
I’ve come to appreciate that I don’t need to be super busy with work in order to be personally fulfilled, although I am at times conflicted. There are moments when I miss the chaotic life of running a business, and the feeling of significance of being the president.
All things considered, and between managing my apartment buildings, personal investment portfolio, multiple boards, a new not-for-profit organization I started in February, and writing on this blog, I find that I’m busy enough to keep my mind engaged.
For now, I’m going to more or less maintain the status quo, with the strange exception of not being able to travel for the foreseeable future, which quite ironically, is something I was hoping to be very actively engaged in well into my next stage of life. Incidentally, my wife and I were in Florida and Panama this past winter, and the main image for this blog is of me overlooking downtown Panama.
My travel dreams aren’t done. They’re just on hold until a vaccine arrives, the world opens up, and the threat of catching a virus has disapparated. Until then, I’m riding out the virus at home, and certainly not getting on an airplane for the foreseeable future. The part that’s most disconcerting is the when. When will a vaccine become available, and when will the world return to normal?
And therein lies my own personal dilemma. Some of my semi-retirement life centered around the diversity of moving between places, visiting with family (in Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax), friends (in Los Angeles), living (in our home in Florida), and traveling to new, and exciting destinations around the world. For the time being that has stopped, and I’m left with a void.
On a somewhat related note, and with regards to filling the time void, I’ve been looking at new business and investment opportunities, although I have to be sure not to rush into anything new that I might later regret once the world opens once again.
I have to remind myself that post-business sale, and during the summer of 2018, I rushed into too many things and found myself stressed once again waking up at 3 and 4 am anxious about work. I don’t want to go back there.
Life is short, and I constantly remind myself that I need to live each day to its fullest, and so I ask myself the following question quite frequently: “If today were the last day of my life, am I about to do what I want to do today?”
I’ve been confronted with mortality and the fragility of life more frequently over the last few months. In mid-March, my mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital in Ottawa where she lives, and she, unfortunately, passed away in late March. Not being able to visit with family and have an in-person funeral has been challenging.
In and around the same time, my grandmother, who is now 98-years old, was admitted to the hospital. She was fortunately released, but, has been back and forth into and out of the hospital since. I have another close family member who is also in the hospital at the moment, all the while we can’t visit any of our family members.
We would probably have spent the better part of the past few months in Ottawa and Montreal, but, because of the pandemic, we’ve not been visiting.
On the other hand, we’ve now got a full-house. Our son, who was going to move into his own apartment post-university graduation decided to stay at home and ride out the pandemic. My daughter (along with her boyfriend) who was going to stay in Halifax for the summer also decided to come home, and my father-in-law, who lives in Ottawa, came to stay with us for about 5-weeks this spring. My wife and I have really enjoyed having a full-house once again.
I guess they say that every cloud has a silver lining. Well, the silver lining from this pandemic, (I’m trying to see the glass as half-full) is that we’ve gotten to spend some quality time with our kids and father-in-law. We have dinner together every night, play games, watch TV, and go for walks.
Like the rest of the world, we’ve all been “stuck” in the house, for the most part. Again, there is a silver lining in that I am home for dinner every night, I’m not commuting anywhere, and there’s been tranquility of not having to rush between places. I do however find myself missing the camaraderie of in-person meetings, and although Zoom and on-line video conferencing have allowed me to stay connected with the world, it’s not quite the same.
The work has continued nonetheless. The traffic for this blog has exploded, at times hitting upwards of 4,000 to 5,000 daily page views on a somewhat consistent basis. I continue to write weekly blog posts, I created an online course on building profitability into your business, launched that in mid-May, and I launched a podcast in mid-June.
I continue to work with my property manager on my apartment buildings, which are usually much more active with construction projects during the warmer weather.
My investment portfolio has been quite stable and has been relatively unscathed despite the extreme market volatility. I was somewhat anxious as we moved into late-March, not because I was worried about my own portfolio, but, about the stability of the financial markets in general.
The Fed has over-injected liquidity into the markets which caused most of the worldwide stock indices to take a sudden turn upwards. So, from a dramatic 22-day 33% fall in the S&P in early March we’ve recovered most of the market’s losses, this, despite the continued fears of a resurgence in the virus, an economy that’s barely limping along, and a heated worldwide political environment.
My portfolio dropped by about 5% from peak to trough, and is now actually up by about 5% on a trailing twelve-month basis, and up by about 0.2% year to date.
Some of my individual stock holdings have done terribly, in particular, some of my REITs, Brookfield, and preferred share holdings, although these stocks continue to pay their dividends with higher yields, they haven’t recovered their market losses much. I have a healthy amount in some select tech stocks including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Google, Facebook, and Shopify, which have all held up really well and have helped keep my portfolio stable.
I’ve increased my allocation to gold starting in early January and continued buying gold and to a lesser extent silver, which combined now account for about 1.2% of my portfolio, however, I will continue to increase my allocation to these metals over the next few months. I’m concerned that the over-injected liquidity and indebtedness of all major economies will create a surge in inflation. Frankly, I’m not overly confident in the long-term viability of the US and Canadian dollars, and so an allocation to gold is prudent.
Overall, the last few months have been interesting, to say the least. Frankly, between my family’s health issues, the fragility of the world’s health and economies, and the George Floyd crisis, the last few months have been unsettling.
There’s a Chinese curse that says “may you live in interesting times”.
Needless to say, times were interesting before COVID, and even more exasperated since, however, looking through my optimistic crystal ball, my sense is that things are about to take a turn for the better as we head into 2021. Here’s hoping anyway.