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Hello - Goodbye!

You Say Goodbye, and I say Hello!

I heard this iconic Beatles tune while limping thru yet another DC traffic delayed drive last week. As periodically happens with me, stars align, and a decades old set of lyrics provides a seemingly perfect musical narrative for one of the myriads of life puzzles that I (and hoping “WE”) mentally juggle daily in our personal and professional lives.

While gazing thru my windshield at a DC plated navy blue Lexus with a curled edge “Fire Dan” sticker clinging to its rear window, Beatles Lennon & McCartney’s words from this 52-year-old former hit (I had to look that fact up) triggered some interesting current day analogies for me (let’s just call it a slow day!). As this song seems to capture the climate of polar opposite social and political opinions that existed in the boiling social cauldron of the rebellious 60’s (“you say stop, but I say go, go, go”), as I those words to life in my late 50’s – I drew some less intense parallels but parallels none the less.

Professionally, as equity markets continue to claw higher, we continue to answer clients increased desire to say “goodbye” to any further upside in the markets. When faced with this line of thinking, we remind folks, equity markets have been making new highs…..well, forever! Graphic artists have clearly illustrated markets don’t go up consistently over a short time period, but when stretched out over multiple quarters and years – stocks have continued to generate positive returns. Applying one the chorus to the long term future opportunities in the markets - “I don’t why you say Goodbye, I say Hello”. Market bursts like this year tend to heighten investors desire to do something – with many initially wanting to make drastic risk reduction changes in their allocation. A little trimming is prudent – it’s called “rebalancing” and we’ve been encouraging investors to do this for years. Might there be some periodic “missing” of a few percentage points of upside market moves – sure! But the goal isn’t to capture all the “ups” – its to minimize the adverse impact of the “downs”!

Recently, we’ve been introduced to several individuals going thru their own “Hello / “Goodbye” moments. Over the past months, we’ve walked along side individuals as they navigate financial implications of divorces and upcoming retirements. To say the least, the myriad of emotions that accompany both divorce and retirement are vast and quite complex. In all situations, individuals were emotionally saying “goodbye” to a past way of life complete with its memories, peaks and valleys. Regardless of the lenses they viewed that life with (favorable or not), there was hesitancy to wave “goodbye” to the past and embrace one’s future chapters with an optimistic “Hello”. My friends and family will be quick to share that for me, change is tough. For many its paralyzing. With everyone’s pace of life seeming to mirror that of world class skier Lindsey Vonn hurtling herself downhill perpetually inches away from a certain crash , finding the time to explore and articulate ones inner thoughts on “next chapters” is virtually impossible. This overdue step is the basis for creating ones forward-looking road map. Playing a role in crafting the very early stages of their next chapters “hello” has been extremely gratifying.

After mentally muscling thru those musical analogies (and moving roughly 1.5 miles on Route 66), the personal side of my brain raised its hand and asked to play along. As many of you know, our daughter Meaghan is graduating from Penn State’s Bellisario School of Communications in the coming weeks while our son is thriving at the Cleveland Institute of Art. As all kids have, each has experienced their share of life’s bumps and bruises – some families close to ours may argue each has had more than their fair share.  As they punch their way thru their early 20’s, both Birnie children are excited and passionate about their chosen current career paths, but not without the proper dose of normal apprehension – each a bit hesitant to completely say “Goodbye” to the comfort of familiar surroundings and habits. To their futures, two proud (and somewhat relieved parents) excitedly say “hello, hello - hello”!

Similarly, (as I have shared with many) my 84-year-old father “Pete” has been suffering from dementia for a few years now with the past 12 months becoming very tough for all involved – most particularly my mother with her front row seat to the painful erosion of his memories. We are fortunate he is in the care of an outstanding assisted living residence on the shoreline of CT, but the emotional toll on all is significant. As a family, we have been forced to say “goodbye” to the stoic and strategic thinking quintessential New Englander (literally right out of central casting) we knew for so many years. The “hello” portion of this equation is tougher to arrive upon – but for me personally – the “hello” is to the heightened role I now will play in my family’s life – continuing to represent and instill in my children (and hopefully “down the road” grandchildren) the values and integrity that were the cornerstone of Pete’s character.

The black and whites of “Hellos” and ‘Goodbyes” are the aspects of our lives events that garner the most attention and headlines as we tell our quick stories. Regularly I’m reminded that it’s the “middles” – life’s messy “grays” that fill the hours of our days, weeks and months in between that generate the material for the endless chapters that ultimately shape our foundations and legacies.

As this is the season (and specific day) for giving Thanks - I am very thankful to be in a professional position working with and for a wide variety of interesting and caring people – people who have become much more than client names in an advisor’s book of business. People and families who have evolved into friends that are woven into the fabric of my family’s life. From a personal perspective, I am fond of saying “Life’s been more than fair to the Birnie Family”. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Douglas Birnie

Managing Director

A bit long - but gives folks something to read when they need a 15 minute break from the "holiday action"!