Wash Your Hands

Times are hard right now. Everyone is doing their best to cope with the “New Normal” brought on by the Corona Virus. Working from home. Kids out of school. Restaurants and bars closed down. Sports of all kind shut down. Isolation. It’s at times like this that I am thankful for colleagues who step up and help. One of my colleagues, Bob Seawright, writes a great Blog called “Above The Market” . Today’s article was written by Bob and I thank him for stepping up to provide us this great back story on why we need to wash our hands. Stay safe and enjoy.

Wash Your Hands by Bob Seawright

No instruction has been more consistent throughout the coronavirus crisis than the insistence that we wash our hands. Pretty much all the time. A lot more thoroughly and for a lot longer than we’re used to. The reminders are insistent, too, and sometimes annoying.

But they are important. Therefore, it is appropriate that we recall the tragic story of the patron saint of hand-washing. He’s Ignaz Semmelweis, a 19th Century Hungarian obstetrician who found lasting scientific fame, but only posthumously.

Semmelweis discovered that the often-fatal puerperal fever, sometimes called “childbed fever,” common among new mothers in hospitals at the time, could essentially be eliminated if doctors simply washed their hands before assisting with childbirth. Semmelweis observed that a particular obstetrical ward suffered unusually high instances of the disease and that doctors there often worked in the morgue right before aiding in childbirth but had not washed their hands in between. He speculated that “cadaverous material” could be passed from doctors’ hands to patients, causing the disease. He thereupon initiated a strict handwashing regimen at his hospital, using a chlorinated solution, for all who would assist in childbirth. Death rates plummeted.

Semmelweis expected a revolution in hospital hygiene as a consequence of his findings, but it didn’t come.

His hypothesis, that there was only one cause of the disease and that it could be prevented simply through cleanliness, was extreme at the time and ran counter to the prevailing medical ideology, which insisted that diseases had multiple causes. Despite the practical demonstration of its effectiveness, his approach was largely ignored, rejected, or even ridiculed. Things got so bad that Semmelweis was ultimately dismissed from his hospital post and harassed by the medical community in Vienna, forcing him to move to Budapest.

The story gets even stranger from there. In Budapest, Semmelweis grew increasingly outspoken and hostile towards physicians who refused to acknowledge his discovery and implement his protocols. Vitriolic exchanges ensued, in medical literature and in letters, and Semmelweis was eventually lured to an asylum where his opponents had arranged for his incarceration. He was beaten severely and put in a straitjacket. He died within two weeks.

The Semmelweis approach only earned widespread acceptance many years after his death, when Louis Pasteur developed the germ theory of disease (which offered a theoretical explanation for the Semmelweis findings) and Joseph Lister, acting on the French microbiologist’s research, practiced and operated using hygienic methods to great success. As a consequence, Semmelweis is today considered a pioneer of antiseptic procedures and something of a martyr.

Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz (highly controversial himself) summed things up aptly.

“[I]t can be dangerous to be wrong, but, to be right, when society regards the majority’s falsehood as truth, could be fatal. This principle is especially true with respect to false truths that form an important part of an entire society’s belief system. …In the modern world, they are medical and political in nature (emphasis supplied).”

What has come to be known as the “Semmelweis Reflex” is our tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge when it contradicts our established norms, beliefs, or paradigms.

The Simmelweis Reflex and other decision-making biases compromised the containment of COVID-19. In classic examples of the planning fallacy, governments have consistently underestimated exposure and overestimated their control of the situation. For example, less than a month ago, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of shaking hands “with everyone” and business as usual, while Italy was in disaster mode. He has since reversed course, closing schools and imposing a societal lockdown, and contracted the disease himself.

Stopping COVID-19 will require harsh and difficult measures. St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard suggests that we “[f]rame this as a massive investment in U.S. public health.” It is also a massive investment in survival. Yet, in classic displays of confirmation bias and overconfidence, individuals young and old have readily latched onto narratives that suggested the pandemic might be a general threat, but isn’t much of a threat to them.

Lockdown, Manhattan style: an incredibly grim photo of all the Caviar delivery guys waiting to pick up orders of $70 veal parm at Carbone https://t.co/OWM7fDvoWB pic.twitter.com/leCtqHmzwK

— Tom Gara (@tomgara) March 23, 2020

When we grab a glass of what we think is apple juice, only to take a sip and discover that it’s actually ginger ale, we react with disgust, even when we love the soda. We quite naturally try to jam the facts into our pre-conceived notions and commitments or simply miscomprehend reality such that we accept a view, no matter how implausible, that sees a different (“alternative”) set of alleged facts, “facts” that are (conveniently) used to support what we already believe.

As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Magician’s Nephew, a children’s book that is much more than that, “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” If you want to be the sort of person your children (real or potential) look up to, take this crisis seriously. When treatments for COVID-19 are developed and, ultimately, a vaccine produced, we’re all going to have to take our medicine, literally and figuratively. Until then, stay inside. Practice social distancing. Follow the recommended procedures.

And don’t forget to wash your hands.

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Corona Virus Concerns? Look to the Past

During the last week of February 2020, the S&P 500 lost 11.49% — the worst week for stocks since the 2008 financial crisis — only to jump by 4.6% on the first Monday in March.1 Then we saw an even more dramatic drop as the Corona Virus started to spread and the market tumbled to numbers lower than when Trump took office in January 2017. By all accounts, the drop was largely driven by ever-increasing fears about the potential effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its ultimate impact on the global economy. Although many market observers contend that the market was overvalued and due for a correction anyway, the unpredictability, strength, and suddenness of the historic tumble was unnerving for even the most seasoned investors. If recent volatility is causing you to consider cashing out of your stock holdings, it may be worthwhile to pause and put recent events into perspective, using history as a guide.

A look back

Since the turn of the millennium, the market’s negative response to health crises has been relatively short-lived. As this table shows, approximately six months after early reports of a major outbreak, the S&P 500 bounced back by an average of 10.47%. After 12 months, it rebounded by an average of 17.17%. Although there are no guarantees the current situation will follow a similar pattern, it may be reassuring to know that over even longer periods of time, stocks typically regain their upward trajectory, helping long-term investors who hold steady to recoup their temporary losses, catch their breath, and go on to pursue their goals.

Epidemic Month end* 6-month performance, S&P 500 12-month performance, S&P 500
SARS April 2003 14.59% 20.76%
Avian (Bird) flu June 2006 11.66% 18.36%
Swine flu (H1N1) April 2009** 18.72% 35.96%
MERS May 2013 10.74% 17.96%
Ebola March 2014 5.34% 10.44%
Measles/Rubeola December 2014 0.20% -0.73%
Zika January 2016 12.03% 17.45%

What should you do?

First, keep in mind that market downturns sometimes offer the chance to pick up potentially solid stocks at value prices, which could position a portfolio well for future growth. Again, there are no guarantees that stocks will perform to anyone’s expectations — and decisions could result in losses including a possible loss in principal — but it may be helpful to remember that some investors use downturns as opportunities to buy stocks that were previously overvalued relative to their perceived earnings potential.

Moreover, if you typically invest set amounts into your portfolio at regular intervals — a strategy known as dollar-cost averaging (DCA), which is commonly used in workplace retirement plans and college investment plans — take heart in knowing you’re utilizing a method of investing that helps you behave like the value investors noted above. Through DCA, your investment dollars purchase fewer shares when prices are high, and more shares when prices drop. Essentially, in a down market, you automatically “buy low,” one of the most fundamental investment tenets. Over extended periods of volatility, DCA can result in a lower average cost for your holdings than the investment’s average price over the same time period.

Finally and perhaps most important, during trying times like this, it may help to focus less on daily market swings and more on the fundamentals; that is, review your investment objectives and time horizon, and revisit your asset allocation to make sure it’s still appropriate for your needs. Your allocation can shift in unexpected ways due to changes in market cycles, so you may discover the need to rebalance your allocation by selling holdings in one asset class and investing more in another. (Keep in mind that rebalancing in a taxable account can result in income tax consequences.)

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ISN Network – Open and Here to Help

During this time of uncertainty, ISN Network wants to let you know that our office is still open with the exception of most of our staff working remotely. We are still able to take your applications via email, fax or mail.  All of your calls can and will be answered.

The good news is ISN Network’s model has always been to provide financial planning services remotely through technology, phone consultations and “zoom” technology.   We are in the perfect position to deploy our services more than any other financial services provider and all throughout the states we are in!

More than ever, financial planning should be on everyone’s mind.  Let’s be proactive to help others preserve and protect what’s important to them through proper planning and help them achieve peace of mind.

Let us be the expert while you plant the seed and get the conversation started. We’ll take it from there as your strategic business partner and keep you in the loop, every step of the way.

 

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Nothing Stays the Same

Twenty years ago you could buy a first class stamp for 29 cents and fill your gas tank for $1.11 a gallon. Today a stamp is 49 cents and a gallon of gas here in CA is close to $4.00. What these things will cost 20 years from now is anyone’s guess. The only certainty is that prices will continue to rise. This is especially true when we look at the costs of long-term care services such as home care and nursing facilities.

Historically, the cost of long-term care services has increased approximately 5% per year. That trend is expected to continue. So, how do people who purchase a long-term care policy today ensure they will have enough coverage 20 years down the road when they will likely need the care? The answer is inflation protection.

Adding an inflation rider allows the policy benefits to increase annually to help keep pace with the rising cost of services. This rider is must on any long-term care policy that you write. The problem for most is that the rider is very costly. For this reason we suggest a thorough examination of the different riders.

We have found that the cost for the 5% inflation rider is the most expensive. In many cases we have found it is less expensive to buy more monthly benefit now with a lower inflation rider (say 3%) to accomplish the same objective. The objective is to create a pool of money for when you need it. If you need it in 20 years we can get their with either rider, the 5% or the 3%, but analyzing the cost of buying more benefit with a lower rider is a smart move.

Call us to do this work for you…because in the LTC world…nothing stays the same.

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Finding The Yes

I work with so many great Financial Reps that sometimes I like to sit back and think about what makes them so successful. They are all so different. They come from different backgrounds, different parts of the country, different training, and they all have different methods of doing business. But when I really think about their success, they all have one thing in common. They know how to get a client to say YES. And isn’t that the hardest part ?

I spent the first month of 2020 reaching out to our top reps to find out from them what their best tips might be for getting the YES. After much discussion I came up with 4 great tips that could help us all get to the next level of success.

  1. Talk About the Problems People Have – Ask questions about how and why they have have invested in the past and how those decisions have affected their life. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What would they change if they could?
  2. Listen to Understand – Listening is a skill that all of our top reps highlighted as a key to their success. But don’t listen to respond. It is ok for them to buy for “their” reason. They don’t have to buy for your reason.
  3. Find the Benefit – Features are what a product has or does. Benefits are why someone would want those features – what is happening now that they want to change?
  4. Welcome Objections – Questions gather information, and objections disclose information by revealing what the prospect needs in order to buy today.

 

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Client Feedback? It Can Only Help

It may seem scary at first to open your practice to client feedback, and there are indeed some risks that come with it.

For one, the feedback can feel personal. Mulling over negative comments can become a time suck, so it’s important to realize that client feedback will help your business grow.

You also need the right infrastructure in place to respond to client feedback. Before opening the floodgates, make sure you’re equipped to handle this level of client interaction. If you respond slowly to feedback or not at all, that could negatively affect your business’s reputation just as much as poor client service.

Prepare yourself for client feedback by following these tips:

  • Respond quickly: Set aside time to check comments once a day, whether that’s first thing in the morning or at the end of your workday. Set a goal to respond to comments within 24-48 hours.

  • Set the right tone: Don’t meet rude with rude. If a client leaves an inappropriate or disrespectful comment, be gracious. Other clients will see how you interact, so it’s better to use a friendly tone.

  • Prioritize comments: Negative comments probably deserve a more timely response. However, you should prioritize specific feedback over vague comments. For example, if a customer says she hates your voice mail, there’s not much you can do about this. However, if another customer says she had to wait an hour on hold when calling your office, you can respond right away, quickly apologize, ask for more details, and promise to correct the problem going forward.

  • Show your appreciation: Don’t ignore positive comments. If a client has taken the time to leave praise, show them you appreciate it. That may also be a good time to ask for a testimonial or for a positive review for your website.

Client feedback can make your business better. Whether the comments are positive or negative, you should respond in a timely manner and make every effort to address the problem. Doing so will improve your business’s reputation and, more importantly, your client relationships.

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Your 2020 Tax Guide is Here

2020 is here. And so is your co-branded tax guide
Securian Financial (one of our carrier partners) has provided a tax guide for all to use. Their 2020 tax guide is now available. Download the generic version below or contact our sales team to get a co-branded one with your information and start marketing yourself in 2020.

This piece is one of our most popular value adds. Use it to help expand relationships, grow your business and position yourself as the go-to resource.

Download tax guide
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