I shared my first year in review last year. It’s a process I’ve always gone through personally, but last year I decided to share it here with our Align community, too. Setting aside time to evaluate my priorities and progress for the past year, both professionally and personally, is something I have always looked forward to.
But I was on the fence as to whether I should write another one this year. After getting a few in my inbox from places like my dog food delivery service and a clothing company, I was about to bag the project entirely. But I kept on. Inviting you into my annual reflection feels useful somehow. Connective and honest. I hope you will find some value in it, too.
Markets and Inflation
The big headline for 2022 was the first prolonged bear market in 15 years, and of course the inflation and war in Ukraine that fueled it. I spent most of the year providing context on the history of bear markets.
I talked a lot about how bad it could get and how long it could last. As of now this is still an average bear market, even though it never feels like it; especially if you’re approaching or in retirement. But all the historical data in the world doesn’t really matter because there are no facts about the future.
In my opinion, my most important job is to practice rationality under uncertainty. As an advisor I am never relieved of this obligation. And I spent most of the year doing just that. But here are a few facts that are certain:
The economy can’t be forecast. The market can’t be timed. Therefore, the correct time to buy equities for the long run is whenever you have the money. By the same logic, the correct time to sell equities is whenever you need the money. Everything else is commentary.
A New Workflow
Between all the chats about historical context and how bad it could get, we continued to evolve. We spent the first half of the year implementing a proprietary workflow system to help us improve how we deliver advice throughout the client lifecycle.
This project management system does some of the thinking for us, and triggers specific activities based on important ages and dates in a client’s life. This is something I’ve been dreaming about for many years, and to see it come to fruition is pretty exciting.
We were charting the path on our own here as none of the large firms I’ve been with in the past have ever figured this out; nor have any of the smaller firms I continue to network and mastermind with today.
We continued to invest in our retirement tax planning expertise, which we know separates us from most of our peers. This year we were able to review every single investment in every taxable account to analyze the impact of year end capital gains. This is another improvement in our current systems.
Thanks to our new project management system; our estate planning review process continues to improve. This has made the process of helping our clients (and their attorneys) review and update outdated or nonexistent estate plans just a little bit less painful for all involved.
Helping You Retire
We helped a number of existing clients retire this year, which often feels like the BEST part of our work. One retired on his terms this year after 10 years working together making and taking the big and small steps towards that moment.
Another client who retired in 2021 came and reported that her first few months of retirement were more difficult than she expected. This is important to remember; getting the numbers right is only a part of the planning. The non-financial part of leaving your career is a big adjustment for most.
This is where our work with the Rock Retirement Club has been so meaningful. It’s a group of 1000 people over 50 who are trying to Rock Retirement. I serve as “faculty” in that membership, but I’m certain I learn more from them about how to navigate the various stages of pre and post retirement.
Looking Ahead at 2023
Our big effort this year is evaluating our organization chart at Align HQ. We’ve added more services and a few new clients each year, and made some big changes along the way.
It’s always been a priority to maintain a healthy work life balance for all AF stakeholders, so it’s time to take a look and see what we discover. Keep in mind we don’t expect this to affect how you connect with us, it will likely be more behind the scenes support to start. So stay tuned for updates.
On a personal note, 2023 already feels like it’s flying by. Grace turns 16 in September and I am teaching her to drive in the snow. Lane cooks me dinner and has a candy sales business at his middle school. We’re taking our first cruise for spring break with friends from the neighborhood, and a summer road trip out west to see the Redwoods.
I’m teaching the kids about credit cards and they have to balance their digital checkbook every month. I bought cross-country skis to try to get outside more this winter, but have yet to try them out this year. Another big priority for the year is to try to be home by 4pm more consistently, and become a better cook.
What’s in store for you this year? What made you truly happy in 2022? Or deeply sad? Is there anything you thought was important, but seems meaningless now?
Thanks for being on this journey with us.
And thank you, 2022. Hello 2023.