Uncertainty is Normal

There is much in the news to concern even the most stoic of people, however without ignoring the considerable challenges that the world faces, perhaps we could take some comfort from the past, which reveals that uncertainty is normal.

I think I may have fallen for Eleanor Roosevelt (who would be 130 today). If you follow me on twitter you will have gathered that I’ve not made time of late to blog as I would like to and have taken to more tweets to remind myself and perhaps others that time…and life is short. Of course I had heard of Eleanor Roosevelt, but in truth didn’t know that much about her. I knew that she was the wife of President F.D Roosevelt and that he was a something of a Lothario. The image to the right is the movie poster for Hyde Park on Hudson, which, if I recall doesn’t even include Eleanor, but many of the women in F.D Roosevelt’s life, the image is rather pertinent and could be her obscured by his position – though in practice she wasn’t and even publicly disagreed with some of his policies. hyde-park-on-hudson-movie-poster-2012-1020753603

Eleanor was, by all accounts a brilliant First Lady. Anyway, one of the quotations I came across for her was this one:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along…. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

I am probably guilty of looking at life through a rather narrow lens, one that tends to see the life example with a financial planning element to it. Today as I write the markets are beginning to react, as they always do, to uncertainty in the news. This time it is the anxiety about the spread of the Ebola virus. I am neither a medic, nor a scientist and do not wish to dismiss this as unimportant, clearly it is a serious problem and one that could be devastating if some of our wildest horrors materialize. However, anxiety and bad news are the normal. We have never known the future, which frankly is probably a good thing. This weekend we could spend considerable energy worrying about any number of things, the problems on the Turkish border, Ebola, European economies, ageing populations, limited resources, climate change, war in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Libya… and of course I could add hundreds more.

The financial services industry often trades on the promise of security, something that even the Regulator and Ombudsman appear to occasionally believe possible. Yet in practice the security that money or wealth bring is illusory when real disaster strikes. It certainly can make life considerably easier in the comfort of a fair, prosperous society, but has little value when society collapses. Eleanor Roosevelt says:

There never has been security. No man has ever known what he would meet around the next corner; if life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavour.”

So, we do what we can. We grapple with an uncertain future attempting to make the best decisions from the choices before us and the information available. Uncertainty is normal. Market over-reaction to news good and bad is normal. Strangely, these unusual times are decidedly normal, as history reminds us for those that care to look.

Dominic Thomas – Solomons