Is the Pandemic a Black Swan Event?
The title of this post is intentionally snarky. Black swans are, by definition, not likely to be predicted by too many people.
The pandemic might be considered a black swan but you can find people here and there who did appear to predict it. The pandemic has disrupted all sorts of things. My sense is that “they” know very little about prevalence, rate of spread or R0, the true death rate or CFR, whether or not people can get it again. That we don’t know these things is understandable but that “they” don’t seem to know, is troubling. I try remain acutely aware of how little I know but one concern I have is that we get the “reopen” wrong.
We’ve all seen commentary speculating on a second wave coming in the fall. Will it happen? I don’t know but it seems plausible. So not a black swan but some sort of repeat of the disruptions we had or are still having is also plausible, this threat should surprise no one. In that light, now is the time to get out in front of whatever disruptions or shortages you might be vulnerable to. It’s May and the concern about a second wave seems to focus when the weather gets colder which gives us plenty of time.
In terms of lifestyle matters don’t focus on extra toilet paper, take a more holistic approach and understand what things that if you could not get would make your life more difficult or simply create more nuisances. Those are the items to get out in front of before there is some disruption that you cannot predict. If that includes toilet paper then yeah, get some extra TP. As one example, if you take prescriptions, then as I understand it you can get the entire prescription filled at once but that insurance won’t cover it in the same way. I am not sure, but it’s worth looking into. Our house uses propane for heat and a couple of other things and while I can’t envision what would cause propane supply to be disrupted, we’ll get our annual delivery a little early. No propane would be more than a nuisance, we could heat our house with firewood but we’d have no hot water and would not be able to cook.
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Would a second wave be bad for markets? Who can say for sure but it seems plausible. Given the size of the snap back in the indexes, now would be a good time initiate hedges if you don’t have any in place and presuming you believe in that at all which I do. It is also an opportune time to to make sure you can meet cash needs if you’re withdrawing from your portfolio on a regular basis. I don’t want to try to predict another whoosh down in the market but would advise be prepared for it to happen. Another wave of the virus might not be bad but it wouldn’t be good. Unemployment is at depression levels and while it could be short lived, we should be prepared in case it isn’t.
Risk management is about regularly reassessing what can go wrong whether that is in life, with your finances or even doing something like riding a bicycle (constantly evaluating the traffic around you). That’s always important including right now.