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Anything But Certain

I haven’t watched a ton of football games this year, but I did manage to catch the instant classic between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs last night.  It was a great back-and-forth game throughout, but really turned up the heat in the 4th quarter.  If you can believe it, both teams managed to score twice within the last two minutes of the game, and the Bills seemed to have struck a fatal blow to the reigning AFC champions, scoring a touchdown on 4th and 13 to put themselves up by 3 with only 13 seconds left on the clock.  Their players and fans were going bananas, knowing that they had certainly just punched their ticket to the AFC title game.

Or so they thought…

The Chiefs had zero margin for error.  After getting the ball back, their first play was a 19 yard pass that took all of 5 seconds off the clock.  Their second play was a 23 yard bullet that took another 5 seconds of game clock.  They found themselves at the Bills 31-yard line, in position to hit a game-tying field goal as time expired, sending it to overtime.  As fate seemed to have it, they won the coin toss, drove the ball right down the field, and sent the Bills home in stunned fashion.

If you’re any sort of sports fan (other than a Bills fan), I hope you got to witness it.  It was truly a fantastic game with an unreal ending.  And as I woke up this morning and watched the stock market begin to get trounced again, I was reminded of the uncertainty of the things that seem so certain sometimes.

The markets seem like they’re starting to spiral out of control a bit, much as they did in March of 2020 or in late 2008.   There isn’t a lot of optimism out there for things to just turn back around.  Inflation is soaring, rates are rising, and there’s a potential international war at hand.  It doesn’t look particularly great out there, which is understandably concerning for investors.

But if you’ve been around a while, you also know 1) that absolutely no one knows when things will quickly turn around, and 2) how the story ultimately ends.  That may not be a ton of comfort when stocks continue a slide.  That doesn’t make you not want to second-guess yourself.  It seems easy to call the market peak in hind-sight, but near impossible when we’re actually there.  Instead, there are a few things to remind ourselves of when in the midst of these uncertain times.

You should be fine without needing to time the market

While staying the course seems tough, and potentially harmful on days like today, it’s far less harmful than making the wrong move at the wrong time.  The only folks that really end up with regrets are the ones that sell at the bottom and then wonder when to get back into the market, or look at all of the potential gains that they forfeited.

When you try to time the market, you have to be “right” both when you get out, but also when to get back in.  As if timing the market once weren’t hard enough, doing it twice takes lottery kind of luck.

Now is the time to consider deploying cash

If you’ve been keeping your war chest stocked, now is looking more and more like a great buying opportunity.  Cash that has been sitting on the sidelines now has a somewhat compelling place to go, with prices on stocks coming more into reasonable territory.

There’s still a lot of risk in stocks (as there always will be), but funds that you don’t need for at least 5-7 years can start to be considered for investments that may have previously been sitting in a money market account earning .00000001%.  Of course, please don’t take any cash that you may be counting on in the next year or two and put it in the stock market, as we have no idea where the real bottom is.

Know  your enemy

Last night, the Bills had to pack their things and head home, with their season ending instantly.  And it came at the expense of their budding rival.  Remember that while there are headwinds to growth, and political and economic policies that sometimes feel damaging or destructive, this isn’t a game and there are no enemies.  Our only real enemies are the devil who wants us to keep our eyes on our wealth instead of on God, and ourselves.  We can lie to ourselves better than anyone else, and send ourselves into emotional frenzies at times.

Fortunately, our ally and teammate is the One who created it all, who knows us fully and considers us precious and honored in his sight (Isa 43:4).  He also richly provides us with everything (I Tim 6:17), has already defeated the enemy, and is unchanging forever.  I can’t think of anything more certain than that!