The Herald Bulletin

October 18, 2013

'Big Joe' Clark: Planning in the aftermath of a government shutdown

Big Joe Clark
The Herald Bulletin

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Honestly, it's more like a date than a marriage. Congress has agreed to fund the government temporarily but the sides are as far apart as religions from the East and the West.

Love is not on the horizon — and perhaps it shouldn't be — but we will continue to pray that our leaders can reach compromises that makes our nation stronger in the future and stable today.

One thing is for certain: There will be more challenges ahead regarding entitlement programs, tax policy and even national security. Somehow they have to work together to deal with those future issues and our current debt load.

In the meantime what did the shutdown, and now the startup, mean for our economy and ultimately your portfolio? According to economists at Moody’s Analytics, the impact of the shutdown is estimated to be about $20 billion of economic output.

We have no way of calculating the number just yet but what we did witness was a shift in behavior as consumers likely made changes to their spending habits. In the coming weeks we will be able to digest the economic data and determine what the impact on the economy truly was. It clearly wasn't beneficial to companies or economies.

What we do have to pay attention to — especially with Christmas shopping just around the corner — is the disruption to the private sector. Foreign ships are still in boat yards waiting to clear customs and the dock workers have to be called back.

Just because our government went on vacation didn't mean other businesses and nations shut down. Now we have to get caught up and that has its own cost and expense. This example obviously applies to retail but the same is true of backlogged mortgages and many other sectors.

We continually look for disruptions and distortions that interfere with economic growth and corporate earnings. As Congress kicks the can further down the road we can now turn our attention to earnings season as U.S. companies begin to announce their results from the third quarter. As investors we must come to accept the various events that will introduce volatility into the market. It’s our responsibility to create a plan and develop a mindset for handling that volatility.

While the events that have taken place in Washington D.C. had pushed the markets lower by a few percentage points, the major U.S. indices have already come rocketing back, some even setting new highs.

Understanding what your time frame is and developing a filter for what you allow into your decision making process is extremely important. Just like the decisions that our elected officials make will have a long-lasting impact on present as well as future generations. The emotional reactions investors take within their portfolios can have just as important of an impact on their financial goals and their personal ability to reach them.

Joseph “Big Joe” Clark, whose column is published Saturdays, is a certified financial planner. He can be reached at bigjoe@yourlifeafterwork.com or 640-1524.