Third Quarter Investment Commentary 2023

Dennis O'Keefe |

Unexpected.  I want to talk about situations that are unexpected.

Last week, our entire family went on vacation to Disney World.  We had a mid-afternoon flight and an 8:40 dinner reservation at the resort that evening.  That gave us four hours to get a rental car, stop at a grocery store for sundries, check in and change.  More than enough time.  In fact, we could probably even spend some time at the pool before dinner.

Then the unexpected happened.

As we sat in TF Green Airport in Providence, a major thunderstorm rolled in.  The airport shut down and our plane was diverted to Albany before it could land and pick us up.  By the time it returned and we boarded, we were an hour behind.

“No problem,” I said.  “We still have almost three hours.  Plenty of time.”

The trip through Orlando International was uneventful.  We picked up the Dodge minivan, loaded up and headed out.  We’ve made this trip before, so it wasn’t very eventful at all.

Twenty minutes later, we were stopped in the local Publix to grab water, sunscreen and breakfast items and off we went.

When I turned the car back on, the temp sensor light was on.  

“Strange,” I thought.  “Maybe it’s just hot.  It is still 90 degrees at almost 7 pm.  Let me get some air across the radiator.”

We were literally five miles from our resort.

As I entered Disney property, I noticed the temperature reading was nil.  It wasn’t even registering.  But the warning light was lit. 

Oh no!

I then realized it smelled like maple syrup in the Publix parking lot.  Well, it smelled sort of like maple syrup.  A strange smell.

They say that leaking antifreeze is deadly to animals because of the sweet smell and aroma draws them in for this deadly treat.  I’ve never put two and two together until this moment.  That syrup smell was antifreeze!

Literally a second later, the CHECK ENGINE light lit.  I was on an on-ramp from one major “highway” within Disney to another.  

“Let me just get to the next place to pull out.”

Fate had other plans.  The engine chose that exact moment to quit.  Dead.  Kaput.  Thankfully, there was plenty of room in the grass on the shoulder of the onramp.

We frantically searched the rental documentation for a help line.  It was buried in the fine print.  As I was calling, the local Disney roving response vehicle showed up.

I’d like to say that the rental company immediately sent some smiling person to deliver a new vehicle and sit with the old one while the tow truck arrived.  That didn’t happen.  It wasn’t even close to what happened.

What did transpire was the rental company told us to call 911 to transport us to a rest area.  In 4-6 hours, they might get us a replacement vehicle.  Outside of that, they were not helping at all. 

Remember- there were 6 of us plus all of our luggage and now an order of groceries.

It seemed like the rental company thought that 911 was a taxi service.  We were not amused.  The Disney road emergency crew thought it was downright hysterical. They assured us that we could be arrested for making that phone call.

After waiting almost an hour for Disney to see if they could find transport for us the last two miles to our hotel, Anna took charge, jumped on the Lyft app, and within minutes, a Chevy Suburban, decorated like Minnie Mouse’s polka-dotted dress, showed up and whisked us away to our destination.

We rolled into the resort at almost exactly 8:40.  Anna and I sprinted upstairs to the restaurant while the rest checked in.  We were able to extend our reservation long enough to get to the rooms, drop our items and freshen up.

This trip truly started as a disaster.  And at 54, I handled it far better than I would have at 34.  I didn’t have a game plan for the unexpected, but I had plans in place.

First, we set a dinner reservation so late that even with all of the problems of the world, we wouldn’t be late.  (Well, we were, but who knew?)  Our expectation was that something surely would go wrong.  By making a reservation later than we anticipated, we built in the potential for many roadblocks.

Second, we acted as a team.  Everyone knew their job and took charge where necessary.  I was the driver.  Anna was navigation and logistics.  Justyn handled communication with Disney staff.  Sam and my wife were hotel logistics.  No one person had to carry every duty.  

Third, we reacted when necessary, without panicking.  That is possibly the most vital lesson.  We were never sure what was going to be thrown at us.  We knew we’d get to the hotel eventually.  But we didn’t know what would happen in between.  

We didn’t lose our minds and start yelling at those who were trying to help.  (Even the rental car representative who never actually helped.)  Instead, we remained calm, gave time for strategies to develop and acted when it appeared that those strategies were not going to get us where we needed to go.

It has been over 15 years since the last real recession.  I’ve said it before, but we are closer to the next recession than the last.  

As we sit in October of 2023, the Federal Reserve is working very hard for an economic “soft landing” - reducing inflation without inducing a recession.  Sadly, the odds of them succeeding are very low. 

So having a plan in place today is vital.  Vital for your retirement plans overall.  But extremely vital for your investments.

It would be easy to just sell everything and buy a bunch of CD’s.  Especially at today’s interest rates.  

But what if the market doesn’t fall in the next six to twelve months?  And what if the stock market rises by 20% or more in that time span?  Do you really want to miss out on that gain?  

A better option is to have a sound long-term investment strategy and to make adjustments based on the market changes.

Should the market rise, you sell some stocks and buy bonds - locking in your profits.

Should the market fall, you sell some bonds (or CD’s) and buy stocks at discount prices.

This all makes sense.  But in the panic of a major market move, we are likely to do the opposite - sell when investments are down and buy when they are up.

Remember the three rules:

First - expect that little will go to plan.

Second - delegate.  Maybe that’s each spouse taking a role such as tracking and decision making. Maybe it’s leaning on professionals like us to help you make good decisions.

Third - react without panicking.  Panicking isn’t going to make the situation better.  In fact, it will likely lead to bad decision making.  You should have plans in place but you need to roll with the punches as well.  

We don’t know when the next down market - or up market - is going to happen.  By implementing these three steps, you will make better decisions and help ensure a much more successful retirement.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email us at or call us at (800) 453-3209.  If you don’t already have a copy of my book, The Biggest Financial Mistakes Retirees Make, you can order it on Amazon or click here, and we will get a copy out to you free of charge!

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This blog is the opinion of Successful Money Strategies, Inc. and is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any investment advice or service.  Statistics and other figures are accurate at the time of original publishing.  Any advice herein should not be acted upon without obtaining specific advice from a licensed professional regarding the reader's own situation or concerns. 

The information contained in this presentation has been compiled from third-party sources and is believed to be reliable; however, its accuracy is not guaranteed. This presentation may not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and does not give investment recommendations. Any opinion included in this report constitutes our judgment as of the date of this report and is subject to change without notice.

Always count your change.