Opinion: Market turmoil is personal for Ukranian American financial advisor
By Regina Korossy
Ever since Russia invaded my native Ukraine in February, I’ve been working to both calm my clients’ emotions over the market fluctuations, and my own distress about the destruction in my homeland. It hasn’t been easy.
The last few weeks, being Ukrainian American and a financial advisor is like wearing two hats. On the one hand, I’m heartbroken to see the place where I was born being bombed, people being killed, to see these beautiful historic landmarks blown to pieces and people forced to pick up arms and fight for their country. Personally, I also worry about my younger brother, who has been forced to flee Ukraine because of Russia’s relentless attacks. And I fear for all those left behind.
As a financial advisor, I must wear my professional hat. It’s my job to help people navigate the uncertainty, which includes world events such as these, that are outside of their control. Just as I cannot control Russia’s bombardments of my home country, neither can I influence the market fluctuations that may accompany such events.
So what do I do? I tell my clients to take a step back, take a deep breath, and focus on the long view. That with a strong and balanced plan in place, their financial boat is well positioned to make it through the storm. Don’t let emotion and ambiguity steer you off that course.
Today, more than ever, I see the wisdom in this trusted advice. Even as my resolve has been put to the test over these past two months.
I was born in Odessa, a picturesque seaport on the Black Sea. When I think of my place of birth, I remember it as a safe and peaceful place. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the balcony of my parents’ apartment building, eating cherries with my younger brother, and, as a joke, putting them over my ears to pretend they’re earrings. I remember the massive field full of sunflowers next door — which felt like they touched the sky from my 5-year-old perspective — where I spent many happy days playing. To see this place that I associate with love and safety invaded by tanks, bombs and warplanes fills me with sadness and disbelief.
The conflict has shaken my sense of identity, too. When I left Odessa at age 6 to move to the United States with my family, Ukraine was part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Like most inhabitants of Odessa, my family and I spoke Russian, not Ukrainian. Until now, we had always thought of ourselves as Russians. We, as well as many others, have been forced to reconsider.
To hear that Putin is bombing Ukraine is a bizarre concept to me. For most Ukrainians, the people in Russia are our cousins, our families, our friends. There are few people in Ukraine who don’t have somebody they know in Russia, and vice versa. Bombing Ukraine is like bombing family. It’s incomprehensible.
Yet amid all this catastrophe, I know I cannot let the personal nature of the Ukraine crisis interfere with my professional work. I follow the same advice I give my clients: I focus on what I can control. I avoid sensationalized news designed to attract readers by playing on their fears and emotions. I limit my consumption of news media in general, only checking it at the end of the day. I get my financial information from unbiased, professional reports. These strategies have allowed me to stay focused on supporting my clients.
In my line of work, much of what I do is psychological therapy, saving my clients from themselves, and making sure they’re not making the mistakes of a typical investor: derailing their long-term strategy as a result of short-term market movements.
Market fluctuations during geopolitical events are normal and should be expected. However, if we consider the data over the last 100 years, the market always recovers over the long term. Geopolitical events come and go. The stock market goes up and down. But if you step back and look at the market over time, the overriding trend is up.
When I find myself overcome with fear and heartbreak over Ukraine, I remind myself that this terrible period will also pass. Long term, I believe in Ukraine, I believe in its people, and I believe they will recover and rebuild. Ukraine has shown the world — and Russia — that it is a place of hope, strength and resiliency. Like the markets, Ukraine, too, will rebound.
• Regina Korossy is a financial advisor in Westlake Village with Edward Jones. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.