Covid-19 text with marker, concept background

Company Values at the Forefront As We All Adjust

I don’t know about you, but in the past few weeks I have received about a ton and a half of advice about how to cope with all the change and stressors that have hit us recently. To be honest, I am also guilty of adding to the advice pile. Convinced that humans can absorb only so much advice on coping and balancing, I am experiencing for myself and witnessing in others a point where, like a saturated sponge, people just stop absorbing.

All of this advice is, of course, well-intentioned. I suppose in a crisis we naturally jump to some kind of support-the-team mode.

  • We are encouraged to adapt to the “new normal,” although what we are experiencing is neither.
  • We are encouraged to keep regular schedules.
  • We are encouraged to keep up on our sleep and exercise (I have a co-worker waiting for delivery of her storable stationary bike).
  • We are encouraged to reconnect with our family members.
  • We are encouraged to “Balance Work and Family” as if each has had some equal weighting in our social-emotional worlds. Somehow we are virtually in each other’s homes on a daily basis though ZOOM meetings, virtual happy hours, Facetime. I now know the distinct bark of my co-workers’ dogs and the rhythms of their children’s learning schedules.

To be sure, we all need to take care of our physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual selves. Not sure we need a bombardment of advice on how to do it.

And what about the teams we are part of?

In the last month what we have witnessed in our Association Membership is a revealing of what strong companies are all about. Whatever individual adjustments we all make, the good, bad and ugly of the culture that we have developed is shining through. Not my job to judge these, although I am pretty good at it. We are now observing that many organizations are finding their “Best Selves.”

As we temper the therapizing, perhaps we will get back to what makes great workplaces great. Borrowing from Lencioni’s The Advantage, here are some of the more important organizational questions for any day, perhaps especially for times of challenge and transition:

  • Why do we exist?
  • How do we behave?
  • What do we do (what business are we in)?
  • How will we succeed?
  • What is the most important thing right now?
  • Who on the team must do what and by when?

This massive work-from-home experiment may be a blip, just a temporary thing. Maybe not. But, in this truly personal and invitation-to-reflection time, I am leaning toward turning off my email advice stream a couple of times a week. I may not need therapy right now. Perhaps just being quiet and reflecting upon what is important for my teams might do.

I have a hunch that those workplaces that have given voice in the past to self-care, balance, and wellness will reconnect well with their employees throughout these COVID-19 changes. I also have a hunch that those workplaces that have neglected self-care, balance and wellness may try to address these concerns and, perhaps, wish they had started a bit sooner.

Please continue to let us know what is working for you to keep your team going. We have been witnessing Cascade Employers Association members being their absolute best selves.

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Before you say you believe in someone, before you encourage them to pursue their goals, it’s worth remembering: They need more than your words.

Passively believing in someone is easy; there are a lot of leaders who do this. That’s why actively believing in people is a differentiator.

Actively believing in someone means you:

  • Amplify their strengths
  • Ensure they’re accountable to higher standards
  • Offer constructive feedback (even when it’s hard)
  • Give them the tools to do what you believe they can do
  • Re-connect them to their purpose (when they’re doubting themselves)
  • Acknowledge their accomplishments (publicly and privately)

Believing in people isn’t the act of telling them so. Believing in someone is a course of actions.

Who do you believe in? And do your actions show it?

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volatility

The stock market ended its 11-year bull run earlier this year as fears over the coronavirus (COVID-19) gripped investors. With volatility returning to the stock market with moves of up/down 5-9% a day frequently occurring, retirement plan investors are left feeling very anxious and wondering what to do next. The following are six tips designed to help employees assess their 401(k) accounts in the current market environment and get through this difficult period.

We encourage employers to share this with your retirement plan participants.

1. Keep Making Your Contributions

You might be asking yourself “should I stop making contributions to my 401(k)?” as so many people are. Our recommendation is absolutely not!

While it is scary to see red minus signs next to the investments in your account, that is exactly why you should continue your contributions. Stocks are on sale right now which means your regular paycheck contributions are buying even more shares of your chosen investments. And if you have an employer that matches your retirement plan contributions, you are buying shares partly with “free” money.

2. Stay Invested

While you may be tempted to sell everything and put your money in cash, without a crystal ball, it’s really hard to predict market movements down to the day, week or even month. And if you try to do so, you’re likely to miss some of the market’s best days, which can have a significant negative impact on your retirement account. Figure 1 below shows the effects of missing 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60 of the best days of the S&P 500 over a 20-year period.

Figure 1
Source: J.P. Morgan Asset Management

PLAN TO STAY INVESTED

Trying to time the market is extremely difficult to do. Market lows often result in emotional decision making. Investing for the long term while managing volatility can result in a better retirement outcome.

Although it is difficult, it is best to plan on riding out volatile market periods. Intra-year pullbacks happen often. As Figure 2 shows below, markets have suffered double digit declines in 22 of the last 39 years (as shown by the red dots and numbers), yet still ended those years with positive returns 75% of the time. It is understandable that the last few weeks in the stock market may have you scared about investing in stocks which is why we remind participants to maintain a long-term perspective.

 
Figure 2
Source: J.P. Morgan Asset Management

3. Revisit your Overall Asset Allocation Strategy

With that said, however, now is a good time to revisit your long-term investment strategy and allocation to stocks. A thoughtful investment strategy takes into account your unique circumstances such as time horizon and tolerance for risk and can take the emotion out of investing, so that decisions are based on a long-term outlook instead of short-term market movements.

Investing is always about finding that balance between our desire for high rates of return with the disappointment that comes from losing our hard-earned money. Determining the level of risk you’re comfortable with is incredibly difficult and sometimes is only realized during rough times, like now.

Target retirement date funds are a great option for investing within a 401(k) plan for those participants seeking professional help with this. These investments are a one-choice type of investment, in that you don’t need to pick the individual funds or determine the appropriate mix of stocks and bonds because the target date fund does this for you. The only thing you need to do is select the fund with the date that most closely matches the year you will retire. The fund will automatically adjust its asset allocation to be more conservative as you get closer to retirement age to protect your account balance.

4. Rebalance your Retirement Account

An investment plan should include target percentages for the various asset classes such as stocks and bonds. As these different asset classes outperform or underperform, you’ll need to rebalance your retirement account back to its original targets. For example, if you’ve set a target of 40% stocks, and stocks lose 10%, then your account will be underinvested in stocks. So now is a great time to rebalance your account into stocks when prices are much lower. If you are invested in a target date retirement fund however, you don’t need to worry about this as the fund will automatically take care of this for you.

5. Treat your Account like a Safe-Deposit Box

In uncertain times like this, it’s tempting for employees to want to tap into their retirement savings accounts, but the penalties and taxes will be costly in the short and long-term. For example, if you withdraw money from your 401(k) account prior to age 59½, not only do you need to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw, but you also owe a 10% penalty for withdrawing early.

We recommend you treat your retirement accounts as a safe-deposit box, only to be opened when you reach retirement. Every one of us encounters unexpected financial difficulties at one point or another during our lives, and right now with the unknown economic impact of the coronavirus is no exception. However, in order to build sufficient wealth so that we’re able to retire, it is important to maintain our contributions, and resist the urge to withdraw from the account when times are tough so that we can get the full benefits of tax deferred growth and investment compounding.

6. Call Matisse Capital If You Have Any Questions

Please reach out directly to our team if you have any immediate questions: info@matissecap.com

Matisse Capital is Cascade’s chosen partner for retirement plan management. Together, we are committed to empower employers to equip their employees with tools to save more for retirement.

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computer-studying

Social Distancing? Hmmm. As a guy with a mental health background, “social distancing” was one of those things we used to watch out for as a potential problem. As counselors and therapists, we wanted everyone to have social connection. The research has been consistent and clear that social connection is correlated highly with happiness, contentment, engagement and positive mental health. So, those who were engaged in social distancing were encouraged to form and maintain social networks.

I am also from the generation of management developers that used to preach Management by Walking Around. “Connect with your people,” we would say, “Build emotional bank accounts by listening and relating to your coworkers.”

Things have changed a bit. Some of the “distancing” that workplaces have been experiencing has been gradual over the last decade. Now it’s mandated.

We can still have positive and effective connection even though we are currently restricted to Email, ZOOM, SKYPE, Facetime, text and (gasp!) phone calls. We just have to work a bit harder and smarter to keep this important connection during this very large work-from-home experiment.

So what are we to do now that we are being discouraged from any kind of in-person social interaction?

The good news is that most of us have been practicing some important skills for a while to effectively connect with our coworkers even when we aren’t in the same room.

Here are a few ideas to keep the focus on the connection with people we work with and to build your circle of security even when we aren’t face to face for a while:

  • Maintain The Workplace Feeling of Inclusivity. Find ways to keep everyone in the loop. Reach out twice as much as you did a month ago. Reach out to everyone.
  • Stay Focused On Goals, Not Activity. As a manager, it pays to continue to emphasize outcomes without some kind of “virtual hovering” about tasks that contribute to those outcomes being achieved.
  • Be Intentional. A Mindful approach to emails, chats, phone calls and ZOOM meetings can really help your team to continue to feel valued and to stay engaged. Empathize with the inconvenience, novelty or general weirdness of remote work for those who are not used to it.
  • Create A Communication Strategy. Discuss expectations for responses to communications and meeting attendance. It is more important than ever to not assume mind-reading capability.
  • Avoid Multi-Tasking. You know who you are!

Do your employees feel anxious, distracted or stressed as a result of the disruption that the virus has caused? Fear and anxiety can drive people to become self-focused so that they are prevented from continuing to work productively.

Our job as managers is not necessarily about being a reassuring voice or about asking questions that probe into the feelings of our coworkers. It’s about giving clear direction and next steps so that people have focus and something to hold on to.

Here are some tips:

  • Set an example. Show that you are staying focused on the key initiatives for your organization while taking care of yourself and your family.
  • Over-communicate. Constant communication builds trust and is critical not only for successful remote working but also for making it through a crisis like this.
  • Ask your team members what they need now to perform best. Questions like these are statements of support.
  • Maintain face-to-face contact ZOOM, FACETIME, etc. Build a routine.
  • Be specific in your messaging. Discuss expectations for responses to communications and meeting attendance. It is more important than ever to not assume mind-reading capability.

Please join us on Thursday, April 2 from 1:00pm-3:00pm for an online workshop on Working and Managing Remote: The New Normal?

We would also love to hear what is working for you in this ever-changing world. Email us at bswift@cascadeemployers.com.

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