By Eric Vogen
My heart goes out to those suffering from the effects of the recent natural disasters in Japan, Australia, and elsewhere. Also, while there is hope for change throughout the Middle East and northern Africa, it is upsetting to see the pain of war and strife. And then the lingering effects of the financial crisis are bringing soaring government debts, instability in the U.S. dollar, and continued declines in housing prices, etc.
Naturally, this global unrest has also caused people to ask, “What can I do to help?” or “How does this impact my life?” or “Is there another economic crisis coming and can the world handle it?” or “How does this impact my financial security?”
I’d like to explore this issue of global unrest from the standpoint of pursuing the Lord’s light in your personal, professional and financial path by following His call, seeking wisdom, and taking focused action.
FOLLOWING HIS CALL
A new U.S. war had started in the Middle East, more than 50 people were killed in a riot in Los Angeles, production of nuclear warheads from the former Soviet Union seemed out of control, and a massive hurricane ripped off my church’s roof. Sounds like today’s events, but it was the early 1990s. I was in my 20s, and global unrest was impacting me, but I was even more overwhelmed by personal unrest. I had drifted completely away from the Lord, and I was working morning to night in an investment firm, whose culture battled my soul each day. I was steps away from losing my girlfriend. I was confused, apathetic and lost.
Then one night, alone in my room, I had reached a low point. I felt like I was being wrapped up in chains. So I screamed to God in the loudest prayer of my life. I desperately cried out for direction in my relationship with my girlfriend, what to do with my career, and what to do with my life. Suddenly, I saw a vision of a thousand arrows break off from me and retreat through the ceiling, the roof, and up into the sky. These arrows shot past the earth’s atmosphere, with blurring speed and brightness into heaven. I then fell fast asleep. When I awoke, I sensed the Holy Spirit clearly declare two callings for me: 1) propose marriage to my girlfriend, and 2) stay in the financial services industry, but work with a leading Christian financial services firm.
I followed the Lord by accepting these calls. The personal unrest left my heart, and the global unrest seemed manageable. I immediately started to feel the favor of the Lord in my life. Now, more than 20 years later, I am still growing in my marriage with Mary and I am still growing in Christian service through my career. Looking back, I can see great fruit from shouting out to the heavens, listening to the direction from the Holy Spirit, and accepting the Lord’s call and path.
Praying for visions
In 1994, at a men’s retreat in the mountains of North Carolina, a Pentecostal preacher put his hands on my head and prayed, in a booming voice, for the Lord to give me vision. I immediately saw my greatest vision – my two future children. It gave me great hope and determination, because we struggled for years to have these children. Since 2000, another vision provided me with confidence.
This vision to me showed that mankind is experiencing the greatest “global communications renaissance” in history. This is characterized by access to instant global communication and the spread of the free-enterprise system, but also unintended consequences and volatility. For example, young Middle Eastern people are starting a revolution, partly due to their connectedness to each other and to the outside world. It is my belief and hope that we’ll see positive results of freedom for these people and greater globalization.
I gave the example above comparing the early 1990s to the early 2010s to illustrate that disasters and unrest are always a part of our world. This doesn’t minimize the incredible suffering people go through, but it does help put things in perspective. Looking back upon the ‘90s and all of the shock and awe of disasters and wars, something positive was happening, too – one of the biggest bull stock markets in history. I believe opportunities can still arise in a time of global unrest, if we let God light our path.
Proceeding with caution and confidence
In periods of global unrest, there are commonly unpredictable financial market swings. When shocking news is reported, it is natural to want to sell to preserve cash. However, markets can move in a different direction than you might expect. For example, the Japanese yen went up after the earthquakes, and global stock markets rallied the Monday after the coalition missile launch on Libya. The key is to be clear regarding your core motivations and not to sell on fear only. We prefer to have an objective sell-discipline, such as, sell if the fundamentals change, or a price target is reached, or a better alternative is identified.
Paying attention to trends
Sometimes, short-term conditions turn into longer term trends. Recent examples may be many people’s worries about municipality debt levels and their overall fiscal health, coupled with the outlook for rising interest rates. Some people are concerned that municipalities and states will cut services; while others are concerned they will declare bankruptcy in the future.
Longer term positive or negative trends may allow you time to construct a financial strategy to protect yourself or benefit from its developments.
TAKING FOCUSED ACTION
Through study, counsel and prayer; try working on a few focused investment themes for each year. Here are some of my firm’s themes for the beginning of this year. Since individual people’s situations vary, these may not be appropriate for you, but these may be valuable to discuss with your investment advisor:
• Use income-oriented strategies, such as high-dividend stocks.
• Tread carefully with various sectors of the bond market.
• Continue to pursue high-growth areas, while attempting to manage risk. International investing involves additional risks associated with political, economic and other developments.
Investing in any of the products mentioned in this material is subject to risks including loss of principal invested. No investment strategy can ensure a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.
So that you may be a blessing to others and a testimony for the Lord, I hope and pray that you will experience the favor of walking in the light of Jesus Christ in the midst of unrest around you. I’d enjoy hearing your testimony. You can write me at: [email protected].
The author is a Certified Financial Planner practitioner and Managing Director of Vision Capital & Management, a registered investment advisory firm at 108 S. Main St., Suite E, in Davidson, NC 28036, (704) 894-9639. Securities are offered through FSC Securities Corp., member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services are offered through Vision Capital & Management, an SEC-registered investment advisor, which is independent of FSC Securities Corp. The views expressed are not necessarily the opinion of FSC Securities Corp.