Holiday Reflections

12/27/2022

There’s nothing like single digit temperatures to get you in the holiday spirit! I’ve never been to the North Pole, but as a Southerner, I imagine it feels like this. The cold slows me down, draws me in, and makes me more reflective. With the end of a tumultuous year upon us, here are some reflections from the exceptionally cold holiday weekend.  

We tend to forget the mundane but remember the extraordinary. Eight degrees is cold, but I remember an even more frigid time in Atlanta. When I was an Emory undergraduate student (some years ago, to put it mildly) the campus was shut down when the temperature plummeted to negative eight degrees. Dorm living was not so plush then. Aging systems were stressed and on the brink of failure. It was a dangerous situation. The Woodruff PE Center, a recent addition at the time, was offered as a warming shelter for students. It was so cold, someone was able to park a Volkswagen Beetle in the middle of a frozen Candler Lake. I often wonder if that car ended up on the lake bottom.

By contrast, this cold spell was relatively easy for me and my family. We have a recently installed a high efficiency furnace and new attic insulation. We have a cast iron wood stove and an ample supply of seasoned firewood. We never lost power during the inclement weather. All of this enabled us to stay quite warm and toasty. And that’s where the real reflection begins.

With every stick I added to the fire, with every cup of hot coffee, with every warm conversation, I was struck by how much we have to be thankful for. It has been a challenging year in finance. Stocks and bonds are down double digits. Inflation has been stronger than many expected. The Fed’s response has eventually been very aggressive. But we have tools to adapt to these developments. We will continue to refine and enhance our approach based on time-tested principles.

I am also thankful for our leadership in science and technology, particularly the development of the mRNA vaccines and drugs like Eliquis. Both have improved my life dramatically. More recently, we have seen breakthroughs in nuclear fusion. Commercial viability may be a decade or more away, but progress of this kind can alter the arc of history.

During this holiday season, my heart is with the Ukrainians. I am acutely cognizant of how different things would be, if by accident of birth, my home was in Kyiv, Mariupol, or Kherson. Through no fault of their own, the Ukrainians have been thrust to the front edge of an epic struggle. In order to survive they must bear burdens and endure challenges I have never known. I am enormously grateful for their tenacity, grit, and fortitude.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, or something else entirely, I hope you were able to stay warm this holiday season and find your own reasons to be grateful.

Mike Masters