Opinion: Market turbulence is personal for the Ukrainian-born American financial adviser

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Friday, April 8, 2022

By Regina Korossy

Since Russia invaded my native Ukraine in February, I have struggled to both calm my clients’ emotions over market fluctuations and my own distress over the destruction of my homeland. This has not been easy.

Regina Korossy

In recent weeks, being a Ukrainian American and a financial adviser has been like wearing two hats. On the one hand, I am heartbroken to see the place where I was born bombed, people killed, to see these beautiful historical monuments destroyed and people forced to take up arms and fight for their country. Personally, I am also worried about my younger brother, who was forced to flee Ukraine because of the relentless attacks from Russia. And I fear for all those who remain.

As a financial adviser, I have to wear my professional hat. It’s my job to help people navigate uncertainty, which includes world events like these that are beyond their control. Just as I cannot control Russian 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-term vision. That with a solid and balanced plan in place, their financial boat is well positioned to weather the storm. Don’t let emotion and ambiguity sway you from this path.

Today, more than ever, I see the wisdom of this trusted advice. Even though my resolve has been tested over the past two months.

I was born in Odessa, a picturesque seaport on the Black Sea. When I think of my birthplace, 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 jokingly putting them over my ears to pretend they were earrings. ‘ears. I remember the huge field full of sunflowers next door – which felt like touching the sky from my 5 year old perspective – where I spent many happy days playing. Seeing this place that I associate with love and security invaded by tanks, bombs and fighter jets fills me with sadness and disbelief.

The conflict has also shaken my sense of identity. When I left Odessa at the age of 6 to move to the United States with my family, Ukraine was part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Like most people in Odessa, my family and I spoke Russian, not Ukrainian. Until now, we had always thought of ourselves as Russians. We, along with many others, were forced to reconsider.

Hearing that Putin is bombing Ukraine is a bizarre concept to me. For most Ukrainians, Russians are our cousins, our families, our friends. There are few people in Ukraine who don’t have someone they know in Russia, and vice versa. Bombing Ukraine is like bombing a family. It’s incomprehensible.

Yet, in the midst of all this disaster, I know that I cannot let the personal nature of the Ukrainian crisis interfere with my professional work. I follow the same advice I give my clients: I focus on what I can control. I avoid sensational news intended 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 obtain my financial information from unbiased professional reports. These strategies have allowed me to stay focused on supporting my clients.

In my job, a lot of what I do is psychological therapy, saving my clients from themselves and making sure they don’t make the mistakes of a typical investor: derailing their strategy long-term because of short-term market movements.

Market fluctuations during geopolitical events are normal and should be anticipated. However, looking at data for the past 100 years, the market is still recovering 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 dominant trend is up.

When I find myself overwhelmed with fear and grief over Ukraine, I remind myself that this terrible time will also pass. In the long run, 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 resilience. Like the markets, Ukraine will also rebound.

• Regina Korossy is a financial advisor in Westlake Village with Edward Jones. She can be reached at [email protected]

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