How to plan during mayhem

Guest column by Patricia Kummer
Posted 8/17/20

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the documentary film “I AM,” was asked how to change the world. “How do you eat an elephant?” he replied. “One bite at a time.” Behind the humor, what Tutu …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2019-2020, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.

Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

How to plan during mayhem


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the documentary film “I AM,” was asked how to change the world. “How do you eat an elephant?” he replied. “One bite at a time.”

Behind the humor, what Tutu meant was that everything in life that seems daunting, overwhelming and even impossible can be accomplished gradually by taking on just a little at a time.¹

Many of us may feel that our current economic situation is also daunting and staying on track with our financial plans may seem impossible. Some have lost jobs, others took early retirement, investments are volatile, medical costs are rising; the list goes on and on.

When our world changes and becomes unpredictable, we tend to shy away from trying to plan in any way. Investors may feel whipsawed by a handful of stocks hitting all-time record highs, while so many other industries are struggling.

It is also difficult to grasp what is going on in the economy when our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter decreased 32.9%.² Corporate earnings are also negative, however, 89% of companies that reported are 22.4% above estimates.³ We call this “less bad.” So maybe we are not drowning but certainly gasping for air.

We can also be concerned about the political arena, a global recession and China. All of this reminds me of New York Times columnist and author Carl Richards, CFP®. His famous drawing of two spheres puts this into perspective. Picture two circles about four inches, each overlapping about one-half inch in the middle. In the circle on the left are, “Things That Matter.” In the circle on the right are, “Things You Can Control.” In the tiny part where they overlap are, “Things You Should Focus On.” There is your first bite of the elephant; a half-inch list of things that are important that you can actually impact. That’s where you start to plan. The rest is noise, or, on some days, mayhem.

Richards states, “The amount of time we spend worrying seems to go up exponentially when we don’t have a plan.”

So how do you plan during all of this uncertainty? One step at a time. It is important to stay focused on the goal, even if you have been derailed temporarily. Keeping your eye on the target can help you make better decisions along the way.

One common mistake people make is looking for the quick fix or magic bullet. We advisors see investors searching for the “shiny object” instead of going back and working the financial plan. Chances are the things that appear to be too good to be true can oftentimes get you into more trouble than if you just stick to the plan. Let your advisor help you make the adjustments needed to address your short-term needs while still keeping on track for the end goal. You will feel less stress and gain confidence in your decisions, which can be something solid to lean on during times of uncertainty.

You don’t need to fix everything at once — that could result in throwing darts at the wrong target. You will find that keeping your plan current helps you make progress, one solid step at a time.

1.Psychology Today; 2. Bureau of Economic Analysis; 3. FactSet

Patricia Kummer has been a Certified Financial Planner and a fiduciary for over 30 years and is Managing Director for Mariner, LLC d/b/a Mariner Wealth Advisors, an SEC Registered Investment Adviser. Please visit for more information or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website ( Securities offered through MSEC, LLC, Member FINRA & SIPC, 5700 W. 112th Suite 500, Overland Park, KS 66211.


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.