Hunker Down – Or Take Action?

"Delays have dangerous ends."
William Shakespeare, Henry VI
Fall 2022
Operation Robin Sage, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Operation Robin Sage, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Dressed in camo and bristling with weapons and ammunition, 20 soldiers were holed up with a handful of civilians in an abandoned building, bracing for an attack sometime around midnight. In the distance, we could hear the crack of gunfire and see the bright orange flares of exploding grenades. Moment by moment, the enemy was creeping closer, but no one flinched or drew a ragged breath of fear.

I was there that night in North Carolina as a civilian participant in the final phase of guerrilla war training for candidates for the U.S. Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. I was assigned to play the role of a diplomat, and the soldiers were responsible for my safety. Technically, this was a war game, but the tense situation sparked a very real sense of terror and confusion.

Clearly, the enemy was about to overrun the building. My instinct was to wait and defend our position. The platoon leader had a different plan. After a brief huddle, he issued crisp instructions to withdraw quickly to a predetermined fallback location. Defending our current position was far less important than the mission. And not one of the soldiers would consider betraying the mission.

For many of us, these last few months may have felt a lot like that night. Inflation is burning through the economy like a wildfire. Financial markets are volatile, rising and plunging with dizzying speed, sometimes in a single day. Hungry for revenue amid a binge of government spending, city, state and federal tax authorities are on the prowl for ways to fill their coffers.

This is no war game, though, and you are not a civilian whose safety is assured. In this environment, there are very real risks to your financial security and your future. You are in the economic trenches. What you do or don’t do in the next few weeks and months will be consequential.

Your instinct may be to hunker down and wait for the smoke to clear before deciding what, if any, action to take. Or, like me in the abandoned building, you may want to defend your position against what may be an overwhelming attack. Both instincts are wrong.

Today’s chaotic economic environment requires bold action. Like the platoon leader in North Carolina, you need to stay focused on the mission rather than the firefight that is erupting around you.

What exactly does that mean for your financial and estate plan? You may consider some new gifting strategies that would allow you to take advantage of the lower valuations of certain assets. Lower values offer you a rare chance to transfer wealth and reduce your taxable estate. There are other options for action, as well.

Remember there is always opportunity in turmoil. Look beyond the assault on your position. It’s your mission that matters.