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Goodbye To The 2010s

I don’t like to make promises unless I know I can deliver, but I can safely say that this is the last blog post I will put in this space in this decade. Here are a few quick thoughts to launch us into the 2020s.

It would be easy to bemoan the divided, angry state of the nation as we end 2019 with a newly impeached president. But what else is new? We opened the decade with a year that brought us the Affordable Care Act and the Tea Party movement. We are still fighting over the Affordable Care Act, and health care in general, nearly 10 years later. As for the Tea Party, it in turn launched the proletarian rebellion that ultimately elected the president we have just impeached.

But despite all this political noise, a lot of things happened this decade that matter much more directly to many more people. In 2010 we were in the midst of a legal and legislative battle over same-sex marriage. Today that issue is settled. Yes, this year Hallmark foolishly bowed to a demand to pull an ad that featured two women kissing at their wedding – but it promptly reversed itself and apologized. The remaining legal proceedings over personal religious objections to same-sex marriage are merely a mop-up operation. When even Hallmark endorses same-sex marriage, the social war has been won. That’s huge.

We’ve also had – and continue to have – the #MeToo movement. A decade ago, a slice of powerful and highly educated male society thought it was okay to conduct business meetings in their homes and hotel rooms, without having to put on their pants first. Or that women seeking jobs, or mentoring, or private equity investments first wished to inspect their benefactor’s private parts. It has been illegal for decades to demand sexual quid pro quos (there’s that phrase again) or to create a hostile work environment. Yet somehow the connection escaped more than a few male high achievers. #MeToo may have connected the dots for some of them. Unlike the struggle for same-sex marriage, this war can probably never be considered safely won. But at least the good side has captured some high ground in the past decade. We can keep fighting from there.

We interact with one another and with our omnipresent machines differently now than we did a decade ago. My generation has succeeded in ruining Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the kids who first made them popular. Bickering and unconstrained commercialism may yet ruin them for everyone. Today’s kids are Snapchatting, TikTok-ing, Fortniting and doing heaven-knowns-what-else, as they have always done, away from adult eyes. Meanwhile, the kids from 10 years ago are coming back to Facebook and Instagram every now and then to share pictures of pets and grandkids with the baby boomers who drove them away. They probably also lurk silently to see what we’re up to there. That’s nice.

When the coming decade ends, the very youngest baby boomers will be 65 years old. The oldest will be 83. You might not know it from the age of most of the presidential candidates this year, but the torch is already being passed. The incoming generation may strike some of us old-timers as self-righteous and intolerant in their “wokeness,” but their hearts are in the right place. They may be the generation that received participation awards, but what strikes me is how much they sincerely want everyone to participate. I expect they will moderate some of their less practical expectations in time; every generation seems to have to learn for itself that socialism makes everyone worse off. There is a good chance they will make better use of more human capital than any generation before them ever has. That’s important, because so far, they aren’t producing very many humans compared to earlier generations.

I will call my mother tonight to mark the new year. She was born during the administration of Calvin Coolidge and has lived through 16 presidencies, of which nine were Republicans and seven were Democrats. Our politics is a pendulum whose natural tendency is to find the middle, even as it swings between the extremes. If you get emotional over such things, 2020 is apt to be a very trying year. Someone who has seen 16 presidencies might suggest a little trust and patience.

My wife and I began the decade with all our parents still living; only my mother remains. No decade leaves us unchanged or unmarked. But it is a good decade that does not leave us alone. I am extremely lucky that way. Besides my mother, I have my wife and best friend of 36 years, as well as two fine daughters who have launched their careers and brought new sons-in-law (plus a family fantasy football league) into our lives. I also have accumulated more than two dozen colleagues here at Palisades Hudson Financial Group, every one of them a consummate professional and lovely individual. They came with families too. We have almost more PHFG children than we can squeeze into a group photo for those social media accounts that the younger folks pretend not to look at anymore.

Every decade is a mixed bag. We each have our personal experiences and standards by which to judge them. To me, the 1930s and 1970s were bad decades. The one that ends today was not. Bad stuff certainly happened, and for some it was awful; I need only mention the name Parkland to illustrate. I would never want to minimize anybody’s pain or misfortune. But on balance, I think the 2010s were a pretty good stretch. I hope that was the case for you. All of us at Palisades Hudson wish you happiness, health and success, however you define it, in the year and decade to come.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s recently updated book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Looking Ahead When Youth Is Behind Us,” and Chapter 4, “The Family Business.” Larry was also among the authors of the firm’s book The High Achiever’s Guide To Wealth.

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