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As years go, 2020 was a bust. Nor did it end on a high note. So rather than trying to do anything resembling a year in review I just want to highlight a couple of thoughts as we start the new year.

We have no idea what changes the pandemic is going to unleash: good, bad or indifferent. Anybody who tells you otherwise is either delusional or trying to sell you something. As Jacob Schroeder at Incognito Money Scribe writes:

Unfortunate things happen, but they can shape us in unimaginable ways that would not happen otherwise. You can see flashes of it now with a vaccine developed in record time, creating a blueprint for all future viruses.

That is not to say we should be thankful for 2020. It has been heartbreaking and dispiriting, especially because much of it is a result of human incompetence. Still, the year is not without wisdom; to learn nothing would be equally tragic.

So maybe we can learn something from all of this. One thing we can’t help but learn is that the future is promised to no one. A pandemic is nothing if not capricious in who it affects and who ultimately suffers.

Nick Maggiulli at Of Dollars and Data crystallized this in a great post. He writes:

That’s why my biggest takeaway from 2020 is that you can lose with a winning hand.  You can make all the right choices and still end up with a bad outcome. Not everything is in our control.  Yet, many of us save and invest as if it is.

That doesn’t mean we should upend everything in our lives, but it highlights that the big role that luck plays in outcomes. We can’t control luck. All we can do is prepare the best we can.

How we will remember 2020 remains to be seen. It will depend in large part on how 2021 plays out. Fingers crossed.