3/23/23: The Trifecta Of Terrible

Today is a palindrome! I am a fan of these kinds of fun things with numbers and words. I know I have mentioned this before, but if you are not already playing Octowordle, I suggest you do it now. It does not have to be a wormhole; you can just play one game per day while concurrently keeping Alzheimer's at bay (hopefully). 

But that is not was I was going to talk about. Everyone has a pandemic story, and for many people the "three year anniversary" of their story just passed. I do not disagree that the 13th or the 16th of March were monumental days for most of us, myself included, but for me another day I will never forget was March 23rd. For those of you who don't know, I work in the finance industry. As you may remember, this was a difficult time in the stock markets. 

Here's a quick recap. The stock markets were doing well and were basically going up and up and up.  Then the decline started at the end of February, when the stories of COVID cases around the world started to increase and hit the news more and more. In the next four weeks, as news stories kept surfacing and cases kept rising, the stock market was halted four times. This happens when the index drops more than 7%, usually from it's previous day's close, and it causes the entire market to pause all trading for 15 minutes. I have only seen this happen a couple of times and it generally signifies something very bad; this can also happen with single name stocks, but that is not quite as worrying as the entire market shutting down. 

On March 9th, Italy went into lockdown, the markets took a dive and were subsequently halted, oil prices plunged, and Dr. Fauchi told cruisegoers that maybe they should rethink their vacations. On the afternoon of March 11th, I flew to New York City for work meetings and my friend's wedding, which was scheduled for Pi day (March 14th). My flight was nearly empty. By the time I left for the airport, the S&P 500 had dropped over 9%, WHO had declared COVID-19 a pandemic and Trump had suspended flights from Europe. 

Flight San Francisco to New York on March 11th

The next day in the office in Manhattan was not a pretty one; the markets were halted again and everyone was scrambling to figure out where this was going to go. I will not lie though, that evening I went for a work dinner, with hugs and no masks and shared appetizers. We just did not know what was coming. 

That evening, my friend texted to say that she was worried for me because they were shutting down restaurants in Brooklyn and that she and her fiancĂ©e were thinking of canceling their wedding. I was still skeptical and thought maybe she was overthinking things (she IS a worrier!), but I asked her to keep me posted. The next day, Friday the 13th, Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency (and the markets actually went up) and my firm stated that only essential business travel will be allowed. My worried friend told me they were canceling their wedding and I should get on the first flight out of there. 

I did what she said and left the next day (luckily my getting home WAS essential to my company!) I was in the office on Monday early as I usually am, when we got the word that people should all stay home and that the office would be closed, effective immediately. Since I was already there, I said I would stay and they let me. I am glad they did. I was not too worried about my health as I was alone in my own solo office so I did not feel unsafe, but also this day turned out to be even worse than the others; all three main indices dropped over 12% and were halted again that day and it would have been really hard to do my job not only from home but on a new system that was not even available to us before this day and so we had not practiced using! 

The week of March 16th was not awesome, and was full of stress and anxiety and yet another market halt, but the bottom of the markets came on....you guessed it, March 23rd! Of course we did not know it was the bottom; it was just another bad day in a string of bad days. But I will never forget this day; I will never forget this entire experience, but especially this day. In my time working in finance, or maybe in all of my career, this was the worst period I have ever experienced, both financially and emotionally. It was unpleasant and emotionally draining. Added to a world that was in the midst of a pandemic and going through this all while in lockdown, it was a trifecta of terrible. 

Screenshot taken on March 18th 2020

Photo sent to my parents at the end of the week of March 16th - yes, that's a pint glass.

I know that many people have kids and had to deal with that, or had to work and couldn't afford to stay home, AND had kids. I know that many people have loved ones who died. There are so many stories about coping and hardship and loss, and my story about people losing their money is not the worst of it. This entire period and beyond were horrible, as my grandma would say, and I am definitely not minimizing anybody else's horrible. This is just one story of many. 

What is your pandemic story? What part of the COVID-19 experience will you definitely never forget? What day or event sticks in your mind the most? 

Disclaimer: The information above is solely an opinion based my own personal experience. You do you. I am not a tax and/or financial advisor; nothing in this post should be taken as investment advice. I have no fiduciary responsibility to anyone reading this post. Please consult a financial advisor for investment advice.  Sources include ReutersThe Week and CNBCFor my other posts regarding money, go here


  1. Happy anniversary? That doesn't sound right, let's try "happy being 3 years away from an awful day".

    I was in the camp that just didn't get what everyone was freaking out about. Meanwhile my husband started buying extra food and toilet paper in February, so he was way ahead of the curve. March 12 was our last in office day, and while other companies were just doing it for a few weeks, my company came out strong right out of the gate that we were staying home until June (which ended up being permanently home).

    Once we were home it was WONDERFUL and one of the happiest times of my life. My job was secure, we didn't have to commute, and we didn't have to run around getting the boys to their activities. It was just a really happy time of hanging out with my family.

    1. Yes, I guess it is an anniversary but not a happy one, unless you mean happy that it's long in the rearview mirror.

      I actually have some good things to say about the time spent during the lockdown and following it. We started doing video calls with my family which we still now do every week. This is a great tradition that may not have happened if we went so far away from each other.

  2. Even as a math nerd, I did not realize today was a palindrome. I am so exhausted and overwhelmed that it’s hard to keep track of much these days. I don’t remember much market wise from that time honestly. Bonds were impacted of course but since everything was down, I don’t remember much from that period. I was in the middle of trying to get pregnant so was lucky that I could continue with that cycle. I had to get an ultrasound to make sure I didn’t have too many follicles before getting the ok to ‘try’ for a baby that month (I was on drugs that made sure I ovulated). I found out I was pregnant towards the end of the month and Phil was like - of course you are pregnant now that we are in a pandemic. What I remember most is having to go to my 8 week ultrasound alone. At my last 8w US the previous October, we found out the baby did not have a heartbeat but Phil was with me for that. I was terrified the same thing would happen and I would be alone. They let me FaceTime with him. The US tech was the same person who did our miscarriage US so I told her to tell us ASAP if there is a heartbeat. And luckily there was. We had kept Paul home starting the week after the world shut down, so around march 18 or so? We kept him home for 7 weeks and waited until I had that US because I was afraid I’d have another miscarriage and would need my parents to watch him if I needed a D&C again and I didn’t want to risk exposing them to covid. But gah that was an incredibly stressful period.

    I would say the last 2 weeks have been the hardest of my career by far. I’m working a lot of hours and doing so many calls and the calls are stressful as people did not expect this performance profile from preferreds. But I can’t say - well, this is a spread sector that is more correlated to equities… things are getting better and we are clawing our way back but since we owned CoCos it’s been a really rough stretch. We’ve never had a default/permanent impairment in our portfolio and now we had 2 in the span of a week… I mean we owned Fannie and Freddie prefs during the GFC but those didn’t default… so this is the first true default. I want to go to sleep and wake up when this is over. I just hope things settle by the time I go to Tucson with Paul. It would be hard to work during that vacation.

  3. March 13th stands out for sure at the pivotal date; it was a Friday and my husband had been at a huge conference in Las Vegas and managed to get home that day right before the Canada/US borders closed. It was my daughter's final day of school for that academic year and my son's last-ever day of preschool (but of course we didn't know it at the time). My parents had to leave their rental in our town early because the woman they rent from had to get back into Canada ASAP. They said goodbye to us through our sliding glass door.

    The other thing I remember SO much from those early days is setting up a daily schedule and at 3 pm it was a Disney movie. I was just talking about this with my husband last night. We have a lot of good memories from those days - though overall it was just so, so hard being stuck home with the kids even with all our blessings - and those daily movies became like a saving moment in my day. Getting to 3 pm felt SO hard so many days, but then. a Disney movie for the kids and I could catch a breath and it also meant after the movie it was basically supper time and then bed and we had survived another day!

    I also remember literally sitting on my phone and refreshing the news screen over and over. It was such a state of shock and chaos and panic. Even still is almost feels like it had to all be this horrible dream?

    1. I remember refreshing my phone too! The news just kept getting worse and worse. I felt the same way during the Trump election, like...are those numbers real? Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? This also happened during 911 and Brexit, although obviously 911 was pre smartphone so it was a different beast. I do remember wondering "what do I do now? since we had been sent home from work with the thought that San Francisco might be the next target.

      All of these things seem surreal and it makes me think about what people who went through a world war think afterwards. Or during!

  4. It's so interesting reading your story! I live in the UK and I have some money in the states and I remember watching the pound crash and wondering if it was time to move more money over here... but also wondering if literally all my money in GBP or USD was going to be worthless.

    We went into lockdown in the UK on March 23rd. I remember everything was getting very weird beforehand, and since we felt like something weird was coming my friends and I all had dinner the friday before lockdown started. We didn't know if we should hug or not but also we thought we might not see each other for a few weeks so did hug.

    I was working in mining at the time which is highly dependent on markets so we weren't sure if the company was going to collapse... especially because a lot of what we did was travel. However it turned into some of the most profitable times the mining industry had ever seen due to the increasing demand for consumer electronics. So, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself not to worry. The job was safe and by the end of the pandemic I didn't want to be in that industry anymore anyways.

    1. Your first comment is interesting, as I never really worried about my deposits losing value; of course I definitely worried about the stock market, but cold hard cash was still safe in my eyes. Actually I think that is why this last banking sector issue has really made people worried, because it is our cash at risk and cash is supposed to be safe! Obviously nothing is safe, but we have certain expectations, don't we?

      The mining and fossil fuel industries sure did have quite a run! I think they are coming back down a tad (well, not some of the metals themselves) right now but man they really soared!

  5. It's really interesting hearing different people's stories. Especially since I do not work in finance, it's fascinating to hear things from that perspective. It is weird to remember how we went from non-masking wearing carelessness one day and into a pandemic the next. On March 12 2020 my son flew to Indianapolis for a national orchestra festival... then on the next day the pandemic was declared, the festival was obviously canceled and we had to get him back home. The worst thing about the pandemic for me is that my son had to miss his senior year of high school- that still makes me really sad. He was upset at the time, but now that he's in college he's happy that he didn't have to miss any of his college experience.
    Oh, and I'm mad I didn't realize 3/23/23 was a palindrome! I'm not sure what I would have done with that knowledge, but it's still a fun fact.

    1. That is interesting that given the choice looking back, your son would rather have college in person and miss high school. I guess I would feel the same way. HS is already a known so missing that is not as much of an issue, but college is new and already hard enough; having to start a new endeavor online would be really hard!

  6. I always find it interesting where people were at and what they were doing when the start of the pandemic happened. I still remember sitting at lunch with my coworkers and one of them scrolling through his phone and then saying, "Oh shit, Coronavirus is a global pandemic." I still didn't quite get what that meant and how it would affect us then, though. I also remember being in Target in early March and hearing someone walking down an aisle, on the phone with someone else, and saying "So-and-so Target has toilet paper!" I was fine on TP at that point but grabbed a pack to be on the safe side, lol. I think I may talk about my Covid experience at some point, but it's hard because I feel bad that the pandemic didn't really affect me much AND made some things in my life a whole lot better (like being able to work remotely FT now). But our experiences are our experiences! And I am definitely very grateful the way mine turned out.


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