If in a normal year this country were headed into the Christmas season with a 4.6% unemployment rate, the national mood would be upbeat. But this year and the last one have been two of the most abnormal years of most Americans’ lifetimes.

Back in the spring, as vaccination accelerated and lockdowns ended, one could feel a sense of near-jubilation in the smiles on unmasked faces walking down the street. The Delta variant, along with persistent inflation, put a damper on all the pent-up enthusiasm.

Financial advisors I speak with report an interesting paradox. Their business has rarely been better, and many are receiving offers to sell their businesses at prices they would have deemed inconceivable several years ago.

But burnout and stress levels for some advisors and their clients’ are rising even faster than portfolios. Eighteen months of the pandemic have wrought stresses few of us could have imagined.

This week I read an analysis of what the post-pandemic world would look like from ageless economist Gary Shilling, who was practically the only economist to predict the 1969 and 1978 recessions. One of those predictions cost him his job as chief economist at Merrill Lynch.

Today, Shilling is forecasting a recession, but he sees major changes in the decade ahead. Employees are becoming more independent. People are relocating at a faster rate than usual. Advisors already are seeing this and there’s nothing wrong with it—so far.

Some other trends Shilling sees may discomfit advisors, however. Government is likely to remain involved in the economy more than many would like. Supply-chain bottlenecks probably will accelerate deglobalization. Shilling thinks all this could strengthen the U.S. dollar, which would help clients who want to travel abroad but hurt those with export-driven businesses.

As for the markets, U.S. equities have blown past even the rosiest predictions of Wall Street strategists, who are prone to walk on the sunny side of the street. Savvy advisors have been gradually shifting client portfolios outside of the U.S.

More than a few are rethinking alternative investments like private equity, hedge funds and real estate, as David Sterman writes in this month’s cover story on page 40. Considering alternative investments makes a certain degree of sense given the prices in today’s public markets.

But hedge funds and private equity have their high expenses. Moreover, many invest in the same kind of underlying assets that public markets do. As the cliché goes, there is no free lunch.

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