The Mid-Pandemic Survival Guide – Old Money Style

On this blog, we discuss the complexities and nuances of Old Money Values…the important concepts, priorities, and habits that inform the Old Money way of life. These include Health, Education, and Financial Independence, just to name a few.

I detail these Core Values in The Old Money Book. They make up about half the book, with the other half being dedicated to the nuts and bolts discussion of How Old Money Does It, in which I detail the way we dress, how we purchase cars, and how we furnish our homes, among other things.

With a crystal ball, I could have added a last chapter in the book entitled How To Survive a Pandemic. I would have included health tips like wearing masks and practicing social distancing, of course. More helpful would have been how to survive the economic crater that’s left when the global economy takes a hit due to a deadly, highly contagious virus.

Of course, there’s no way anyone could have predicted this disaster. A more dangerous prediction, however, is that we’re on our way out of this soon (the next 12 months), and that the world will return to ‘normal’ when we finally do come out of it.

This will be a recovery years in the making. If you remember the Financial Crisis in 2008 and think, Has everyone really recovered from that? then you’ll get an idea of the long term picture. It ain’t rosy, and I’m an optimist.

I’m also a pragmatist. Those of you who regularly read and comment here will know that I tend to address the issues at hand, whatever they may be, from a practical perspective. This goes for clothes to cars to philosophy to finances. How are these things working for you on a daily basis, on a personal level? That’s what’s important. I don’t live in an ivory tower, pontificating from on high.

So let’s deal with the realities of this situation and address some options that may be facing many of you in these uncertain times.

First, this pandemic is not even half way over in the United States. The public health fallout is going to be massive, not just in the short term, but in the long term. We have already had a tragic, unfathomable loss of life, and infection rates continue to swell. Slow and haphazard government response and leadership on the federal level, combined with the massive population and land mass of our country, have made containment of this virus almost impossible. We’re lucky things haven’t been worse, but they’re certainly going to get worse before they get better.

Furthermore, this virus decimates the lungs of some people who are infected with it. What that means 2 years or 5 years or 10 years from now in terms of how many people will be disabled and unable to work is anybody’s guess and everyone’s worst nightmare. We have no idea what other dormant symptoms will present themselves in infected patients, even if they show no or mild symptoms right now.

What this will do to our workforce, and our national debt is unknowable, but unpleasant to even imagine. We’re talking about the damage we’ve seen already, not the damage of a sustained wave, such as many states are experiencing right now. Then there’s a second wave that is likely to hit in the fall and winter of this year.

In addition to being a health crisis, we face the resulting economic crisis, at present and in the long term. Even with telecommuting and social distancing, the way we work has permanently changed. Entire industries may vanish from the economic landscape. 20 to 30 percent unemployment may be an everyday statistic for the next 2 years. Coming bankruptcies and foreclosures might make 2008 look like a walk in the park. Government officials here in Paris are privately floating a five year target range for the world economy to be back in some kind of shape, assuming no other disasters strike in the interim. This will make you switch from champagne to cognac in a hurry.

The shocking thing is this: I’m not telling you anything you probably don’t already know. What I’m going to tell you now is how to handle it.

First, alter your perspective. This pandemic is not an inconvenience. It is not a ‘trend’ or a fad that will soon pass. Life will not carry on as usual. This is war. If you look at Covid-19 as the enemy, a modern day, invisible Nazi, then you will develop the correct mindset in addressing it and not just surviving this challenge but thriving during and after it.

If there’s a invading Nazi army outside your door, do you care if you have to put on a mask, carry hand sanitizer, and forego having dinner with your friends at a restaurant in order to defeat it? What exactly would be too much of an inconvenience or a chore if you’re faced with this situation? What exactly would you do to protect yourself and your family?

That’s the mindset you have to adopt–for the long haul–during this crisis. Above all, you have to stay healthy and survive. Harshly, you must also look at those who don’t take it seriously as secondary threats to your safety and security, regardless of who they are. You can’t hang out with people who don’t wear masks and don’t practice social distancing and expect not to get sick.

How you address that issue with your friends, coworkers, and family is your business. But it is a conversation a lot of people have had, and if you want to come out of this thing healthy, solvent, and better off, you’ll have to avoid careless people or have the hard talk. Wearing a mask is not a political statement. It’s the not-stupid thing to do. No indoor gatherings. Wash your hands. All that stuff. You know the drill.

Second, prioritize or eliminate unnecessary expenses. The monthly wine club membership, the cable television bill, Friday night dinners out, you know the ones. The 100 or 200 bucks a month that just slips out the door unfelt or unnoticed. It’s time to review the credit card statement and see what’s draining your bank account and put a plug in it.

Note: education is not one of these because it’s an investment and not an expense. If you or your child is going off to college in the fall, go. Sacrifice wherever else you have to, but get your education. Whittle away the debt if you have any, and stack the cash however and whenever you can. Cash is, now more than ever, king. Forget buying new clothes or cars. If you can sell a car and still get back and forth to work, consider doing that. Pocket the cash and take the bus. If you can sell your house and walk away with a tidy sum, consider doing that now, while people still have money to buy. If you can move back home with the parents and save rent money, think about it and talk with them about it. Again, bank the cash in every way possible.

Third, keep yourself healthy. Exercise more regularly outside and at home and avoid crowded indoor areas at all costs. Keep your scheduled doctor and dentist appointments for maintenance. Become a vegetarian or a vegan. It will save you tremendous amounts of money and boost your energy level. It will also help the planet. It’s not that difficult (I did it, in Paris, no less.) And you’ll discover a world of great foods to explore and enjoy.

Fourth, look for opportunities to make extra money, either through overtime, home-based businesses, or side hustles. Park your pride and focus on the bottom line. This is about making money and surviving.

Fifth, plan a victory party. We will defeat this enemy. We’re Americans. We can do anything. We just need to do the right thing. And once we’ve done it, we will need to celebrate. So plan with family and friends what you’re going to do when this crap has stopped hitting the fan. Envision a roomful of loved ones, laughing, kissing, embracing, joyful, healthy, happy, carefree, and safe.

That vision is why we’re at war.  So let’s win this thing.

  • BGT




10 thoughts on “The Mid-Pandemic Survival Guide – Old Money Style

  1. Just the life style outlined in your book lends itself to surviving the pandemic.
    We always lived frugally, but below is some items we do.

    “Just put it on the pile”. That is a favorite statement my wife makes, the pile is in her sewing room and if I have a shirt or pants with a rip they get fixed right up. I haven’t purchased any shirts since 2007. I really don’t want anyone to sew for me, but this is something she loves doing. Her friends love the gifts made for them too.

    A Covid.19 “Victory Garden”, right now we have just herbs since it’s too soon to harvest.

    Eat healthy and simple: Egg on toast for breakfast, Tuna for lunch and Roasted Vegetables over rice with olive oil for dinner. Home cooking.

    Have a home library if you can, spend hours taking your mind off the current events reading and taking naps in a leather chair.

    Keep the Triple AAA membership up though. Our cars are like new but they are about 12 years old. Too new and in good shape to get rid of.

    As always be careful with money, review with your advisor. If your doing well just be thankful then get on with life.

    “Put a sweater on”, so many people with Oil Boilers in old houses pay a fortune to convert to gas, so they can push the thermostat through the roof. I can only get Oil where I am and my bill is less than any gas customer, because we put sweaters on when cold and cover up with our hand made quilts in the Winter.

    By just keeping ourselves busy, isolating (No more NYC for awhile) and leading a healthy lifestyle hopefully we will al be fine.

    1. You’re right, Bob. Living the Old Money lifestyle gives anyone a head start when it comes to pandemics, strange as that is to say. Your points are spot on and much appreciated. – BGT

  2. Byron, before any comments, thank you for a pragmatic, practical and thoughtful blog post. If everyone in the US would just take one piece of it and practice that piece, we would be so much better off.

    What are we doing? Maine just recently lifted the stay-at-home order so we can move more but, truthfully, we don’t. We wear face masks everywhere, and I use gloves. We do not patronize stores without social distancing in place. Six fee is my rule, even with my mask on. Upon arriving home, gloves and mask get taken off, dropped on the ‘mask counter’ and hands and face are washed. You don’t touch anything in the house before washing. My husband is a medic so we practice infectious disease protocol in our house.

    Eating is easy. 95% is made at home so the food bill increased by $10. However, the take out bill decreased substantially, so the budget is balancing. We invested in a freezer of frozen foods and a premade pizza will once in a while make it into the shopping cart, but even that isn’t more than $9 and happens very infrequently.

    The sewing machine churns out triple layer facemasks for family, friends and others who are in need of a specialized fit. Two pieces of high quality quilters cotton and a shop cloth filter. I’ve finished 35 of them and have another 10 to go. I don’t charge. People who truly need one and can’t afford one gets one for free. The same for clothing repairs. ‘Put it on my cutting table’ is the new mantra when a seam needs to be stitched or a hem altered. n\Nothing is discarded. The old saying of ‘Use it Up, Wear It Out, Make it Do or Do Without!’ has gotten a good workout since the pandemic started. And if I need more fabric, it is delivered to the house or picked up curbside.

    My husband and son still work at their places since they are essential, but the minute they get home the same process for coming in after being out kicks in. Hands wash, masks and gloves off. And don’t touch yourself or your nose, mouth and eyes without washing first. I am fortunate to be working remotely as my employer moved to a remote based system in March when this all first started. Everything is computer based anyway and we have the ability to attend zoom meetings, take phone calls remote, and do everything related to HR from our home offices.

    A couple of areas have changed. All mail is held for 24 hours on the mask table. I get bills electronically as well so it doesn’t change paying bills. We save a lot on gas because without my commuting. We do grocery shopping once a week and have not shopped for clothes since this all began. We utilize the hardware store quite frequently to do needed home repairs that couldn’t be done before. And one big area that has changed is that used books are no longer brought into the house. We buy them new, using discount codes and other ways to discount them by 50 to 60% from the price listed. It disturbs me to have to do this, because I fully support library book sales and the money they generate for libraries, but it is a small price to pay to stay safe.

    And education…that interesting word. At this point both my husband and son will be returning to college in the fall, although for them being commuters, it will not be as interesting a world as the resident students. The school plans to have the students go until Thanksgiving, and then go home, taking their finals remotely. We’ll see how that works.

    I am also making quilted lap blankets for the cold winter nights that are coming in the next few months, repurposing old shirts for fabric. We all try to keep busy and I have a Facebook network of people in my town that I belong to that allows for some social contact. Oh, and one big purchase happened. Please don’t laugh. My husband was in a car accident that totalled our SUV back at the end of April. We had to purchase a used one. No other big purchases, though.

    1. Thank you for sharing your protocols and adjustments, KD. A great regimen for staying safe and sane during this moment. Continued good health there. – BGT

  3. Thank you for a timely and much-needed pep talk, Byron. In December of last year, we decided to put our financial goals into overdrive. We paid off all remaining debts, transferred our IRAs into something with much lower fees, transferred savings to higher interest rates, and made a goal to vastly reduce our expenses in 2020 by only traveling domestically, not going out as often, and not shopping. We had just gone vegan and reduced alcohol consumption in 2018. Little did we know how all these changes would prepare us for what was to come! Our mantra for now: chin up, don’t complain, count your blessings, and save, save, save.

    1. You’re very welcome, Elizabeth. And good for you. Some very smart, prescient moves on your part. Please be safe and continue being healthy. Congratulations on the vegan diet! It’s a life-changer. Thanks – BGT

  4. These are good reminders, and I do hope our country rises to the occasion as our numbers are not looking good right now. We were in Nimes, France when Macron initated the lockdowns. I was amazed at the calm that prevailed and the trust the French had in the guidelines that were placed for their safety. It was a stark contrast to when we got home to New England.

    The past few months our family has been shoring up our supplies. Aside from sanitizer, homemade masks, we re-stocked our pantry and freezer, made more cloth alternatives to paper products. We played games and read the books we had on our shelves. Food was ordered from local farmers when possible. The only thing we sorely missed was the library.

    Now that things are opening up a bit, I’ve been focusing my dollars on buttoning up things at home, especially the little things that annoy me throughout the day. For example, getting an extra reading lamp to remedy inadequate lighting, finding missing pieces for our faucet, putting up an extra shelf, re-potting plants. Things that had been nagging at me for years but I never got around to. I take a few thrift store jaunts to stock our home library with classics, and to pick up clothes for my growing children. We added four more garden beds for vegetables.

    Good luck and I look forward to reading more posts.

    1. Thanks, Serena. Yes, the contrast between France and the US is very sharp now. I hope you enjoyed your visit prior to things going sideways. Be safe there, keep up the smart choices you’ve described above. – BGT

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