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.