Look to the Future

I was briefly tempted to name this article after the movie “Back to the Future”, but felt a flippant title was inappropriate.  I’m sure some comedians are already mining the COVID-19 crisis for material, but it seems too early for jokes.

Based on various charts and data models, it appears that much of the country has peaked in number of cases and deaths.  While good news, it is far from over.  Those in high risk groups are still very much in peril.  In addition, there is still a dreaded second wave anticipated.  It’s not over yet and it appears a vaccine is still some time in the future.

While in a crisis, it’s difficult to see one’s way out of it.  It feels endless.  Stay-at-home orders have made it extremely hard for some.  I feel sorry for my extroverted friends.  They seem to be more impacted than introverts like me.  Personally, it’s given me more time to work on projects and more importantly look to the future.

Here are the 5 things I believe will come out of this crisis:

  1. More telecommuting – This is the most obvious prediction. It’s no shock that employees enjoy telecommuting.  It gives back time wasted in traffic and allows for a more relaxed approach to dress.  What’s not to like? Well, bosses have been slow to adopt.  Telecommuting technology has existed for years, but only a handful of companies have embraced it.  Old school thinking feared the lack of productivity and supervision.  The imposition of telecommuting during this time has shown that it is a viable option for specific jobs where physical presence is not necessary.  More heavily regulated industries, like financial services, may continue to require physical presence to ensure proper supervision.
  2. Teachers in classrooms are critical – The explosion of Zoom and its videoconferencing software seemed to portend a shift to schooling from home. While possible in certain scenarios and subjects, students don’t seem to be sold.  Even in homeschooling, a live teacher, i.e. parent, is near at hand.  Complaints of distractions, boredom and wasting time highlight the importance of teachers in front of a classroom.  We will see more online learning, but the crisis has shown it’s not a replacement for a face to face interaction between an engaged student and teacher.
  3. A Burst of Social Engagement—I don’t think I’m alone in expecting a frenzy of activity once the country is re-opened. There’s a pent-up demand that’s almost palpable among various commentators and social media platforms.   People are hungry to get out and socialize with friends, family, and strangers.  Anyone in the food and entertainment industry should be preparing for an avalanche of demand from consumers.
  4. Return to normalcy—While I know there are prognosticators claiming that we will be fundamentally changed by this event, I’m not so sure. In some respect things will have to change.  The idea of deeper cleaning and sanitizing is one that may remain.  However, humans have a desire to keep things the same.  I think this will result in a movement back to normalcy that will be quicker and more emphatic than people think.  In other words, the crisis will have had an impact, but our impulse will be to get things back to how they were.
  5. Analysis on impact to our various communities – In hearing of the overwhelming impact of the crisis to black and Hispanic communities, a thorough review is needed to uncover the causes. We have to understand the why, to consider how to address.
  6. Planning – This topic covers a lot. I don’t know any one individual, organization, or level of government that was fully prepared for this event.  Should we have been? Probably.  We’ve had warnings in the past.   There’s no doubt that more individuals and agencies will do a better job planning for the future.  From individuals unprepared for short term food and household shortages (there will be dissertations on the cause of the toilet paper crisis) to governmental response and preparedness, we can do better.

Included in emergency planning, should be financial emergency planning.  It’s quite easy to put off building an emergency fund, but as this crisis has shown it can be crucial for families in need.  A cash reserve equal to 3 to 6 months of expenses is a must-have.  Additionally, an investment portfolio allocated according to your risk profile and your timeline is essential.

If you would like to learn how an independent, fee only advisor and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help you, please contact me.  Feel free to share with others and make suggestions for future articles: peter.oneill@fiduciamwealth.com