It’s officially fall here in the Pacific Northwest. While warmer weather may still linger in certain parts of North America, the shift in seasons here in the Pacific Northwest is quick and decisive.
After 3 glorious months of summer we’re officially back to the wet and the damp. Take a look at this pic I snapped from my kitchen window on Thursday morning:
Wow! It was quite the deluge! Our gutters were completely overloaded! When the river of water finally subsided, I decided it was time to get up on the ladder and start cleaning gutters. This turned into an all-day DIY job.
I know many of my friends and neighbors hire someone to perform gutter cleaning, but it really isn’t that bad if you’re comfortable up on the top rungs of a ladder.
Thankfully we had the foresight to begin cleaning the garden when the weather was still dry. Most of our garden is now closed-down for the season. Not much is left — just a few radishes, a cucumber plant, some basil, and our ubiquitous green onions.
Now it’s time to get the kids back in school…
Like many other school districts, our school system is completely virtual so far this year. I say “so far” because the school district does have a plan for moving kids back into the classroom, but the conditions to make it happen are virtually impossible.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict our school year is going to be entirely virtual.
What does a “virtual school day” look like? Right now, our boys have 2-3 hours of zoom meetings per day, and the rest is “offline” work which we submit via computer or tablet. Each meeting is typically 30-45 minutes at a time (often with both kids having zoom meetings simultaneously).
As for our study space, Mrs. Tako has taken over the home office, so I’ve moved the boys out into the living room. Computers and all. This has become our new classroom.
Most of my day is spent helping the kids. I’m an unpaid teaching assistant, lunch lady, IT support person, principal, nurse, and janitor for this little “virtual school” of ours. The benefit package isn’t that great either!
I won’t pretend it’s tons of fun, but I’m grateful to be there for my kids right now. If there’s one big advantage to this financial independence thing, it’s this — Having enough time for my family when they need me.
Many families are struggling right now, and I know some parents trying to work from home AND keep their kids studying at the same time. It’s a big challenge. By comparison, we’ve got it pretty easy.
Habits Are Everything
As the Tako family settles in for fall, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about habits lately. Habits are everything… or so the saying goes. Make a habit out of something, and it will change your life forever.
The trouble happens when we’re unintentional about the new habits we’re forming. COVID-19 life has forced many of us to change our daily habits unintentionally. Instead of picking up bad habits, I’m trying to be intentional about the habits I’m setting over the coming year:
- I’m trying to get the entire family outside exercising every day. My goal is at least 1 hour of walking, biking, or other outdoor exercise. In the fall and winter it’s more important than ever to make exercise a habit when the weather isn’t great.
- Every morning I’m having the kids read 30-40 minutes before school. Building a reading habit outside of school is going to be very useful when the kids get older.
- Rather than sitting mindlessly in front of a television, I’m trying to read at least 1 chapter of a non-fiction book per night.
- On top of the previous reading goal, I’m trying to keep myself reading new annual reports. At least one per week is my stated goal, but at times I read far more than that!
- I’m not good at pushups, but I’m trying to get better at it. I’m forcing myself to do pushups until failure every day. My goal is to reach 50, but obviously I’m not there yet.
These new habits we’re trying to form are on-top of all the other wealth building habits we’ve built-up over the years — Such as cooking delicious and healthy meals from scratch every single day.
Will I be successful in transforming these into habits?
I have no idea, but I believe many of the habits COVID-19 has pushed people into over the last 7 months are going to be sticky. Many people will continue working from home (at least part of the week), drive a lot less, stream entertainment from the internet, and do more shopping online. The future is likely to arrive in a brown box.
These new habits will have trickle down effects throughout the economy. Some companies will prosper if they’re on the winning side of these new consumer habits, and others will struggle if they’re not part of the “new normal”.
Why I’m Not Betting On A Recovery
After publishing my thoughts last week about what stock sector I like best, I received a bunch of emails from readers asking what I think certain investments are going to do when the economy finally recovers.
Just to clarify — I’m NOT betting on a recovery. At least not anytime soon. All the investments I’ve made this year are either in stocks that are currently thriving, or are likely to maintain profitability.
Many investors are looking to a vaccine (at the end of 2020) as the impetus for a recovery, but I’m not convinced. It’s not going to be an immediate cure-all for the economy. For one, testing of the vaccine has been incredibly rushed. Most people know this, and our confidence in the safety of a rushed vaccine is not high.
Many people are going to “hold off” on getting the new vaccine… at least until they feel it’s safe. This logically implies COVID-19 cases will remain high throughout the winter. High infection numbers will keep many states under restrictions, artificially depressing the economy.
I see this same “bounce back” resistance in all kinds of economic data — For example, consumers are still saving considerably more than last year. More saving means less spending.
Air travel in particular is still very depressed likely due to the high risk of contracting COVID-19 on a plane. Despite the increased cleaning, blocking of middle seats, and requiring of masks, traveler numbers are still way down from where they were last year.
While I do believe there *is* pent-up demand for travel, it’s going to be a long slow road to recovery for air travel. Consumers aren’t convinced it’s safe yet, and shares of airlines and booking firms like Expedia (Symbol: EXPE) or Booking (Symbol: BKNG), will continue to struggle for awhile.
In the entertainment space, movie studios have begun releasing big-budget films again, but recent box office numbers show theaters in absolutely terrible shape. Again, the new mask requirements and stepped up sanitation hasn’t brought consumers back. Stocks like AMC (Symbol: AMC), Cinemark (Symbol: CNK), or Cineworld (Symbol: CINE.L) are going to struggle.
Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but the data indicates that consumers aren’t yet ready to take risks. The economy is fueled by confidence as much as it is by money, and consumer confidence data indicates we have a long ways to go before recovery.
Call me crazy, but this is why I’m not betting on a quick recovery. It could be another year (or maybe even two) before the economy gains enough steam to bring back struggling stocks to profitability.
That’s it for today! Catch you on the flip side!