Settling Into Fall


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:

water water

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.

gutter cleaning

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.

fall garden negi
basil
We’re pretty well prepared for the cold and damp season.  I’m always a little sad to see the summer end, but we did manage to have some fun this summer.

Now it’s time to get the kids back in school…

 

Virtual Schooling

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.

 
We’re still adapting to this new form of school, but it’s starting to get better.  It’s a lot of meetings AND a lot of time in front of the computer.

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.

amazon boxes

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!

 

[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2]

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17 thoughts on “Settling Into Fall

  • September 27, 2020 at 4:58 AM
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    I am actually in awe how much of our economy has kept on working. Just 20 years ago these shutdowns would have completely obliterated the economy. Now, thanks to the internet a lot of business keep working.

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    • September 29, 2020 at 3:10 AM
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      It is pretty amazing how well businesses you wouldn’t think of as “online” business have been able to adapt.

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  • September 27, 2020 at 6:12 AM
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    Sounds like you guys are doing well and set for the fall.

    And 1 hour of reading daily? Sounds like you’re ready to join a book club 🙂

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    • September 27, 2020 at 2:37 PM
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      It seems that when fall comes its time for downpour rains. We sure had a dew says of downpour rains. I think one day we had +45mm in less than 6 hours!

      Having rock climbed in my younger days I’m comfortable with heights. I’m fine cleaning the lower level gutters. We leave the upper levels to a professional though.

      I’m not super convinced that the economy is going to recover quickly. Hospitality sector is going to continue to suffer for a while, unfortunately.

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    • September 29, 2020 at 3:13 AM
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      Thanks Paul! I wish I was a fast enough reader to join a book club! 😉

      Reply
  • September 27, 2020 at 7:47 AM
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    I used to think I wasn’t afraid of heights until I went up on the roof of my grandfather’s house decades ago to help my brother and cousin clean out his gutters… I froze and they had to help me off the roof! 🙂

    You’re so right about a big advantage of FI is being able to have time for family. When things come up (albeit this pandemic’s a little bit of a big one!), it’s nice to not have to stress out trying to figure out how to handle it.

    I like hearing your thoughts on the economy – my feelings are very similar. I got what might be lucky in that I did some rebalancing a little over a month ago and sold about $25k at a market peak. Who knows what’ll transpire down the line but it’s been a nice feeling so far!

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    • September 29, 2020 at 3:15 AM
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      Nice job on the well-timed sale Jim! So what did you buy with the $25k? Is it sitting in cash?

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      • October 1, 2020 at 7:51 AM
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        It is sitting in cash right now. It will likely go into a BulletShares fund but I’ll probably wait until January when I re-allocate everything.

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  • September 27, 2020 at 2:00 PM
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    Congrats on setting a reading goal. I do this with myself and also the kids. Once you get going, it becomes a habit. Non-fiction can be fun. I am reading “A Man for All Markets” right now and it is pretty entertaining.

    Its funny you mentioned Booking. I’ve been watching Booking Holdings the entire pandemic, hoping for a large pull back. Here I am still waiting. Maybe if I had cash in April, but it was too scary at that time to invest in a company where I thought they could see 80% revenue declines.

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    • September 29, 2020 at 3:17 AM
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      Booking is one of those businesses that everyone knows is awesome. It’ll probably never get extremely cheap.

      On top of that a large chunk of their business is in Europe were the pandemic may not have hit quite as hard as it did in the states.

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      • September 29, 2020 at 5:22 AM
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        Europe is hit pretty hard also. Most countries now flashing bright red and taking tougher and tougher measures again (pubs close at 22h, max of 5 or 6 people you can see socially, no events or very limited public wise). Mass tourism didn’t happen this year. I know only 1 person who booked a hotel and he reported it was almost empty with some other hotels nearby closed completely. Renting a little house just for your bubble (or a bigger house with swimming pool together with another family is what most people did). Airb&b might have done ok (although big cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Brussels report enormous drops in tourist visits) …

        Reply
  • September 27, 2020 at 8:45 PM
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    I had to clean some of our gutters too. But I’ll have to do it again when the leaves come down. It only took about 20 minutes so it wasn’t a big deal for me. It’ll be a bigger job when leaves are down.

    Virtual schooling is going unbelievably well for us. We had a low bar because spring was such a struggle. It is so much better this year. Our son’s teacher is trying to get the kids to learn more independently. They are learning how to navigate the lessons, keep to the schedule, and get IT support (via chat from the teacher.) I don’t have to sit next to him all day anymore. Last Friday, I only had to help him a little bit. I don’t mind being virtual the whole year like this. We lucked out and got a very good teacher.

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    • September 29, 2020 at 3:19 AM
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      Wow, you guys got lucky on the virtual schooling. We’re kind of struggling right now, and a lot of that has to do with the teacher and their teaching style. Sometimes it just doesn’t translate well over the internet.

      Reply
  • September 27, 2020 at 10:47 PM
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    I’m loving my 100k+/yr job even more now that I’m working from home (since March)! It’s the best of both worlds, I can work as much as needed to get the mental tasks completed, but have to organize my own time so that I don’t necessarily have to be the SAHP. Don’t get me wrong, I help out, but I also am not expected to nor do I feel bad when I need to pull the ‘breadwinner’ (and health insurance provider) card…

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  • October 1, 2020 at 8:43 AM
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    I’ve also been thinking about COVID habits recently and this disruptive time is perfect to develop some good new habits. I especially appreciate non-gym exercises like running and cycling and both are something I’m doing more of recently. As with you, we eat more at home and work on meal planning. Both are good skills to revisit and were being forgotten before COVID.

    Some friends with children are also having a hard time homeschooling, but they’re using this opportunity to help their kids develop some resilience and independence. Maybe it’s not the best time for them to be learning it, but in the long run, it may make them better off.

    There always seems to be a lot of bad out there. There is no better time than now to look for the good.

    Reply
  • October 9, 2020 at 9:25 AM
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    On habits you’ve built up over the year:

    I think it’s really smart to look them over around now in the fall. Winter tends to be the time that habits go to die as we all get a little rounder and lazier. Take in the habits and routines you’ve enjoyed from summer and make a concerted effort to keep them up.

    With the sun rising ever later and setting ever earlier, it’s really easy to fall into comforting simple things like Netflix or video games (not that there’s anything wrong with either activity specifically!), and let challenging habits fall to the wayside. Smart to evaluate before it’s too late!

    Reply

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