Argh! Believe it or not this is the second time I’m writing this post. I was just about ready to publish the first (original) version of the post last Friday, but upon hitting the ‘publish’ button, the post disappeared into a puff of digital smoke.
Damn! Hours and hours of writing completely gone due to some strange technological fart.
But my little blogging mishap is a very very small problem compared to the incredible difficulties many people are living through at this very moment. It’s been a very difficult year. Schools and businesses are closed, there’s widespread protesting in the streets, many people are out of work, the stock market has been extremely volatile, and a coronavirus vaccine seems a long ways off.
2020 hasn’t been easy.
It’s enough to make the average sensible person want to focus on the here and now. Forget about the future, let’s just try to live through today. Dreams of financial independence seem a long ways off when you’re not certain how to pay for next month’s rent.
Life is filled with uncertainty right now, and uncertainty can be stressful and scary. It’s that same uncertainty our ancient ancestors felt when they heard the howl of wolves under a starlit sky. Our ancestors couldn’t predict the future (if they’d be eaten by wolves or not) any better than we can today.
At this point, most people are simply wishing life would go back to “normal”.
Sadly, I’ve got some bad news… there is no going back. The genie can’t be put back in the bottle.
The New Normals
This is the new normal… OK that’s the bad news. The good news, is that the sooner you adapt and accept all of this as “normal”, the easier it’s going to be to transition into this new world.
What’s changed? Well obviously wearing masks and washing your hands 50 times a day is a bit of a change, but there’s more going on here than just better personal sanitation habits. Tons of areas in the economy have been changing, restructuring, or re-configuring in the past couple of months. The pace of change has been unprecedented.
Here’s a couple of the biggest big changes that will have major impacts on how we work and play:
Everyone loves to travel, but international travel seems to be off the table for the foreseeable future. Many countries still have travel bans and/or quarantines in place for foreign visitors. This probably won’t change until a vaccine appears, or virus numbers are under control. Get used to it. The virus won’t be going away anytime soon, and I doubt the bans and quarantines will either.
Domestic air travel appears to be a realistic possibility, but flights are still very limited and prices seem to be higher. Most people probably don’t want to fly for risk of getting sick either.
For those still wanting a little travel, I think this might be the year of the road trip. There’s probably tons of good travel locations within driving distance of your home you’ve never visited before. This might just be the year to visit them! All from the safety of your own vehicle.
I’ve said it once already, but I’ll say it again: Malls are dead. Covid-19 might be the final nail in the coffin for the traditional mall-based shopping experience. In recent months there has been a slew of retail bankruptcies, with many coming from mall-based retailers. I believe there’s plenty more to come, because consumer behavior is often sticky — Once a consumer has formed a shopping habit, they don’t tend to change.
Simply put, get used to ordering almost everything online. Traditional brick and mortar retailers will struggle for awhile, but I believe the fight is finally lost.
Even the mighty Microsoft is closing it’s mall-based retail stores. For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for mall-based retailers.
Schools are definitely one area filled with anxiety for parents. Most parents want their kids back to school this fall, but there are still big questions about what schools will look like when classes resume. There’s no question that class sizes have to be smaller in order to meet social distancing guidelines, but most schools don’t have the space to do that. This suggests to me that school is going to be a “mixed” model next fall. Some days will be in the classroom and some days online.
It’s also likely that when they’re in the classroom students will be wearing masks all day, and lunches will be eaten in the classroom instead of the cafeteria.
School sports seem unlikely to resume.
Concerts, Festivals, And Professional Sporting Events
Are you a fan of professional sports, festivals, or music concerts? If so, you’re probably exceedingly aware of the shutdowns in these entertainment venues. I’ve yet to see a viable model for these events to restart either. With thousands of fans potentially packed into an arena, yelling and screaming, it’s the perfect environment to transmit a deadly virus.
A few musicians have already begun experimenting with “drive-in” concerts, and smaller park-based venues (with enough room for social distancing). Those are interesting developments, but I think it’s going to be difficult to enjoy live music for awhile.
Likewise, professional sports owners have been kicking around ideas like using online broadcasting, but I don’t think it’s likely to bring in the number of fans (or dollars) that sports arenas used to. Would you still pay the same price for “season tickets” if games were only played online? I kind of doubt it!
Working From Home
With a great many people working from home these last few months, many companies have been forced to try out a ‘WFH’-centric business model. Many Fortune 500 companies have even announced they’ll allow employees to work from home through the end of the year!
This is an incredible development if you’re a fan of working from home. As virus numbers begin to decline, some companies may begin moving back “In Office” as the virus subsides. But more than likely a few businesses are still going to be open to employees working from home. That’s great!
I consider this to be the one “good” outcome of this whole pandemic. Perhaps the pandemic will help us move away from the wasteful daily commute to a more efficient way of working — A mixed model with some days at home and some days in the office.
My advice for prospering in this new world can be boiled down to one single word: Adapt. Adapt as quickly as you can to all these new normals. Don’t live for the past, and don’t let the rapid change distract you from what’s important.
Human beings are incredibly adaptable creatures, and have been able to adapt to nearly every environment on this planet. You can adapt to this too! Get used the new normal, and get back to saving and investing to reach financial independence as quickly as you can!
It’s highly likely there’s going to be some very good opportunities to invest in the coming months, despite a recession and a wildly changing economy. Don’t get hung-up on what life was like in the past. Watch how the world is changing to see the new opportunities in front of us.
Become a keen observer of human behavior, then save and invest accordingly.
While humans are terrible predictors of the future, it’s disturbingly obvious we’re going to be living with COVID-19 for some time. As I write this, some of the states that first began opening-up, are locking-down again in attempts to slow new outbreaks. The virus is NOT going away anytime soon.
Even though there are over a dozen different vaccine candidates undergoing human testing right now, none of these are going to be a panacea for what ails us right now. (Not to mention there’s no guarantee any of the candidates will work long-term.) Under the best case scenarios I’ve heard, the soonest a vaccine could complete testing is sometime in 2021. Then there’s the matter of making enough vaccine to immunize billions of people. That could take months, and then distribution could take even more months.
Ugh! In my mind, all this adds-up to a world that’s not “going back to normal” anytime soon.
Despite this, I believe Financial independence is still possible for those willing to work hard, save, and adapt. It might seem like an afterthought in today’s turbulent world, but don’t lose hope!
Find a way to keep compounding and eventually good things are going to happen again.
[Image Credit: Flickr]