There’s No Going Back…


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:

 

Travel

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.

 

Mall Shopping

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

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.

 

Adapt Fast

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.

 

Final Thoughts

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]

20 thoughts on “There’s No Going Back…

  • June 29, 2020 at 3:25 AM
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    “Malls are dead” – this brings a massive smile to my face. I’ve always considered shopping malls worse than prisons.

    And there are other silver linings in this even though it’s unpopular to say so. You mentioned schools and I think at least for colleges it might bring massive change. So many people will now be reconsidering the insane $50k price tag and debt associated with it while they’re basically able to learn the same stuff online, free. I myself have taken free classes from Coursera from Wharton School of Business, Princeton, and MIT during the crisis. All free.

    If COVID helps end the Student Loan crisis, or at least slow it substantially, then that’s a big silver lining.

    Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 7:58 AM
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      Totally agree about the crazy college price tags, Dave. There’s no need for people to pay such hefty prices for new and pretty buildings and a nice campus. I’ve pictured the university landscape turning to online as the main way of teaching for years now. This might be part of what tips that scale that way.

      Even if the prices aren’t free, the competition alone in that market would keep the prices in the market at a more palatable level.

      — Jim

      Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 8:54 AM
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      Good points all around Dave. When I wrote this I wasn’t thinking of college campuses, but a little competition could go a long way toward keeping the costs down.

      Afterall, when you’re only attending ‘online’, what’s the point of paying for a fancy campus?

      Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 7:23 AM
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    Our nearest drive-in movie theater has seen a big resurgence. Maybe it’ll be the year of the drive-in.

    Our nearby mountain climbing gym reopened over the weekend and Jenni gave it a go, but of course, it’s a very different experience. Maybe it’ll push her (and me!) to do more outdoor rock climbing.

    I still do some consulting on the web with especially meaningful projects, especially in education. Higher Ed is scrambling to implement a swathe of different tools to make online education easier and more robust for students. We’ll see what this means for physical campuses. It’s certainly going to be a different world for schools like you said.

    Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 7:44 AM
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    I agree that many of us get caught ruminating about the past (what could have been) and also worrying about the future (what may be). Its good advice to live in the present and try to make do with what we have. Too bad a pandemic forced us to live in the moment. Yes, things will change and we have to adapt, but this may be a chance for us to collectively reassess our priorities. I read more, I’m more mindful of my purchases and I reach out electronically to family and loved ones a little more often. My work has changed and I think it’s a good thing. There is enough bad out there already, maybe it’s a perfect time to look for some of the good?

    Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 8:56 AM
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      I totally agree Medimentary. Many of the changes we think as onerous today may turn out to have a silver lining… a chance to fix things wrong with the world.

      Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 8:12 AM
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    Some things will go back to more normal. Eventually, people will travel again. It could take a couple of years, but most of us like traveling. School will go back to normal at some point. This fall doesn’t look good, though. Homeschooling again!
    I’m with you on brick and mortar stores. The ones that survive should be the best of the best. Outdoor malls should still do pretty well, IMO. I guess we’ll see.
    Universities? I don’t know. Some of that probably will transition online. But I think students will go back to the campus at some point.

    Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 9:02 AM
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      Wow, you’re pretty optimistic Joe! According to some epidemiologists, the virus may turn out to be like the flu… it comes back every year, or every few years.

      Then again, the vaccine could be like polio… after we’ve had a couple rounds of vaccine we’re immune for life.

      Nobody knows the full answer of course, these are just potential outcomes. But I think you’re right, it’s going to take a few years at the very least.

      We better get used to it!

      Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 9:29 AM
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    I realize that for people with those weird things in their lives, kids and jobs, life is different. Not for us, it is very much the same. We don’t need an income and our kids are grown and live away from our town. We have maintained the same routines of running, tennis, hiking, fishing and off roading. We do church and volunteering remotely now but it isn’t really that much different. We still almost always get take out when we don’t cook at home. We only rarely darkened the doors of retail places, online shopping has been our norm for years. We already used curbside grocery pick up. We still visit with our neighbors daily. Its just not that big a deal to us. We will only know when things are back to normal when other people tell us about it because they have seemed very normal all year.

    Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 9:51 AM
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      That’s fantastic how little disruption you’re seeing Steveark! It’s been a hell of a year for the rest of us! 🙂

      Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 3:46 PM
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    Mr Tako, thanks so much for the second effort getting it written! The call to Adjust is timely. I did not want to retire when the virus hit. I’d already adjusted to upheavals and committed to the new these past 2 years. Structured social and goals at work and at school were a delight, now gone. Having many losses at home is kept private. Zoom pales in comparison to a busy schedule. Financial uncertainty is a grey dust cloud obliterating the horizon. An accessible goal online at home is political action, worthwhile but rarely uplifting. I find physical activity does elevate one’s mood almost immediately, as does music, as does reading inspiring history. With the virus, almost everything is done alone indoors. Those with a wife, helpmeet, children, may want to take a moment to thank them for providing lively tasks with future focus and hopes. And yes, we all enjoy reminders for forward-thinking positive steps. C’est la vie!

    Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 4:03 PM
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    Talk about the new norm. My company just decided to transition to remote work permanently. Can’t say I’m sad about it

    Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 5:13 PM
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    Yeah interesting post and I’m looking forward to reading about stock opportunities you mentioned Mr Tako if you have specific ideas. I think dispersed work forces will be huge and am hopeful that cost can come out of universities as well….wait there are still malls? I assumed that Amazon turned them all into server centers and distribution buildings 😉

    Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 7:20 PM
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    I recently found your blog and am really learning so much from your posts! I’ve started reading them from the beginning and am now reading your posts from 2016. The world has changed so much since then! The thing I’m enjoying most about this crazy time that we’re living through right now is the work from home situation. I’m so glad that I don’t have to waste so much time commuting to an office with open seating where I’m constantly distracted by people around me having loud conversations. By working at home, I’m able to concentrate better and can work in silence! I saw that you mentioned this in your post: “Become a keen observer of human behavior, then save and invest accordingly.” Can you elaborate a bit more on that? Do you have any advice on how to find companies that may be good to invest in? (particularly, companies that are less well known – how do you find those?)

    Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 4:28 PM
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      Well, finding new companies is mostly about curiosity. Whenever I interact with a company or hear a company name, I always look on the website to see if they’re public. It’s just habit now. After that, it’s just reading the 10k’s and q’s.

      Blogs are also a good source of ideas. I wrote a post about some of my favorite investing blogs here: 10 Great Investing Blogs To Read

      Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 10:02 PM
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    Yes Mr Tako, I feel that shopping centres need to find new types of business’s for there tenants to survive in the new covid after life.
    I live in Australia and have been this week twice to our local shopping centre and they are packed.
    There share prices are very cheap. But I have decided to invest in the industrial Areits going forward

    Reply
  • July 1, 2020 at 8:19 PM
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    Maybe …. it will take a few years to see more clearly … Beijing here seems pretty good …. I just semi? retired and have already been offered 3 possible jobs to fit my semi? retirement mode …. luckily? my investments have gone up around 2.5 million RMB these past few months – PTL … 3rd quarter mayhem waiting?? profits squished? probably … will see how this roller coaster pans out?? Vaccine??? etc etc 🙂

    Reply
  • July 5, 2020 at 2:45 AM
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    I wonder if we’ll see a reduction in the sharing economy going forward? Where we are we’ve seen the decimation of all things shared, Uber, Airbnb, libraries, Waterparks and amusement parks, playgrounds, churches, gyms, planes and trains all closed or banned. I see those that can afford to aren’t likely to go back to sharing.

    Also interesting is how different countries have reacted. Friends in Europe have begun traveling again across borders, by train or ferry, some planes. UK is opening up for international visitors too, but none from Africa or the US.

    Our own country South Africa has a lot of poverty. The poor here have to travel in packed enclosed mino buses that take up to 20 people and are spreading the virus quickly now. They also cannot do online shopping or online schooling so shops and schools are returning to the old way, but the other half of the country is doing full online. It seems there will be an even greater digital divide.. But we’re all locked down as the laws have to be applied across the whole population but the poor are unable to self isolate,so the most vulnerable are the least compliant.

    Interesting times to adapt. We’re mostly fine except for not being allowed to visit socially with friends or family, only illogically in restaurants or in shopping centres. Lets see how it all pans out, I’m hopeful that we’ll reach a level that seems more normal.

    Reply

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