Will life ever be the same again? The Coronavirus has upended all our lives. It happened in a few short weeks. Our first concern is the health and safety of our family. Next is the health of the economy, the stock market and our personal finances. Then comes the question: “Will life go back to being normal? Will tourists travel, planes fly and cruise ships sail?”
Let’s start with some perspective. During World War II, the British people, especially those living in London endured nightly bombing raids, food rationing and the threat of invasion from across the English Channel. They got through and managed with a sense of community and good attitude. Yet a few weeks with the Coronavirus in our lives is having a very different effect on us.
First Concern – Health and Safety of my Family
In this article, I’m not setting out to give advice, but rather to make observations that help guide my personal thinking.
As a frequent traveler to China, I have the advantage of friends there who share data we don’t see over here. Please check out this Covoid-19 Coronavirus DataPack, updated as of March 26th. (1)
Here are some highlights from the chart:
- Majority of infections are mild. 80.9% are mild, 4.7% critical, based on Chinese data.
- Age 60+ are most at risk. In Italy and China, the most deaths have been among people aged 80+.
- People with existing serious medical conditions are most at risk. Cardiovascular Disease (10.5%), Diabetes (7.3%), Chronic Respiratory Disease (6.3%) Very high blood pressure (6.0%) and Cancer (5.6%) The percentage of people who die with no existing preconditions is 0.9%. The more conditions, the greater the risk.
- Contagion. Covid-19 infects less people than Norovirus and is less deadly than SARS, MERS and bird flu.
If you are healthy, younger and have no preexisting conditions, if you were infected, the chances are high the case would be a mild one. Self-isolation, hand washing and not touching your face are excellent precautionary steps.
Second Concern – Health of the Economy. Stock Market and Personal Finances
This becomes more of a matter of personal faith. Do you have faith in the US economy long term? Do you think established companies that have weathered the great recession, the real estate bubble and other tough periods will manage to get through this one too? Do you think the Chinese, who have largely emerged from this crisis, will get their factories running and supply chains functioning? Do you think people will continue to shop, buy cars, fill their gas tanks, collect their prescriptions and visit grocery stores? Do you think online shopping will grow? Do you think the government’s proposed stimulus package will help?
We are transfixed by the stock market’s daily movements. We forget the market has long been considered a leading indicator of the health of the economy, where it should be in several months. Many American have investment assets in retirement plans. If you weren’t planning on selling when the market was hitting new highs in January, why would you be thinking of selling during a decline in March? It’s different of course, if you need the money to spend now.
It’s been said money is like a bar of soap. The more you handle it, the smaller it gets.
Third Concern – Will Life Go Back to Normal?
Your concern might be “Is this the end of the world as we know it?” Another question might be: Have we been in similar situations before? SARS and MERS come to mind. The collapse of the real estate bubble and the Great Recession were scary times. We got through them.
Free Enterprise and Capitalism can be wonderful things. People talk about supply and demand. When you shop for a cruise, if all the prices are $ 200 per person, per day you might say: “Lets rent a beach house of fly to Europe instead.” When prices are $ 100 per person, per day you might set European travel and beach house vacations aside because “The cruise is such a great deal.” American love a bargain.
What Happens Next?
Widespread Coronavirus testing will likely lead to more confirmed cases. That makes sense. People across the US are self-isolating. Likely this will lead to less contagion, meaning a decrease in infections. People with mild cases should recover. Hopefully the Coronavirus will behave like the flu, concluding its “season” when temperatures rise and humidity returns. Meanwhile, many companies and scientists are working on treatments and vaccines. Don’t we feel we have the best medical care and smartest scientists in the world? Have faith.