It’s a rare day when my mind runs dry on topics to share with you, but it’s become a frequent occurrence in the past few weeks. When “bigger” things are going on in the world, it’s a good reminder of how little “other” things really matter.
Since my birthday on March 17th, my wife and I have self-isolated in our mountain cabin. Ten days of being alone in our cabin and walking our dogs in the woods. Ten days of isolation from the friends and activities we enjoy.
Strangely, in spite of all our “free time”, I’ve struggled to find an appropriate topic to write about. A Corona-induced writer block, of sorts. It’s been an interesting time to think.
I’ve realized most of my blog posts focus on “other” things, and their insignificance is obvious each time I sit at my keyboard and attempt to write during my isolation. Somehow, writing about retirement and money doesn’t seem to matter as much when people around the world are dying.
So today, I’m shifting gears. Regular programming to resume shortly. (I hope.)
Spending the past ten days in self-isolation has been an interesting experience. I suspect many of you can relate to the sentiment. My struggle in finding a topic to write about is a strange sort of virus-induced restructuring of the mind. An indication, perhaps, of the mental shift which is likely happening around the world.
We’re all thinking differently these past few weeks.
Thinking more about things that matter, and less about things that don’t.
The things we thought important just a few short weeks ago have been sorted by an invisible virus into a new forced ranking of relevance. I DO realize money matters, of course, especially to those who are losing their jobs in the midst of this global pandemic. I fear that millions of people around the world are going to be facing some very difficult financial situations in the days ahead. Add to that the damage done to retirement portfolios the world over, and I’d be naive to truly believe that money doesn’t matter.
The point of the title is that it just doesn’t seem right to write about money and retirement at this particular moment in world history. Many things matter more than money. Major global events such as this tend to separate the wheat from the chaff and clarify the things that are truly important.
Things Like Life.
Things Like Death.
It somehow seems petty and callous to continue writing about traditional financial and retirement subjects when folks throughout the world are struggling to survive. Hence the title, and change of tone, in today’s post. A shift, if you will, to the things that really matter in the midst of a global pandemic.
On March 17th, I developed a dry cough.
As a precaution, my wife and I decided to self-isolate. It seemed the responsible thing to do, and we try to be responsible people. In times like these, I hope the majority of people are taking the same approach. I encourage you to check out this little gif, it’s a perfect example of why self-isolation matters at this moment:
We decided to assume the worst, and assume I had somehow absorbed this nasty little virus that’s floating around the world. Of course, given that we live in an isolated little corner of the world, we have no way to know. There’s no testing available in our area, and I’m certainly not going to bother our local medical system with a pesky little cough. Best to assume the worse, and respond accordingly.
On March 18th, my wife started to cough.
Now we both have Coronavirus.
Or do we?
Does it really matter if we do or if we don’t? In light of the ease with which this virus is passed along to others, shouldn’t we all assume we have it? Shouldn’t we assume everyone has it?
Shouldn’t you assume you have it?
On March 22 I decided to call Teledoc and see what they had to say. It was a free appointment since the government has encouraged health insurers to not charge for Coronavirus-related issues. Responsibility, right?
The Teledoc says, “It’s likely bronchitis or pneumonia, and there’s no way to know without an x-ray. Given the current situation and the fact that you don’t fit the risk profile, I wouldn’t recommend you bother. Continue to self-isolate, and only go to the hospital if you experience a serious decline and have trouble breathing”. He prescribed an inhaler.
Gee, I feel better. (Especially given that folks who have Coronavirus report that the early symptoms mirror bronchitis and pneumonia. Comforting thought, that).
His advice is pretty much what I had expected, and one of the reasons I wasn’t in a hurry to call. I know people are dying, and I know there’s really nothing you can do if you contract the virus. We’re all in this weird state where we hope we don’t have it, but there’s not a viable way to know if we do or don’t. I found it reassuring to hear that ~90% of people who had symptoms tested negative for the Coronavirus.
Even if the test kit were available in our area, I think I’d pass for the time being. I’m going to reserve those limited test kits for the people who really deserve them.
People like our health care workers. People like our first responders. People who are dying.
People who matter.
On a somewhat related matter…during my time in self-quarantine, I came across this infographic and found it helpful. I hope it’s of value to others:
The Horror of Coronavirus
I’m sure most of you have thought about the risk of having a virus without any symptoms. A virus that spreads easily. A virus that kills. You probably thought the whole thing was a bit overblown, until you didn’t. As State after State goes into mandatory shutdown, the seriousness of this point in history becomes apparent. In times like this, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Sure, we can have a debate about the economic vs. physical health of our world, but a cautious approach is certainly warranted, at least for the time being. We’ll have time to save the economy soon enough. For now, it’s time to focus on things that matter most.
If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to spend some time reading how horrible it is to die from Coronavirus.
Sure, 99% of those who contract the virus will survive. Even if my wife and I do have it, I firmly believe we’ll survive. And yet, reading that post about what it’s like to die with Coronavirus, I have a new appreciation for how serious this thing really is. My heart is burdened, and it’s not a good place to be. Grief, perhaps? Tough days, and we should all take time to think about and pray for the people who are really suffering.
My Heart Goes Out To…
The 1% who will die. I can’t imagine a worse way for life to end.
Those who will be rationed out of the health care system. Too many problems, too few ventilators.
The doctors who will have to make those decisions, and…
The families who will be impacted by the decisions those doctors make.
Those who are struggling financially due to the staggering unemployment that will result from this global shutdown.
In times like these, money doesn’t matter much.
(A disclaimer: Of course, I recognize the importance of money for those who live paycheck-to-paycheck and will face true hardship in the coming weeks/months. It’s going to get ugly for a whole lot of people, and I feel for the pain they will have to endure. Some will suffer financial ruin. It’s going to be tough going. But don’t forget the ones who are dying. Somehow, that seems to matter more.)
The Things That Matter
Keep those who are suffering in your prayers. Prayers matter.
Keep yourself healthy. Health matters.
Protect your friends and family with the whole #SocialDistance thing. Friends and family matter.
Spend time thinking about eternity. Eternity matters.
In time, the world will return to normal. This too, as they say, will pass. Coronavirus will become a thing of the past. A story we’ll tell our grandkids someday.
When that time comes, I hope we all remember our time of self-isolation. It’s a unique point of time in our world, and one we should always remember. A time to be careful. A time to spend with loved ones. A time to be thankful. A time to grieve.
A time to reflect on the things that really matter.
Your Turn: Are you self-isolating? Has your thinking shifted as a result of the pandemic? What have you learned?
PS – Day 10 of the self-quarantine and the cough remains. Thankfully, it remains the only “symptom”. I’m taking that as a good sign, but I’m still isolating in our wonderful mountain cabin. And thanking God for that marvelous trail through those spectacular woods behind our home. A true respite in troubling times.
Originally posted at https://www.theretirementmanifesto.com/when-money-doesnt-matter/