4 MIN READ
We are all emerging from the first “stage” of quarantine. We are also all starting to realize that, contrary to what I assumed back in March, this is all going to take a lot longer than just a few months to fix.
It felt okay to me to “tread water” for a few months. But not for a year or more. So now I’m starting to have conversations with myself, with my husband, and with my clients about what life looks like going forward. I don’t have any answers, but I sure have lots of questions.
What Does It Mean To “Thrive”?
Harken back to a year ago, or even 6 months ago. What made your life sparkle? What helped you thrive in your life?
Many of those things, I suspect, are now off limits. We physically can’t or shouldn’t do much of what we used to do. And it looks like our physical lives will continue to be constrained in a meaningful way for a long time. Traveling, going to restaurants, day trips, getting together with family and friends…all of these things are different now.
Also, our work lives are different. Most of us WFHing until at least the end of the year, and many tech companies have now extended WFH until summer 2021. Some of us may fear for our livelihoods.
Now that I’ve had a few months for this new reality to settle in, I’ve gotten around to wondering what it means for me to thrive now. I certainly have not been thriving for the last few months, and I’d like to get back to it.
It can’t look the same now. But do the fundamentals change? For example, we can’t travel to see friends or family, but are “strong relationships” still core to a thriving life? If so, how can we still have those strong relationships if physical presence isn’t possible?
What does it mean to thrive in the time of COVID?
Do We All Have A Poverty Mindset Now That The Future Is Closed Off?
“Poverty can force people to live in a permanent now. Worrying about tomorrow can be a luxury if you don’t know how you’ll survive today.” [from this 2015 New Republic article]
Long ago I read a similar explanation for why poor people don’t save money. The way I remembered it is: If you have no hope of the future being any better than today, what is the point of denying yourself something today in order to save more for a better future that won’t ever come? You might as well use the money today and at least make today better. It strikes me as a rational response. (Not to say there aren’t other reasons; my point here isn’t to discuss poverty, especially because I know almost nothing about it.)
Recently, a client observed one big change in her financial behavior since quarantine started. She is still employed, being paid well…but she is no longer paying any attention to the money she spends. If she wants something, she buys it. Because it makes life Right Here, Right Now better.
This is a client who, up until the pandemic, had paid close attention to her spending and saving.
Her comment made me flash back to that long-ago reading about the logic of poverty: If I have no hope of a better future, I should at least try to make my present as enjoyable as possible.
So is that where we all are nowadays? Without hope of a better future?
My rational brain tells me we’ll find a vaccine, contain the pandemic, and return, eventually, to a normal-enough life. My animal brain, however, can’t truly believe it. I mean, hell, we’ve been in quarantine for all of four months and we’re pretty much all going nuts in one way or another.
So, I began wondering: Will we start focusing much more on the Now and less on the Future?
A focus on the now isn’t necessarily a bad thing (you don’t need to take many yoga classes to learn that), but it’s certainly very different from how we’re used to operating. How will our behaviors change? And what impact will that have? Negative? Positive?
Is Buying A Home A “Permanent” Solution To A Temporary Problem?
Many of our clients want to buy a home. A bigger home. A home with a yard. A home outside of the city. (There are also, to be sure, some who are doubling down on their beloved city living…Salute.)
I have a client who has been talking about buying a home for about a year now. The quarantine did not create this desire from scratch for her. But it has certainly made it more emphatic, and perhaps expanded her notion of a desirable home (3 bedrooms used to be “plenty” and now it’s “bare minimum”).
She lives, as do most of our clients, in an expensive area. So, the homes she’s looking at are expensive. She can, by standard financial measures, “afford” to buy these expensive homes. But that price tag will come with definite trade-offs.
Prior to the pandemic, she was an avid traveler. It’s easy to lose sight of that now, but once the pandemic passes, travel will resume. And she’ll want to start spending money on travel again. But if she buys an expensive home with a large monthly payment (not to mention a large down payment), she’ll have less money available to spend on everything else…including her love of travel.
Understandably, we are eager to get some relief from quarantine right now, especially because we can’t reasonably expect it to end in the near future. One might even say we are becoming desperate in quarantine.
But if we solve our current problem of quarantine by buying a big, beautiful, expensive home, will we regret it in 2 years when (god-willing) we’re back to our normal lives?
About the Author
Meg Bartelt, CFP®, MS, is the President of Flow Financial Planning, LLC, a fee-only virtual firm that provides financial guidance to women in tech. Previously, she spent over a decade in the software industry.
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