We are coming through trying times.
Yes, it is probably the understatement of the decade, but it appears I have lived in England far too long. If I were a ‘proper’ Bulgarian, or Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, and most anyone who lives in the Southern parts of Europe, I would have boldly stated that so far, broadly speaking, 2020 has been a terrible disaster.
At the time of writing this, close to 25 million people worldwide have contracted COVID, and over 800 thousand people have died from it. We still do not know how many COVID survivors have long term health problems.
It is terrible, I tell you.
Many governments, including the UK government, imposed lockdowns where our movement, socialising, working, and many everyday rights were temporarily restricted. Measures to contain the pandemic have become points of descent – distancing, face masks wearing, avoiding large gatherings.
Recently someone told me they do not like wearing a face mask because they do not like being told what to do. What the heck? If you cannot figure out this one for yourself, you need someone to tell you what to do!
Here, in Manchester UK, we are in partial lockdown again. It is confusing, but roughly it translates in us being allowed to drink in the pub, but if we were to invite our sons to dinner, we would be breaking the rules. Still, we abide.
I do worry, though. As I say, we must take COVID seriously because I am fat, and my husband is getting old (his reaction to this is a punchy, derogatory Anglo-Saxon origin word).
As usual, sharing with you helps me see our situation a tad more objectively – after all, being honest with you helps me being disturbingly frank with myself.
Our post lockdown story of health
First things first: we have all been healthy so far, and may it continue until we have a vaccine and treatment. We have been fortunate not to get infected by the coronavirus – or at least we think we have not been. There was a close call when someone from our youngest son’s work tested positive. He had a test immediately, and praise be; it was negative.
We have also kept psychologically sound. One of our sons is depressive, but he kept working (he is a front liner), so, I suppose, the isolation did not hit him hard. The rest of us are fine. The life John and I have did not change much during lockdown – we both work from home mostly.
I never expected I would miss people – while not an active misanthrope, I appreciate my solitude. Towards the end of lockdown, I did start finding it hard not seeing people; I mean missing face to face contact.
Otherwise, we all finished lockdown fitter – and in my case, lighter – than we started. We ate clean, walked with the dog, and did online exercise classes (my son completed Insanity, and I did African dancing).
Our post lockdown story of health is positive, may it continue.
Post lockdown story of wellbeing
Wellbeing is naturally affected negatively by the pandemic.
While we kept and are keeping healthy, it is a disconcerting experience.
Only watching the news is an exercise in existential pain. How about when the pain and loss get closer?
(A close friend of mine died from COVID – a man I loved for thirty years. Not like that, not romantic love. I loved him with profound filial feeling transcending time. My only regret is that I had not seen him for a long time, and now the opportunity is gone.)
So, wellbeing was not, and is not, too good. Suppose most people suffered a mild depression (except the ones who think that the virus is a con used by big tech to capture our minds).
Post lockdown story of wealth
So far, we have not done too poorly when it comes to wealth.
At the beginning of the pandemic, before lockdown, I tightened the household budget because it seemed essential to built reserves – it was apparent that hard times were coming. My worry was not so much about us but our older sons. As it happens, all three sons kept their jobs, and the older ones continued working during the lockdown.
I continued working as well though I recorded my lectures and had to think of imaginative ways to motivate the students. Education today, including the university level, relies too much on discipline. When teaching goes online, learning becomes a matter of motivation, not discipline. Kids need help to understand that.
Let me be a bit more specific.
March was a very jittery month for the stock markets. By the 23rd of March, our stocks and shares investments with Nutmeg had dropped by 28 percent and stood at 9 percent less than we put in. For the first time since I started this investing lark, we were losing money I had earned with my toil and sweat (okay, earned with my keyboard mainly).
Scary stuff, and we are talking ETFs and index funds. Do not even dare think about value investors who invested in travel, hospitality, and banking.
Do you think I drew down my investments?
Did I heck? I immediately topped up my Vanguard ISA and bought four index funds.
Today, our ‘stocks and shares’ portfolio is roughly at the level it was at its highest point – stocks mostly recovered, and my bargain buy in March is doing okay.
(There may be another drop in the market towards the end of September, we have to see about that. Still, if you make sure you do not need to draw down in the next two years, you are likely to be okay. When the crash is so bad that it does not recover in 24 months, historically our problems are much bigger than money and investments.)
We also used the time between February and today to build a hefty, easy-access money cushion we keep in a savings account called ‘Investing’.
It is the account where we keep cash for opportunities. It also doubles down as a ‘Freedom’ fund (or if you prefer ’emergency’ fund).
We were able to build this fast because we have a sizable monthly positive cash flow, some payments for work I had done in the months before came through, and a loan we made eighteen months ago is being repaid.
Have to mention that lockdown meant we had to cancel our holiday in the sun and say goodbye to all travel plans.
We did spend a bit on new, or upgraded, gadgets.
We bought a carpet cleaner and a steam mop – well worth it because carpets here keep us warm, but they have to be kept clean. Also, the steam mop cleans without chemicals which I enjoy.
Our TV was ten years old, and something went wrong with the sound; we changed it.
Lastly, and recently, I bought a Mac for me and a MacBook for our youngest son, who is going to university to do engineering.
When I do my annual review, I will give you numbers about that.
We must spend a bit on the house as well.
That is it – our post lockdown story of health, wellbeing, and wealth.
It is a mixed bag, but so far, we are doing okay. Let us be clear, though; my sadness is not likely to go away soon. Hopefully, it will not morph into repressed anger.
There is much I did not tell you. For example, during the lockdown, I mostly wrote a book on debt (will be telling you more about that next month), did a lot of productive thinking, and did my best to end this thing better than I started.
There is still much uncertainty around. How are we to survive? How are we to live? How do we change our lives?
Let us take it one step at the time: we are still alive.