It’s hard to write about April's Financial Literacy Month this year without seeing it through the lens of the coronavirus.
Three months ago, if you had told me that by April, tens of thousands of people would lose their lives to a virus, more than 20 million Americans would be unemployed, and our economy would contract nearly 5 percent — I would have said you are bonkers.
Yet here we are.
Financial Literacy and the New Reality of COVID-19
People’s financial situations and the need for financial education has come to the fore — just as it did in 2008.
For the people who were able to put money in an emergency fund and ever questioned why, now you know.
Those that couldn’t or didn’t put away savings are suffering and scared. If you could save but chose not to — let this be a lesson that saving even just $50 a month matters.
Letting Go of Past Financial Decisions
That said, there is no point in beating ourselves up for past decisions. Many of us enjoyed extended prosperity and low unemployment and thought it would last indefinitely. The youngest in the workforce have known nothing else.
The notion that people are just one paycheck away from homelessness is a sad reality.
And while the government is taking steps to help, this crisis has reminded me that bureaucracy can do only so much. Any effort people can take to be self-reliant puts the power and decision-making in their hands where it concerns their livelihoods and the welfare of themselves and their families.
From a personal perspective, each day I feel like I am riding on a roller coaster.
COVID-19 Reality: The New Normal
The sense of community my daughters and I feel every night when we go to the nearby hospital with neighbors and strangers alike: holding signs, banging pans, and ringing cowbells at 7 p.m. sharp to applaud the health workers for another grueling 12-hour shift of trying to save as many lives as possible. Humanity.
I now work from home while my two daughters attend virtual school. Every day at 2 p.m. I hear my younger daughter in PE class. I am not sure how that is taught online with a class of 12- and 13-year-olds, but it sounds like an earthquake from where I sit. Adapting.
The frustration of dealing with our coworking space’s “policy” of holding us to our lease in this unprecedented time — during which small and large businesses alike are shuttering — insisting, despite our pleas, that we pay our rent even if we can’t be there. Sure, a contract is a contract, but when our government tells us to stay home for our safety, why can’t you credit us for the months when we can’t use our office/your service? Anger. Fury actually.
Seeing the dedication of the people who work with me is inspiring. I know they know my co-founder and I are doing everything we can to keep our business healthy. Our business development, editorial, and tech teams are putting their heart and soul into their work. I want them to know how grateful I am. Collaboration.
Anyone who assures us everything is going to be fine either is delusionally optimistic or doesn’t want to face the stark reality. The lines to get into the grocery stores in my neighborhood in Brooklyn wrap around the corner due to social distancing requirements. What once took an hour now takes half a day at best. But you know what? At least there is food, which is something my Depression-era mother reminds me. Put in earbuds, listen to a podcast, and get on with it. Perspective.
I walk by one of the many refrigerator trucks functioning as makeshift morgues outside of hospitals in the city daily — not but choice, it’s unavoidable. I — like many New Yorkers — await a time those white refrigerated trucks are no longer needed and we can move ahead with our “new normal.” Traumatic.
While it can feel like we have no power over our own lives right now, I disagree. We can do volunteer work to help people struggling financially or otherwise; engage in small, unknown acts of kindness toward one another; we can gain perspective on our lives and what we want from them; and we most certainly can take this time to assess our skills and our financial situations and take the opportunity to course-correct as needed. Hopeful.