How I Am Navigating Through The Coronavirus
Hopefully this can help as we all try to adjust to some meaningful changes in our routines for the next few weeks or months or whatever. As regular readers might know, I wear a few different hats in my life. For my day job, I am an investment manager trying to steer clients portfolios through market cycles and their respective financial lives. I am the chief of a pretty large volunteer fire department in the community where I live (we might be the largest VFD in the state), my wife and I have a small business with our Airbnb rental and of course we're just people trying to live a happy and healthy life together.
As far as day job stuff, I have been sending out client emails regularly, made a couple of tweaks in portfolios here and there, made sure everyone who takes cash out on any sort of regular or semi-regular interval has enough cash for a while in case markets close and try to stay as current as I can on all aspects of the Coronavirus crisis. I have zero concern about the future of capital markets, I have unyielding faith that this is like other scary events have been. The market has gone down a lot because it feels different and that creates uncertainty. While the story on the ground looks likely to get worse before it gets better, we are seeing China and South Korea starting to turn the corner even if they're doing so slowly. That will happen here at some point even if it takes longer than we'd like. Then at some point the stock market will start to work higher. I say this all the time, the only variable is how long that takes. If you have the right asset allocation, and here I guess I mean can meet any cash needs you might have for a while, then you don't have to sell, you can ride it out. You don't have to nimbly trade this, great if you can, but you know that time will bail you out. A big part of my job right now is to continually deliver this message to clients (I also share this message to friends on Facebook as there seems to be interest in that constituency too) which I will keep doing.
These are busy times for the fire department as well. We have devised a framework for protocols for medical calls where someone might have the virus (there are no cases in our county but I am not sure if that is about rate of spread or lack of available tests). Time has been spent on getting N-95 masks to protect us if we have any calls involving patients with flu-like symptoms. We are coming into wildland fire season which is a whole other set of workflows. I participate in the group that plans our annual interagency training exercise. On Sunday I initiated the conversation about canceling the event which is what in fact we've done. Weather.com is calling for up to a foot of snow on Wednesday. Today after the close a bunch of us from the department are meeting at the station house to chain up a couple of the trucks, driving in the snow here is an unusual kind of treacherous. This morning I put out an email to the community going over related virus and weather items to try to get out in front of any issues as best we can realizing that we cannot account for every variable. Not being able to account for every variable applies to markets too.
We've obviously had cancellations with our Airbnb. We'd had a lot of bookings from people who were flying in from elsewhere in the country. We already covered our mortgage and expenses for March. As of now we still have bookings for April that are yet to cancel. For someone who can drive up from Phoenix, our place is great for social distancing, there are only two houses on our road and the house we live in is the closest house to the rental and we're 150 yards away. The bookings will recover and the expenses are modest while we wait because we did not overleverage.
On a personal level, we have structured our life such that this is has not been wildly disruptive. We are semi-secluded and both work from home. We meet no definition of being preppers but we do have a little bit of extra food and bottled water. About a month ago I bought some extra hamburger patties and a couple of other things not realizing there'd be empty shelves but wanting to avoid insanely long lines. Living in the mountains provides access to fresh air (there are studies about how this can help treat respiratory maladies), being in Arizona we get still get a decent amount of sun even in the winter (there are studies about how this can help bolster people's immune system). We continue to exercise even though we aren't going to the gym right now. If you have no access to exercise equipment you can do pushups, you might be able to do dips on a chair or coffee table, jump ropes are cheap and GREAT exercise, if you look you will find all sorts of body weight exercises that you can do. The picture in the header of this post is from a long hike I took on Sunday; four hours of Vitamin D and fresh air. Yesterday after the close we took the dogs on a quick two mile loop by our house.
Cutting sugar (carbohydrate) consumption today can have immediate benefits (like as quick as a couple of days) to boost immune system function.
Emotionally, we are fine, we do not have cabin fever or the like. We are used to working in close proximity to each other and I am convinced that exercise and sunshine help us even if it is just a placebo effect. My concerns relate to hoping clients don't panic as they have cash in their accounts to meet any reasonable needs (not a great time to buy a Ferrari), that family acts in a prudent manner (not quite 100% of the way there). I also think about the safety and well being of the firefighters I work with at the department.
On a personal level this event checks off a lot of boxes of things I want to avoid. I do not like being beholden to anyone for anything. The most graphic example I can think of this is waiting at the back of a semi-truck with a couple of hundred other people hoping there's a block of cheese for me. I don't want to have to wait in line for two hours to get medication that is keeping me alive. Throw in any others you can think of. I am not worried about end times, I want to avoid the misery of spending all day, every day in line or another. As a work analogy, making sure clients have cash raised to meet spending needs avoids a whole bunch of misery for everyone in case they do close markets (denials notwithstanding).
This leads to the stoic approach of focusing on the things you can control. Bigger picture, we have control over our diet and exercise habits. Any malady you might have or be susceptible to has been studied in the contest of a low carb diet. Cutting sugar can prevent/solve many health problems. Again, any malady. Do the research and draw your own conclusion. A little more micro, many of us can control the extent to which we stay home going out only for essentials and washing our hands frequently. They talk about always having 72 hours of food and water in your home in case of an (less dramatic) emergency. Maybe instead of 72 hours, you have a week's worth. Where I live, the less dramatic emergency is a huge snow storm or the power going out for a week (this happened two years ago). If nothing else, this could be a wake up call to learn how to be prepared without being a hoarder.
We will get through this and we will learn a lot and be more resilient in the future. This will end and all aspects of life will return to normal, we just don't know how long it will take.