We're All Preppers Now
The Coronavirus continues to disrupt life as we know it on pretty much every level. This is scary because of what we don't know. For now this is much smaller than the flu in raw numbers. Comparing to the flu is easy in that the symptoms are the same/similar, we understand the flu, what it means to get it and recover and we probably understand much of how it spreads. That is not the case with the Coronavirus, there is a lot we don't fully understand. Part of the problem now is that we do have an accurate read on the denominator due to a lack of tests. This could turn out to be smaller than the flu but it is way too early to know which is why we all need to take it seriously in terms of staying home as much as possible, washing hands and so on. Please note that I am not trying to make any medical conclusions, I am saying there's a lot that is unknown and it is a reasonable conclusion that the less time you spend with other people, the less likely you are to contract the virus.
When we stay home and wash our hands and all the rest we are kind of prepping in real time. Hopefully everyone has read how these behaviors can greatly slow the spread which is better for both society and individuals. When you reduce your odds of getting the virus you are preventing a possible problem (I realize how obvious that is).
Preppers (talking about the people we see on TV who stockpile years worth of food and weapons) often get made fun of but there is something to take from them. I am a big believer in the idea of taking bits of process from various places to create your own process. After this event is over, it seems likely that most of us will keep a little more extra food, water and maybe toilet paper than we used to. Personally, we can go a long way on an extra package of Costco hamburger patties, an extra jar of Trader Joe's peanut butter, protein powder and a couple of boxes of Quest Bars. That little bit doesn't take up much room, doesn't cost a lot of money and although not ideal would allow us to catch our breath in the face of a more meaningful supply chain disruption. And black coffee doesn't hurt either.
There is also financial prepping which is more in line with what this blog focuses on. We all know that congress is trying to figure a way to send everyone a check for what might be $1000. Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said (paraphrasing) yeah, someone making $1 million doesn't need a $1000 check. This article from a couple of days ago includes the possibility of capping the checks at $65,000 meaning that if you make more than that you're not getting a check. I don't know of course and am not going to guess but how dependent are you on getting that check? I know the grim statistics about how many Americans have nothing saved or cannot cover a $400 emergency and I am not against those folks getting a check or more than one if it comes to that but if you're reading a blog about stock market investing you're less likely to have nothing even if you don't have months of expenses banked "just in case."
The easiest way to financially prep is to live below your means. This is not offered in hindsight, it is a point I have been making here for years, more than a decade. Every aspect of your life is easier when you live below your means. I concede that not everyone can but again, if you're reading a stock market blog you are more likely to be able to live below your means. It's obvious to say that in times of real turmoil it is much easier to cover a $4000 monthly nut than a $10,000 monthly nut but it is also true to say it.
We should also include health prepping. I've always talked about the importance of fitness on the blog and then three years ago I learned how important diet is. Part of the cohort that is particularly vulnerable to the Coronavirus is people with maladies associate with metabolic syndrome. Often (I won't say always) these are conditions that can be reversed by cutting sugar. Every aspect of your life will be easier when you are not only fit but have good metabolic health. These are behavioral and so can fall into the category of prepping.
I prepped client portfolios for this with BTAL, TAIL, GLD and PTLC then I added SH in line with the S&P 500's breach of its 200 DMA. The prep work there was wanting client portfolios to be less volatile than the market in a time of panicked volatility and the word panicked there might not be big enough. On most day during this, the portfolio has been less volatile but like every aspect of this disruption it is still difficult. Hopefully it is less difficult than it would otherwise be. When you are a little ahead on food, then hopefully it is less difficult than it would otherwise be. When you have a little bit more in the bank because you live below your means then hopefully it is less difficult than it would otherwise be. When you make your health and fitness a priority and so are less vulnerable to have serious problems if you contract the virus then hopefully it is less difficult than it would otherwise be.
These sorts of preppings are more about prepping for the unknown versus prepping for some specific event. There will likely be events in the future that also cause uncertainty and hopefully by enduring this one, you'll be better prepared for the next one.