Release The Panic

May 04, 2020
By Rick Gibson, CFP®

We are in the midst of odd times, which become stranger by the day. I have been working from home for about two weeks now with no gym, no sports, and no new faces. To say I am starting to feel cooped up would be an understatement. I have traded in my suit for sweatpants, which yesterday my fiancée insisted I wash. Don’t worry, I have a second pair.

Every time I read a news article, or listen to a broadcast, it is all doom and gloom, making it difficult to remain optimistic. Recently, my future mother-in-law sent us a care package with items such as Clorox wipes, toilet paper, and Scrabble — you know, the essentials. Later that evening we learned that she had fallen ill and gone to the hospital. She had been feeling a bit off and it worsened quickly. The doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia and said under normal circumstances she would have been admitted to the hospital. Ultimately, she was sent home and was denied a test for COVID-19 because she had no fever.

My mother-in-law is in Rhode Island, which, fortunately, is not one of the hardest hit states. Still, even there, hospital beds are in short supply. We went to sleep that night uneasy and feeling helpless. As I lay in bed that night my mind drifted. Was Lauren’s mom going to be OK? What if her mom had the coronavirus? Why did we not properly sanitize the contents of that care package? Why are there a shortage of tests? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

When I woke up the next day, I did a deep clean of our apartment and took a deep breath. Taking a small measure of control helped me feel less helpless. I am amazed when I read about people hoarding toilet paper, or selling all their investments and moving to cash. But, when you think about it, maybe it is not that hard to understand. People want to feel like they are in control, and by hoarding toilet paper they are at least doing something. Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam, with people hammering their horns, even though it won’t help matters? That is how this feels. The world is suddenly in a giant traffic jam and it is going to take time to improve. But does laying on the horn, hoarding or selling all of your investments improve anything or make things better? Not likely.

Over the past few weeks I have received tons of questions from clients. Will the stock market rebound? Will we ever regain a sense of normalcy? Will I be able to retire? These are all important questions, but now my fiancée is asking me if her mom will be OK. It really put things into perspective. Now is not the time to panic. Focus on what you can control and try to block out the noise. Take some time this week to disconnect from social media and do your best to relax, if just for a few hours. Do your best to be a beacon of positivity and reassure the people around you that we will get through this. Thankfully, my mother-in-law will recover and I look forward to the next care package. We also appear to have avoided contracting the virus for the time being.

Hopefully this article can provide you with some perspective as well. Things may be bad now, but they will get better. I encourage you all to try and enjoy the little things during this quarantine. Tonight I will play Scrabble, have a cocktail, and hopefully manage a triple word score. If anyone wants some financial planning advice or just wants to chat, let me know. I will be at home wearing my sweatpants.

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