I shared my dilemma with my wife, who wisely said that it is better to be sick of the coronavirus than to be sick from it. Great response.
The world certainly has changed, possibly forever. Everyone regardless of age will be impacted by this crisis. Our whole way of life has come to a stop as we isolate ourselves from loved ones, friends and colleagues. Those who lived through the Second World War can relate to what is happening now, but anyone born since the war would not have experienced anything like this. We have faced other challenges over the years, such as the SARS and Ebola viruses. We’ve watched the horror of terrorist attacks on 9/11 and beyond and we’ve survived the global financial crashes of 1987 and 2008. However, the global span of this virus and economic impact of the simultaneous shut-down of virtually all global economies is unprecedented. As I write, there is no end in sight. We all hope that with self-discipline and social isolation we can slow the spread of the virus and eventually come out the other end in some months’ time, but anything less than three months seems like wishful thinking.
The financial hardship that this crisis is causing people and businesses is on a scale never seen before. Every government in the world is doing what it can to soften the economic fall-out for its people and economy. At this point, I need to commend the announcements of support for business and residents made by both the UK and Guernsey governments. They have been magnificent and, without them, businesses large and small would have collapsed without hope of recovery.
We are still to see what the ultimate casualty rate for business will be after we come out of this crisis. For certain, things will get worse before they get better and there will be businesses large and small that will never recover. We will see a spike in unemployment and downward pressure on wages. The economic shock will result in a wholesale recalibration of asset values of every description.
Maybe in part, this was needed as before the crisis the value of real estate and the share market was starting to get ahead of rational valuations. If property values drop as a result of this economic downturn, perhaps first-time buyers, who have been able to hold on to their jobs, just might be able to afford to buy into the property market.
Enough of the gloom. What is certain is that we will eventually come out the other side of this crisis and the world will return to a new norm, hopefully within the much-vaunted three months.
In the meantime, we are in ‘lockdown’ and need to make the most of it. In such circumstances much is out of our control so it’s important to try to control the controllable. For me that means using the additional time at home to do a complete spring clean of the house, that means pulling everything out of every drawer and cupboard and being very aggressive in assessing its utility. If it’s not essential, then it’s getting thrown out or donated to charity. Remember, our waste collection service is still operating so there’s ample opportunity to rid yourself of clutter. What this does is give you a sense of satisfaction that you’ve done something worthwhile and, in the process, you have liberated yourself of stuff you don’t need.
Let’s face it, we have all been over-consuming and as a result our homes are full of clutter. With money tightening up, we need to look at each pound three times before we spend it. I believe that the impact of the coronavirus will affect the psyche of everyone in the same way as the Great Depression affected the psyche and outlook of those who lived through the 1930s. Our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ generations lived very conservative and frugal lives. They knew from their own lived experience that times can get very tough – and fast. As a result, they lived within their means and saved rather than borrowed. They focused on family, community and religion, not flashy houses, high priced holidays and fascination with celebrity lifestyle.
Despite a number of economic setbacks, we have not had a depression experience for close to 90 years.
In the case of my homeland Australia, until now it has enjoyed a 32-year economic boom fuelled by its abundance of natural resources and alignment with the Chinese boom.
This time, however, even the ‘lucky country’ has been hit and generations of people who have known only good times and property boom don’t know what has hit them. If this crisis teaches us anything, it may be to reassess our priorities because material possessions will be of little comfort if you are unwell or separated from family and friends.
We have a common enemy, the coronavirus, which is no doubt causing stress and anxiety, but it seems as though it is managing to bring us together by forcing us apart. While isolated, we have the opportunity to take a good look at our lives and re-assess our values. Perhaps it’s time to simplify our lives and reflect on what is really important – family and community.
In my case, I’m feeling it very powerfully as my family is holed up in Australia while I’m here with absolutely no prospect of seeing them come what may for the duration of this crisis.
So, I say, love each other, protect each other and stay safe… the sun will increasingly shine over coming months and with that we will enter the dawn of a new era.