Ask Chuck: How to Adjust After COVID-19?
The coronavirus has caused economic and societal changes I never thought I would see in my lifetime. What do you think will be the long-term effects of this and what adjustments to my finances should I be making now?
Pondering the Future
Dear Pondering the Future,
I hear a lot of people saying America “has been forever changed,” but I don’t see a lot of detail around what those changes might be. Uncertainty has prominently ruled in this crisis and will likely continue to do so until we have more accurate data. Of that we can be certain!
The Bible informs us that no man knows what tomorrow will bring. Yogi Berra famously said, “It is hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” So I can only offer you my opinion of what I think is likely to change and what you need to be doing about it.
First, assuming the virus has been contained and we are returning to a more normal lifestyle soon, two basic questions deserve answers regarding the future: What will you leave behind? What will you take forward?
What Will You Leave Behind?
These are the things that spiked during the crisis that I hope we will not drag forward with us:
- Fear: God did not give us a spirit of fear; yet, we witnessed fear, panic and even hysteria when reports began to come out that hundreds of thousands may die from the COVID-19 virus. God has assured us that we do not need to fear death or economic loss or anything at all. My hope is that we have learned to face whatever comes our way without fear, worry, or stress.
- Ingratitude: Prior to the crisis, many people had never experienced true hardship. Because of that, our complaints were often over things that were more of an inconvenience: a canceled flight, a slow line at Starbucks, poor service at a retail store, a rude driver encountered in traffic or lower than desired wages in a starting job. Today, we see how grateful we will be for the ability to travel again, convene with friends over coffee, shop our favorite stores, drive to work in traffic and have a job – any job – that provides for our needs. My hope is that we leave behind the spirit of ingratitude that causes us to miss all that we had to be grateful for but took for granted.
- Leveraged lifestyles: Debt fuels the lifestyle of most Americans. Student loans put us through college, mortgages get us into our first house, credit cards substitute for emergency savings, store accounts allow us to buy now, pay later – with high interest of course. In a crisis, we are confronted with our lack of savings and the weight of our debt. It would be a great blessing to leave behind the thinking that caused us to be unprepared and get in better financial condition.
- Apathy: We may have been indifferent to things like federal vs. state policy, macroeconomics, freedom of speech, deficits, geo-political relationships, global pandemics and political leadership. All of these things ultimately impact our day to day lives. The crisis has hopefully revealed our apathy about things that are truly important. If we leave apathy behind, we will emerge as more informed citizens able to do our part to help our neighbor to thrive, not just survive.
- Gullibility: The crisis brought about an explosion of conspiracy theories about China, 5G technology, digital vaccinations and end times. Fearmongers and doom and gloom evangelists were out in full force looking for the gullible to jump on the bandwagon and spread unproven theories and false explanations of what was “really happening”. Hopefully, we emerge without all the cloud of confusion surrounding this event and avoid falling for more conspiracy theories in the future.
What Will You Take Forward?
- Wisdom: Experience that we learn from provides us with wisdom. We learn a lot from a crisis – that we can endure hardships, that we know how to be ready for a repeat of that scenario in the future and that revealed areas of weakness need to be corrected. If we carry this forward, we will avoid being among the panicked should this or something worse happen in the future.
- Gratitude: Are you excited about getting some of your basic freedoms back? Won’t you be grateful for formerly little things like being able to hug your loved ones or shake hands with a friend, to sit in your familiar seat at church or to attend the conference that has meant so much to you? Won’t you be grateful to attend weddings, birthdays, ball games and funerals and truly appreciate the opportunity to just participate in life? Should this become a long term and lasting shift in attitude for many, it will bless us and our entire culture.
- Financial freedom: The impact of this crisis was felt by some within the first two weeks that they could not work. For others, the impact was minimal because their job and income was not affected or they had the savings to endure the length of the shut down. It would be a great long term benefit to carry forward a commitment to de-leverage from high debt, increase our savings and be prepared to be a generous giver in the next crisis, not a needy receiver.
- Engagement: If we learn to filter the daily news through God’s Word, to have an informed position and capacity to make reasoned arguments for what is right and wrong, helpful or destructive, we will go forward with a renewed ability to influence the direction of our nation through effective engagement. Policy, deficits, political leadership, and macroeconomics all matter and we need to find winsome ways to make informed efforts to help steer the ship we call America. Social media rants, memes that find fault, and political mud-slinging are not helpful. Listening, respecting and collaborating has always been a winning approach.
- Discernment: Our awareness of what God may be saying, doing or setting up for things to come is high. At the same time, we need to be careful not to fall prey to lies. Discernment is not simply knowledge. It is being able to sort out good facts from bad facts, truth from lies. We need to ask God to give us keen discernment so that we are the salt and light the world needs in a crisis.
“For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12 ESV)
Adjustments to Make
During this period of sheltering, many have come to realize how little they really need. The fear of not being able to pay expenses has become reality. Misplaced priorities have been revealed. Hopefully, this brings about major lifestyle changes among Christians who choose to follow Biblical financial principles. Ideally, this would increase giving and security among the Body of Christ. In addition, I believe we may see the following trends:
- Increased emergency funds
- Desire to eliminate debt
- Greater liquidity and increased savings
- Preparation for future emergencies
- Increased health: physical and mental
- Greater commitment to the church and community
- Renting may increase with desire for flexibility
- People may choose to live outside high density areas
- Reduced risk tolerance in investments
- Increased cash reserves
- Greater liquidity
- Reduced leveraging, debt
- Reduced supply chain vulnerability
- Consider supply chain disruptors
- Reduced risky investing
- Health incentives: weight, non-smoking, exercise, etc.
- Better budgeting for receivables
- Replace face-to-face meetings with video conferences
- Different type of officing allowing more staff to work from home
- Decreased business travel
- Self-quarantine period for employees who travel
- Training multiple people for duties in case of prolonged illness
- Rework budgets
- Clarify priorities
- Rethink building projects and avoid debt
- Increase benevolence funds with higher standards
- Increase prayer and fasting
- Focus on teaching the Word not entertainment
- Select and depend on wise staff, elders and deacons
- Work with other churches to better serve the community
How Can We Help You?
Thank you for writing. Hopefully this gives you some clarity as you ponder the future. Crown has a helpline for those hurting financially: 1-800-722-1976. We also have many free resources at Crown.org/coronavirus. Let us know how we can best serve you.
Originally published by the Christian Post, April 17 2020.