Ask Chuck: Will the Coronavirus Impact My Finances?

Dear Chuck, 

We’re going through basic procedures at work in the event of a coronavirus pandemic. I’m afraid of losing pay if I get sick. I have a small savings account, but not enough to cover a prolonged period of time. I’ve been advised to stock some necessities at home which costs money I wasn’t prepared to spend right now.

Panicked about a Pandemic

 

Dear Panicked, 

I have seen the widespread global fear we are witnessing now during both the panic surrounding the famed “Y2K” (Year 2000) concern that mission critical computer systems around the world would fail at midnight on 12/31/1999 due to a programming flaw, and the global financial meltdown of 2008. Obviously, many people are frightened by the news about this virus due to its higher than normal mortality rate and the impact it may have on the global economy. 

What is important to note is that much of the panic is not about the personal health risk of the virus itself but the way the virus may have secondary effects upon our lives. As I look at your comments and question closely, you too are not asking about how to protect yourself from the virus, but from the secondary effects of the virus: specifically those effects around your financial well-being. 

How Not to Panic

Fear is never a proper basis on which to make decisions. The Bible instructs us to live our lives by faith and demonstrate hope and optimism in the midst of a disruptive or ominous event. Renew your mind by meditating on verses like these: 

  • “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34 ESV)
  • “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust: I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4 ESV)
  • “…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10-13 ESV)

Prepare To Demonstrate Wisdom

Because fear is contagious and so many will likely panic if the virus continues to spread, we may witness very significant economic challenges as governments seek to contain it through drastic measures like quarantines on travelers, school closures and cancellation of large public events. The private sector will likely follow with similar curtailments of conferences, employee travel and even mandatory work-from-home policies. 

Here is a list of some practical tips to get prepared in the event of a worst case scenario.

Postpone unnecessary purchases to build up a cash margin and make any preparations. You likely do not need to spend a lot of money to adequately prepare. I recommend you have one month of your expenses in cash stored at home in a safe or a fireproof box. 

Boost your immune system with adequate sleep, exercise, healthy foods, and water. This is one of your best defenses against the virus itself. Here are a few extra tips for your health.

It’s a good time to start cooking your own meals and eating at home more often to protect yourself from food handlers who may be sick. This will reduce your food costs and help cover the expense of stocking up. If you double your recipes and freeze the extra, you will have prepared meals in the event you get sick or want to share with others who may be suffering.

Have a sufficient supply of non-perishables on hand that you would eat after this fear passes. Some suggestions include canned vegetables, soups, rice, and pastas. In addition, consider some frozen foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, and boxed milk and juice. Only buy what you will eventually eat.

Think about everything you use throughout the day. This includes batteries, toiletries, diapers, food and formula, pet food, vitamins, and prescription meds (may want to request an extra supply), water, liquids, digital thermometer, and any over the counter meds you would use if you get the flu.

Post emergency numbers and work contacts in a convenient location.

Be prepared to work from home if necessary. If schools are cancelled, have a schedule to help the children with homework. Some good books and games will be helpful. To limit stress or fear, try listening to the Bible, podcasts, or audiobooks while working puzzles, drawing, or coloring with little ones. Hymns and praise music can help calm anxious hearts. Watch what you say around or share with your young children. 

Just to be totally transparent, I still have a portable gas stove that I purchased for Y2K. It has never been used since the US power grid never crashed. Remember, don’t let fear drive you to foolish overspending. FYI, I am not planning to stock up on face masks but it may not be a bad item to have on hand to share with your friends or family if they become hard to find. 

It’s better to prepare early. Don’t procrastinate and expect others to help you. 

Opportunity to Serve 

When fear is rampant, opportunities to share the love of Christ increase. There is no reason to fear since He is in control; think about serving instead of worrying. Connect with your church, small group, family, friends and neighbors. Have a system in place to check on each other. There will be many ways to serve. It may simply be phoning an elderly neighbor, running an errand, or cooking and leaving a meal on someone’s porch.

In an article for World Magazine, June Cheng wrote:

“…With the local government completely overwhelmed by the coronavirus, Wuhan churches have stepped up to provide aid to the desperate. To neighbors and medical professionals, they pass out face masks other churches around the country have donated. They find hospitals with beds available for those infected with the virus. Using the internet, they connect people in need with whatever resources they can find.

“…As citizens of Wuhan increasingly lose faith in the government, Christians have gained a positive reputation. Those whom Christians have helped are grateful, and some want to learn more about the faith.”

Live One Day at A Time 

Fear should be replaced with thankfulness. Dwell on the good and give thanks! Praise Him and do not let fear rule your heart. 

For those of us who have been born again, to live is Christ; to die is gain. Rather than get caught up in the spread of fear, trust in the Lord who is bigger than any virus. Ask Him to grant you courage and the ability to see this as a time to encourage others.

 

 

Originally published on the Christian Post, March 6, 2020.

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