Like almost everyone else, our family is staying home right now and physically staying away from really anyone else outside the family. I feel incredibly blessed that we moved out of the city to the place where we want to spend our days last summer, and to a new house just last month.
But still, I am here with my husband, three kids and a dog, with no “relief” while they are at school, just at the time when our clients need us most and we are busier than ever.
I’ve been thinking a lot about another time I had the feeling of being trapped in my home.
Many people reading this may know that I am the mom of 3 including twins, but not too many know that in 2014, I had a very scary incident during the twin pregnancy which led to my “sentencing” to at home bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.
I ended up going to term after staying in my 6th floor Brooklyn apartment – overwhelmingly lying in my bed – for four months. We have no family nearby and social interaction other than my husband and son was 99% by phone. I took a car service to my doctor appointments and That. Was. It.
I was trying to be a good mom to our then-five-year old, partner to my husband, and financial planner to my clients. But to be honest, I was scared and stressed out. Sound familiar?
What DID I Do?
I was still working. This was before I started my own RIA firm in 2016, but I had nearly 100 clients counting on me and a full-time assistant whose salary I had to pay. She went to the office to keep an eye on things and brought me my mail once a week. I moved my meetings to be conference calls and worked off my laptop. I stopped accepting new clients, and instead tried to focus merely on maintaining my existing clients. I responded to emails much more than I sent fresh ones. I worried about missing opportunities and losing clients but did what I could to “make it work”. I took online course to get all my CE credits completed before the babies were born.
I tried to be a good mom to my #1 son. We did story time in my room every night and had long talks. I’m sure there were TV and movies together as well. I missed school events but talked to his teachers by phone.
I accepted all help that was offered. My husband kept me fed and took our son to school and camp. He was picked up and taken to an after-school program. When they heard about my situation, they had one of the staff take him home each day (we were just a few blocks away). When he went on a business trip, my mother in law came to help us out.
I took care of myself as best I could. I ate healthy food (and a lot of it). I took naps. Growing giant babies uses a lot of energy. I did little exercises like ankle rolls that were supposed to be good for circulation (alas, I still got varicose veins out of this experience).
I tried my best to count my blessings and actually “enjoy the silence”. It was my little joke that I should enjoy my time alone because once the twins were born, I would never be alone again. (So true!) I watched every episode of shows like “The Americans”, “The Good Wife” and “The Wire”.
I gave myself a break. I started out thinking that I would do things like write dozens of blog posts and start scrapbooking. But I guess I a little bit of “pregnancy brain,” napping and watching TV was more my speed.
The story has a happy ending. Our ENORMOUS (8.2 and 6.5 pound) twins were born in November 2014 and our family is stronger than ever.
What To Do Now
What does this have to do with social distancing and the current flu pandemic? The main thing is that we are all stronger and more resilient than we know. We can survive and we will. This is a lesson I have learned personally, so here is my advice.
Listen to the Experts. This virus is highly contagious, and we need to take it seriously. Stay home. Wash hands. I listened to my doctors 5 years ago even though at first, I felt fine and thought I would just walk “slowly” around the neighborhood. He put some fear into me by saying that bedrest at home would be much more pleasant than in the hospital. I am convinced that staying home saved my life and that of my twins then and staying home will save many more lives now.
Set Yourself Up for Success. Working from home takes some getting used to. Don’t let your work stuff spread all over the apartment. Now I have a separate room for my home office, but at the time, I made it work with a lap desk, a file box to keep my work papers in, and some decent headphones for calls. Shut the box (or the laptop) at the end of the day. Create a simple routine so you don’t just stare at your phone all day.
Give Yourself a Break. I think this is most important for the parents among us! I have come to the realization that it is pointless for me to try and become an expert on home-schooling this week. My goals are literally to get the kids outside twice a day, have them do some art projects or worksheets, read a story each night, and keep everyone fed and relatively clean. TV and video games are happening, and that’s ok, because Mom and Dad have things to do, too.
Stay Positive. We should all be informed about the world we live in but getting caught up in the stories out there can really send some of us into a downward spiral. Limit your media consumption and try to spread positive news where you find it. I believe our country will find ways to help each other and innovate like never before. Local restaurants are switching non-contact delivery … big companies are donating masks and hand sanitizer … our government is throwing resources toward social safety nets … this is good and heartening news.
Remember Why. We’re doing this for our friends and loved ones who can’t stay home right now – the healthcare professionals who are putting their own lives at risk everyday to fight this and the essential workers who make sure we have food to eat, electricity, clean water, and sanitation. We are doing this for those who are more vulnerable to this illness – older people and those who are immuno-compromised. Most of the people reading this are incredibly lucky that we can just stay home. No one is immune.
What About Your Financial Plan?
Our thoughts are with our clients who are struggling with illness, loneliness and worry right now. Several of our clients are expecting children of their own in the coming months. Many of our clients are already experiencing a drop in their income and the stress of working while caring for children and loved ones.
We need to help make sure short-term needs are met. In the current crisis, we believe a plan for the next 6 months (give or take) is key. This can be as simple as a basic spending plan (how much comes in vs. how much comes out), and a short list of your most important expenses to pay. What’s your short-term plan?
Helping our clients think long term is a big part of our job as financial planners. Long-term investments are expected to both fluctuate and grow over time. Seeing a drop in your investment accounts can be stressful, but it does not mean your financial health is in jeopardy. What’s your long-term plan?
Now is the time to have a plan. Please schedule a call if you need help with yours.