The Current “Crisis” Matters. Pay Attention!

People are either complacent or paranoid about the ongoing corona virus situation. There are some, but onoy a few in the middle. They are dealing with objective reality. Why does it matter?

Good decisions  are founded on good information

On that count, the media and the politicians are doing harm. They believe they must be seen to be doing something. Just what is a mystery because the information about the virus is so shabby as to deny reasonable choices. Thye are impatient. Trying to look like the leaders. Not the right choice because it conflicts with the apparently best choice strategic decision. Delay the onset and thus lower the peak so the healthcare system is not overwhelmed. We can learn a great deal from Italy. You cannot sow panic at the same time you ask for calm for an extended period of time.

Businesses arer adjusting gradually. Some to the peril. Restaurants and bars do not have the cash reserves to shut down for 60 days and be able to reopen. Landlords and lenders will be forced to support the if they are to survive. Employees will be hard hit but possibly government measures will assist them through it. I have heard of one restaurant that told their employes to take whatever food they could use from the refrigerator and freezer. It would be useless in 60 days anyway and the employees can cook it up no and help their families.

Many businesses are permitting tele-commuting. They will learn valuable lessons from that. Never waste a crisis.

The civil service must change their simplistic, rule based approach. This story from the Toronto Sun earlier this week makes an interesting point. Man with coronavirus symptoms tests the suystem – and it fails. Not a good time for someone with symptoms to follow protocal and end up with an answering machine telling you to call back on Monday. It is either an emergency or it is not. Employees may need to take the initiative while their bosses sort out things like works rules with the union and funding with the politicians.

The information available is preliminary where it is honest, and despicable where it is not. No one knows much yet although they are learning more every day. For example, What is the mortality rate? Based on known cases, quite high. Still, we don’t know about unreported and recovered cases. So we can only guess the infection rate. The governments are, responsibly in my view, assuming a higher than so far presented infection rate and acting on that. You should too. Modest isolation efforts are enough to slow down the spread and if it is like other viruses it will “burn out.’¬† Viruses are bit like photocopiers. The fifth copy of a copy of a copy is not very good.

Comparing this to seasonal flu is foolish. Seasonal flu is a flu common to humans and so we have antibodies. COVID-19 is a novel virus. Like SARS and Swine flu. It is common to animals and not humans. Somehow it made the leap and we have no natural immunity to it. That’s why so many people get it. Isolation and cleansing matter. Pay attention to the simple before dealing with the complex.

Objective reality says it will take 60 days or so to play out. Use your time to develop a new skill, maybe paint the house, maybe help children with their homework and more. Maybe this is time to help them learn things they cannot or will not be taught at school. Be kind to each other. HR theory cliams that a sound workplace is slightly less dysfuntional than home. Many of us won’t have that escape for a while. Work on making home better. That will have value for generations.

The stock market is in its fear stage. Sharp drops generally do little harm, but this one is still early innings. It is different from 2008 because it is not a system failure, at least not completely. I still wonder about compter trading and index funds, but that is a different question. This one is driven primarily by people making rash choices. They will be wrong if the underlying businesses remain strong and recover and they will create a self-fullfilling result if not. It will self-fulfill if fear turns to despair. Like the 1930s. That was a manin street crash too. It wasn’t the 1929 crash that did the harm. It was being whip-sawed between hope and fear thereafter. The market recovered and crashed again. Several times. Eventually people gave up. Essentially things went from bad to worse, then the cycle repeated.

The leaders in politics, the media, and business, must avoid creating the conditions where despair becomes possible. Sure things are bad now, but so far, is there any real harm. Would our emotional behaviour exacerbate the problem? Yes, it would. Normally patience for investors should be something like 20 years. This time 20 weeks will be enough to overcome most of the problem and allow us to apply reason to the situation we find before us.

Human ingenuity works best on slow moving problmes. Slow this one down a bit and the solution will be available in time.

Our primitive brain drives respond to fear. Time to put the governor on it. You cannot control the virus, merely slow it down. Be carerful, not terrified. Be smart, not reactive.

I help people understand and manage risk and other financial issues. To help them achieve and exceed their goals, I use tax efficiencies and design advantages. The result: more security, more efficient income, larger and more liquid estates.

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