Learnings from lockdown
28 May 20
Reading time: 4 minutes
Posted by Tom Hartmann in Money mindset 1 Comments
It’s fair to say that we learned a lot about ourselves while our “team of 5 million” hunkered down at home to weather the pandemic. Our team at Sorted was no different, and each of us has been taking our own steps to sort out our money, like everyone else. We thought we’d reflect a moment on the takeaways from such a life-altering experience.
We certainly missed a great many things.
Hugs, handshakes, hamburgers. Coffee and drinks from the local. Hitting the gym. For most there was a lot to step away from for a while, and that meant letting go. Which can be a good thing.
But we appreciated more.
What we had at home was suddenly wonderful and treasured: that recently bought coffee machine, the swing in the backyard, the bikes in the garage. The internet!
“The demand to take time to pause and be appreciative of what you have around you will my greatest memory of this time.” It was a time to enjoy what we had, and to be grateful for whom we’re with.
We found we’re much more resourceful.
And for the things we didn’t have? We needed to make do and make it up as best we could. Working from home without a desk? Sawing a piece of plywood meant there could be a makeshift one in 10 minutes. “I need to remember to be resourceful before defaulting to spending to solve a problem.”
We shared more at home.
Food and family time especially. Some of the traditions that started at home will be worth continuing as we go forward. Long lunches!
We found we could go without.
Seeing whether something was a “need” or a “want” was suddenly simpler, and ever since lockdown it’s not as hard to ask, “Do we really need that?”
“This has become a lot easier and front of mind, after a bit of COVID-enforced time off from spending. We definitely could live without things we once thought were necessities!”
We discovered spending was more fluid and up to us.
And if we can go without, that means we can choose. So much is actually up to us, not to all the external pressures driving our choices.
We were amazed how much was left over when we didn’t spend.
“The main learning for us was how much mindless spending we were doing prior to lockdown. We know our spending will go up again, but we're determined that won't be to the same level as before.”
Debt felt heavier.
Many loans and mortgages were made in the pre-pandemic world, and while the repayments made sense in the budget at the time, perhaps they no longer fit. In a crisis, debt becomes more of a burden – sometimes too heavy. One of us saved more than $2,000 and paid off an overdraft that was costing more than $100 a year in interest.
We found more willpower to save.
Reflection helps. Not only did we have to break our spending habits in lockdown, but we had the time to think about what we wanted to do going forward. Studies show that willpower is like a muscle, and the lockdown was a time to rest and gather strength for the future.
We wanted more of a buffer.
Traditionally an emergency fund of three months’ worth of expenses was the gold standard, the goal to strive for. But even that huge amount is starting to look inadequate these days after the pandemic.
Whatever safety net we did have, it came in handy. “You would have thought we could have got through four weeks in lockdown without having to call a plumber, an electrician and take the dog to the vet (the only member of the household who needed medical treatment).”
We didn’t want to go back to normal.
With our everyday routines interrupted, the crisis created an opportunity. What could life be like?
“We have been forced to take a step back and re-evaluate our lives and the ‘norm’, and I don’t want to go back to how it was.”
What were your key takeaways from the lockdown? We know from talking to many that in a lot of ways it was different and unique to all of us.
But perhaps you recognise some common themes here and are looking to redesign your ‘new normal’ after such a life-changing experience. Some things will never be the same, but that could be a good thing.
2:49pm | 29 May 2020
Over the year, I have really come to appreciate the saying 'A phoenix will rise from the ashes'. A disaster always throws up opportunities. In terms of investment, this is what I have learned:
1. I have learned how not to react to the wild swings in the market, and to stay true to my financial objectives. Why did I invest in the first place?
2. I have learned the importance of using the dollar cost averaging technique in handling the wild swings in the market. The adage 'Time in the market, not time the market' is never more relevant.
3. Fortune favours the patient. Get rich slowly by time in the market, not timing the market. Treat your investment like planting a tree. It takes time, effort, fertilisers, water, pesticide, pruning, ongoing maintenance and so on for it to grow and to bear fruits.
4. Never sail too close to the wind. In the past couple of months, the markets were littered with bargains. However, you still have to have the spare money to avail yourself to those bargains. So it brings home the value of always having a buffer for emergency or otherwise.
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