Let’s say there is a 90% chance that social distancing has smoothed things over until we find a cure for COVID-19. There is a 90% chance that the treatment actually works well enough to keep people alive until a vaccine is created. There is a 90% chance that the vaccine works. There is a 90% chance that we have enough doses of the vaccine to get it to the people who need it. And, therefore, a 90% chance things return to normal by the end of the year.
Sound great? Sound plausible? But the way independent probabilities work, you have to multiply each one by the next one. When we do this, we come up with less than a 60% chance that things go back to normal. If each case had a 75% probability, we would have less than a 25% chance of things returning.
It’s time to quit talking about returning to normal or the new normal. Instead, we need to talk about the “now” normal. Focus on our current experience and what to do about it. I was talking with some colleagues who are working from home, trying to help their kids with schooling while they manage work. While this was hard, the thought occurred to them that it may even be harder when summer comes and the camps have been canceled. How does one plan for this? Well, there is an old saying, “Man plans, God laughs.”
What are the skills we need to get through this?
First, focus on the immediate. It doesn’t really matter what your investments were worth, what trips you may have had planned or how much you loved the State Fair. The now normal is understanding your situation and taking appropriate action given your current circumstances. If you have lost your job then applying for unemployment, talking with your mortgage company about a temporary forbearance, understanding your options regarding debt and your retirement plans, making appropriate decisions around spending, and trying to determine your tax situation to see whether it makes sense to create income in a potentially lower tax year are all things that you can do now. Focusing on the now is not only a good skill for these times, it is useful all of the time.
The second thing is to understand what you wish to move toward. If you want richer connections with your family, choose that. If you want to explore where you wish to spend the next few years, here is your chance. If you want to understand how to look differently at your career, heck, we are all in a laboratory now.
I would say that we have a 90% probability that the now normal requires adaptability and resilience.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the chief executive and founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.