If there is one through line in the financial blogosphere is that you need have a plan. Whether your time horizon is minutes or decades, it should be self-evident that a well-thought plan in necessary, but not sufficient, to help you meet your chosen goals.
That’s not enough, however. You actually have to stick to your chosen plan. Otherwise you end up careening from one strategy to another, from one tactic to another. This is a recipe for disaster. You will likely end up seeing the worst of all possible outcomes.*
In a very real sense that is where we are when it comes to the pandemic. Plans that were made years ago were ignored. Plans made in the past month have been abandoned. Quarantine fatigue has kicked in. People already venturing out. So it seems we are all pretty much on our own when it comes to navigating this crisis. As Dave Eggers wrote in the NYTimes, “Having no plan is the plan!”
So in addition to all of the financial, emotional and health stressors we are facing, we are now needing to gauge the relative risks of all sorts of activities that we once used to take for granted. Life is by its very nature risky, and sometimes altogether too short. There is little doubt that the Covid-19 can be capricious in who it makes seriously ill.
But we are all now being forced to engage in a high-stakes health gamble. Unfortunately this gamble isn’t one that is finished in one night at the craps tables in Vegas. This gamble is going to be playing out indefinitely, or until a vaccine is identified, tested and manufactured in mass quantities.
Government doesn’t have all the answers. How can they? Communicating tentative conclusions under uncertain conditions is tough to do in even if you are being fully forthright. It is the case that despite all the research there is much about the novel coronavirus that we still a lot researchers don’t know. We are all going to have to be even more vigilant when it comes to taking in new information about the coronavirus.
You are going to need a plan for engaging with the world moving forward. We are all going to have to assess the relative risks of engaging in certain activities. An acceptable risk for you, may be unacceptable to someone else. The challenge will be sticking to your personal plan in the face of other people, with different information and risk profiles, engaging in activities that all look pretty enticing right now.
That is what the pandemic is doing to us – messing with us. We can nest. We can, in some cases, work from home. That may very well not be enough to protect you. But no matter where we are physically, we are all at-risk of social narratives. As Ed Yong at The Atlantic, who has been writing about the coronavirus pandemic from the get-go, notes:
The coronavirus not only co-opts our cells, but exploits our cognitive biases. Humans construct stories to wrangle meaning from uncertainty and purpose from chaos. We crave simple narratives, but the pandemic offers none.
We are all engaged in a global, high stakes experiment that none of us chose to participate in. So be kind to yourself. Be respectful of others. Whether we like it or not, we are in this together.
*Yes, plans do need to change with changing circumstances and data. Granted.