They say we don’t always appreciate what we have until it’s gone. That was one of the big lessons learned during the pandemic — but there are others. We learned a lot about the quirks and interests of family members — which tend to change as our children grow and we don’t always realize how much.
We also learned to never take good health for granted. For many who either didn’t contract COVID-19 or did so with mild symptoms, it’s hard to appreciate that one small change in a person’s health — asthma or diabetes — could be the difference between some people not taking the disease seriously and others dying.
We also may have learned a thing or two about financial security and the value of emergency funds and insurance safety nets. If it has occurred to you that your household finances could be in better shape, particularly if we have more pandemics and more shutdowns in the future, please give us a call. We can help you position assets for reliable income and emergency cash.
Students switched to online classes. College graduates moved back home with no job in sight. Breadwinners either worked from home or risked their health to serve in essential positions or to keep their businesses afloat. With fewer entertainment venues available, we were either all living in close quarters or living alone with greater social isolation than ever before. As of last July, 52% of people ages 18 to 29 lived with a parent. That’s the highest number in more than a century, according to the Pew Research Center. While some households may have fared better than others, in the best-case scenarios families learned to spend days upon days together sharing (and negotiating) indoor spaces, preparing meals together, walking and working in the yard, and talking. One parent of a boomerang Millennial observed, “You raise your kids to grow up, and somebody else gets to meet them like this, as adults. But now I get to know her like this.”1
The pandemic may be the catalyst to effectively evolve our nation’s higher education system. At least some form of hybrid classes (online and in-person) are expected to continue permanently. In addition, colleges are becoming more focused on how to better prepare students to work (and find) jobs when they graduate, including more for-credit internships with local employers. Perhaps the growing cost of education may begin to subside, since the fees universities charge for student services has grown four times as fast as those for instruction. With so many students graduating with student debt throughout the last two decades, today’s young adults are questioning the value of a college education altogether. Instead, they are focused on a higher return of investment for taking on that level of debt. Today, only 66% of students say they believe a college degree offers a good return on investment, compared to 78% last August.2
COVID redefined the concept of an “essential worker.” It is no longer just fire, police, emergency and hospital workers. The category has expanded to include grocery store stockers and clerks, factory floor workers and delivery drivers. Meanwhile, employees at every income level began to question their career choices, some not just abandoning jobs but switching professions. With more people enjoying the work-from-home option, they are less focused on how much they can earn but how it provides for their quality of life. If they earn less but are happier working from home, many are willing to make that sacrifice. As of January, a Pew survey revealed that 66% of unemployed people have seriously considered changing occupations.3
Saving and Spending
Since we could go nowhere and do nothing, millions of Americans saved more money in the early months of the pandemic. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported that in 2020, the personal savings rate grew from 8.3% in February to 33.7% in April. By January 2021, it still remained as high as 20.5%. The ability to work from home meant fewer people dressed for work or paid dry cleaning bills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Americans spent $23.9 billion less on clothing and footwear in the fourth quarter of 2020 than in the fourth quarter of 2019. There was less driving in both business and commercial markets, reflecting $88.2 billion less spent on gasoline and other energy goods than in 2019. Additional savings resulted from preparing more meals at home and exercising at home in lieu of gym fees. 4
The relatively quick onset of COVID-19 showed just how fast industries could adapt when necessary, particularly the health industry. Policymakers are driven to focus more on wellness, prevention and public health. Employers (and schools) have a greater appreciation of how precautionary measures can help prevent the spread of other airborne and infectious diseases (during cold and flu season). And while the U.S. has been debating health care reform for years, there is now a greater appreciation of how value-based payment models can create a more resilient health care system.5
1 Soumya Karlamangla. The Los Angeles Times. June 9, 2021. “A pandemic love story you haven’t heard before: Parents and their adult children.” https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-06-09/adult-kids-parents-have-unique-covid-love-stories. Accessed June 12, 2021.
2 Bianca Quilantan. Politico. Jan. 25, 2021. “How the pandemic forever changed higher education.” https://www.politico.com/newsletters/weekly-education-coronavirus-special-edition/2021/01/25/how-the-pandemic-forever-changed-higher-education-792939. Accessed June 12, 2021.
3 Joanne Lipman. Time. June 1, 2021. “The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs. Now We Have a Chance to Reinvent Work.” https://time.com/6051955/work-after-covid-19/. Accessed June 12, 2021.
4 Stephen Schramm. Duke Today. May 5, 2021. “How We’re Saving Money During the Pandemic.” https://today.duke.edu/2021/05/how-we’re-saving-money-during-pandemic. Accessed June 12, 2021.
5 Laura Joszt. American Journal of Managed Care. May 17, 2021. “Building a More Resilient and Sustainable Health System.” https://www.ajmc.com/view/building-a-more-resilient-and-sustainable-health-system. Accessed June 12, 2021.
We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.
The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.