The ongoing global pandemic has caused a seismic shift in all areas of human life. Millions of people have been rendered jobless, some of the world’s biggest economies have shed billions and things don’t look like turning around anytime soon. However, there are some positives to take from this situation. The pandemic has left a lot of people thinking about their lifestyles and the steps they are going to take to get out of it. This level of reflection can only be a positive thing for people, who for a long time have been caught up in the hustle and bustle of life.
I’ve personally had a lot to think about during these times. I have been on and off work, spent a lot of time indoors in front of my laptop and reflected on my next steps. Some of this has been negative, like taking mandatory time off work, not being able to meet people outside, and the paranoia that I might catch the virus at any time. But there’s been some good too. I’ve spent a lot of time with my mum, exercised and meditated more frequently, dedicated time to learn daily, and felt less rushed about everything in life. I know that COVID-19 will continue to play a huge role in all our lives moving forward but it’s definitely taught me a couple of things already.
I’ve put down the six biggest things I’ve learnt from COVID-19 so far and I am pretty sure some of these findings will resonate with you:
- It takes a lot less to SURVIVE than you think – After being off work, I was definitely a little shook. In our lives, our work is closely tried to our identity. It’s a big part of who we are, what we do, the kind of people we deal with and how we spend most of our time. So that was hard. What could be worse? The fact that I willingly chose to have this happen. I wasn’t comfortable going to work with an underlying medical condition and family over 60. I think I made the right choice even if it didn’t feel like it for the first few weeks.
So going into the lock down, our family basically lost half our income and we thought we had to make drastic changes to survive. Turns out, when you can’t go anywhere and times are a little tough, you adapt naturally! This happened at home. We didn’t order out, ate a more plant-based diet, spent almost zero on things that weren’t essentials, did more bulk shopping, and were more energy conscious. The pandemic definitely ensured we stuck to our budget. It wasn’t something we discussed but we inherently knew that we needed to be wiser at this time.
On a side note, when looking at bills we had to pay, I managed to score 3 free months of internet after I realized that our service provider had been overcharging us for a service we weren’t using. Sometimes when you have less, you learn to stretch it and make better use of it.
- Whatever happens you need to save – Despite losing half of our household income, I made sure we socked away some money. It wasn’t much and in comparison to our usual monthly saving, it’s much less but it was something. AND I took this money out first before using it on anything else. Always pay yourself first. I wasn’t able to save for my pension, or put away money for future car or education expenses, but I did put some away money to chip away at my savings goal for the year.
And when I was able to work from home, after having learnt how to live on less, our savings rate is closer to pre-COVID levels. Having lost that income source, I was more prepared to handle the extra money when it returned. I put such a high emphasis on savings because (a) emergencies happen and having cash on hand is useful and (b) if you have cash on hand and the economy is tanking, people are selling illiquid assets to get “more liquid” and you could get a good deal if you have some cash lying around.
- Earning passive income should be a priority – My mum and I managed to live without too much of a change in our lifestyle during the pandemic because she is one smart cookie. I totally acknowledge my privilege and the fact that we hadn’t suffered so much because of her long-term financial planning. My mum isn’t a big saver but she has a keen eye for a investing. I guess being in business since she was 14 has taught her a lot! Thanks to some nifty work she put in earlier on in life, we were able to carry through this period without going into full panic mode.
The pandemic has definitely reinforced the idea that your assets need to work for you. I actually bought some stocks at what would be considered discounted prices and even got a dividend to help us out during everything – cash on hand came to the rescue. When I think of passive income, I think of two things: rental income and dividends. The first can be from residential or commercial properties and the second from listed companies or companies you decided to invest in and are a part of, though you may not be managing it on a day to day basis.
- Fear is bad for investing – Despite, netting that dividend in the middle of everything, I let fear control me at the start of the pandemic in Kenya. As the economy was crashing (or so I thought) I panic-sold a large chunk of my portfolio and realized losses I wouldn’t have incurred had I held off selling. It’s said that humans are so risk-averse that our fear of loss is stronger our desire for gain. I can tell you, this is 1,000% true/
If I hadn’t been so scared to lose it all I could have actually been much better off BUT lessons learnt.
- Be grateful and remember your loved ones – While I haven’t had the chance to visit my loved ones, it’s been incredible to catch up with my loved ones through calls, messages and video calls. In such tough times, seeing your loved ones and hearing their voices is enough to let you sleep a little easier at night. I have reconnected with old friends, made some new ones, and had time to bounce ideas off them (good and bad ones). Despite all of it, I am grateful for everything good in my life. I am grateful that even though I can’t control everything, things are decent. I understand that this pandemic hasn’t been easy for a lot of my colleagues, friends and other people around the world and I pray that things become easier for them.
- Learning is an investment– After feeling sorry for myself for not being at work and playing way too many video games during the first couple of weeks of being home before Kenya locked down, I had to re-evaluate how I was spending my time. I had all this previous time that I was wasting. Soon after, I went from 0-100 as I tried to cram every minute doing something productive. That was exhausting. After a couple of days, I decided I will need to be more productive but in a more sustainable way.
So I did what I always do, opened up Google Sheets and started planning. I decided to work on at least 1 productive task & learn 1 new thing each day. It was a great way to reflect on what I was learning, tracking my progress, and feeling less like a total bum.
I signed up to learn different things that I wanted to learn about and that would make me better in my current role. I still have a couple on my list to complete but it’s been enjoyable to learn new things every day. I firmly believe that act of learning is investing for the mind with unlimited ROI. Whether the economy is good or bad, nobody can take away what you know.