When Money Doesn’t Matter

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It’s a rare day when my mind runs dry on topics to share with you, but it’s become a frequent occurrence in the past few weeks.  When “bigger” things are going on in the world, it’s a good reminder of how little “other” things really matter.

Since my birthday on March 17th, my wife and I have self-isolated in our mountain cabin.  Ten days of being alone in our cabin and walking our dogs in the woods.  Ten days of isolation from the friends and activities we enjoy.

Strangely, in spite of all our “free time”, I’ve struggled to find an appropriate topic to write about.  A Corona-induced writer block, of sorts.  It’s been an interesting time to think.

I’ve realized most of my blog posts focus on “other” things, and their insignificance is obvious each time I sit at my keyboard and attempt to write during my isolation.  Somehow, writing about retirement and money doesn’t seem to matter as much when people around the world are dying. 

So today, I’m shifting gears.  Regular programming to resume shortly.  (I hope.)

Sometimes it's appropriate to focus less on the things that don't matter and more on the things that do. Click To Tweet

When Money Doesn’t Matter

Spending the past ten days in self-isolation has been an interesting experience.  I suspect many of you can relate to the sentiment.  My struggle in finding a topic to write about is a strange sort of virus-induced restructuring of the mind. An indication, perhaps, of the mental shift which is likely happening around the world. 

We’re all thinking differently these past few weeks.    

Thinking more about things that matter, and less about things that don’t.

The things we thought important just a few short weeks ago have been sorted by an invisible virus into a new forced ranking of relevance. I DO realize money matters, of course, especially to those who are losing their jobs in the midst of this global pandemic. I fear that millions of people around the world are going to be facing some very difficult financial situations in the days ahead.  Add to that the damage done to retirement portfolios the world over, and I’d be naive to truly believe that money doesn’t matter.

The point of the title is that it just doesn’t seem right to write about money and retirement at this particular moment in world history.  Many things matter more than money. Major global events such as this tend to separate the wheat from the chaff and clarify the things that are truly important. 

Things Like Life.

Things Like Death.  

It somehow seems petty and callous to continue writing about traditional financial and retirement subjects when folks throughout the world are struggling to survive.  Hence the title, and change of tone, in today’s post.  A shift, if you will, to the things that really matter in the midst of a global pandemic.


I Have Coronavirus?

On March 17th, I developed a dry cough. 

As a precaution, my wife and I decided to self-isolate.  It seemed the responsible thing to do, and we try to be responsible people.  In times like these, I hope the majority of people are taking the same approach.  I encourage you to check out this little gif, it’s a perfect example of why self-isolation matters at this moment:

We decided to assume the worst, and assume I had somehow absorbed this nasty little virus that’s floating around the world.  Of course, given that we live in an isolated little corner of the world, we have no way to know.  There’s no testing available in our area, and I’m certainly not going to bother our local medical system with a pesky little cough.  Best to assume the worse, and respond accordingly.

On March 18th, my wife started to cough.

Now we both have Coronavirus.

Or do we?

Does it really matter if we do or if we don’t?  In light of the ease with which this virus is passed along to others, shouldn’t we all assume we have it?  Shouldn’t we assume everyone has it? 

Shouldn’t you assume you have it?

Coronavirus matters.


On March 22 I decided to call Teledoc and see what they had to say.  It was a free appointment since the government has encouraged health insurers to not charge for Coronavirus-related issues.  Responsibility, right?

The Teledoc says, “It’s likely bronchitis or pneumonia, and there’s no way to know without an x-ray.  Given the current situation and the fact that you don’t fit the risk profile, I wouldn’t recommend you bother.  Continue to self-isolate, and only go to the hospital if you experience a serious decline and have trouble breathing”.  He prescribed an inhaler. 

Gee, I feel better.  (Especially given that folks who have Coronavirus report that the early symptoms mirror bronchitis and pneumonia.  Comforting thought, that).

His advice is pretty much what I had expected, and one of the reasons I wasn’t in a hurry to call.  I know people are dying, and I know there’s really nothing you can do if you contract the virus.  We’re all in this weird state where we hope we don’t have it, but there’s not a viable way to know if we do or don’t.  I found it reassuring to hear that ~90% of people who had symptoms tested negative for the Coronavirus. 

Even if the test kit were available in our area, I think I’d pass for the time being.  I’m going to reserve those limited test kits for the people who really deserve them.

People like our health care workers.  People like our first responders.  People who are dying.

People who matter. 

On a somewhat related matter…during my time in self-quarantine, I came across this infographic and found it helpful. I hope it’s of value to others: 

The Horror of Coronavirus

I’m sure most of you have thought about the risk of having a virus without any symptoms. A virus that spreads easily.  A virus that kills.  You probably thought the whole thing was a bit overblown, until you didn’t.  As State after State goes into mandatory shutdown, the seriousness of this point in history becomes apparent.  In times like this, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Sure, we can have a debate about the economic vs. physical health of our world, but a cautious approach is certainly warranted, at least for the time being.  We’ll have time to save the economy soon enough.  For now, it’s time to focus on things that matter most.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to spend some time reading how horrible it is to die from Coronavirus.

Sure, 99% of those who contract the virus will survive.  Even if my wife and I do have it, I firmly believe we’ll survive.  And yet, reading that post about what it’s like to die with Coronavirus, I have a new appreciation for how serious this thing really is.  My heart is burdened, and it’s not a good place to be.  Grief, perhaps?  Tough days, and we should all take time to think about and pray for the people who are really suffering.  


My Heart Goes Out To…

The 1% who will die.  I can’t imagine a worse way for life to end.

Those who will be rationed out of the health care system.  Too many problems, too few ventilators. 

The doctors who will have to make those decisions, and…

The families who will be impacted by the decisions those doctors make.

Those who are struggling financially due to the staggering unemployment that will result from this global shutdown.

In times like these, money doesn’t matter much. 

(A disclaimer: Of course, I recognize the importance of money for those who live paycheck-to-paycheck and will face true hardship in the coming weeks/months.  It’s going to get ugly for a whole lot of people, and I feel for the pain they will have to endure.  Some will suffer financial ruin.  It’s going to be tough going.  But don’t forget the ones who are dying.  Somehow, that seems to matter more.)


The Things That Matter

Keep those who are suffering in your prayers.  Prayers matter.

Keep yourself healthy.  Health matters.

Protect your friends and family with the whole #SocialDistance thing.  Friends and family matter.

Spend time thinking about eternity.  Eternity matters.


Conclusion

In time, the world will return to normal.  This too, as they say, will pass.  Coronavirus will become a thing of the past.  A story we’ll tell our grandkids someday.

When that time comes, I hope we all remember our time of self-isolation.  It’s a unique point of time in our world, and one we should always remember.  A time to be careful.  A time to spend with loved ones.  A time to be thankful.  A time to grieve.

A time to reflect on the things that really matter.


Your Turn:  Are you self-isolating?  Has your thinking shifted as a result of the pandemic?  What have you learned?

PS – Day 10 of the self-quarantine and the cough remains.  Thankfully, it remains the only “symptom”.  I’m taking that as a good sign, but I’m still isolating in our wonderful mountain cabin.  And thanking God for that marvelous trail through those spectacular woods behind our home.  A true respite in troubling times. 

36 comments

  1. Hey Fritz, I certainly hope you and your wife don’t have it. I’m mostly concerned about my very elderly Mother and my brother who has type-1 diabetes which puts him in a higher risk of mortality if he gets it. And my brother just got laid off and filed for unemployment yesterday.

    As I wrote in a few posts already I think this event will (hopefully) change the behaviors of many once we come out on the other side, regarding money and life in general. Only time will tell.

    1. Hi Fritz. Prayer is important! And I will add you and Jackie to our family’s daily. I will not pray that you have bronchitis or pneumonia (how was that supposed to make you feel better?), instead that full good health will return to you both. In the meantime, good will be made even from this. It already gave you something of utmost importance to write about. If the utmost truth is not a solid foundation, then what, after all, does all the rest matter? Enjoy your walks, the dogs, and Jackie, and this time of quiet. And please keep letting us see into your world so we can ponder what should matter to us all.

  2. Hi Fritz-
    Hope you and your wife are both well? Thank you for putting my scattered thoughts into such concise and elegant words. I am in the process of remodeling my retirement “forever” home and I decided to push pause this week. Most people think I am being too cautious or over the top. I know it is not my top priority rn. It can wait.
    Prayers matter. Health matters. People matter. Eternity matters.
    Keep us posted on how you are doing please.

  3. First off, keeping you and your wife in our thoughts and prayers.

    Our daughters works as a nurse in a larger midwest city. She’s seeing patients (and fellow employees) who’ve contracted the virus. Scary for sure. And we’re also proud of her and what she’s doing to help.

    Thanks for sharing this post. In the end – while money is nice – there are other things that are more important. It’s been nice seeing the good in humanity come through in small ways. And it also makes me appreciate more the people in my life – both far and near.

  4. Fritz, sad to hear that you and your wife may have the virus. My prayers and hopes are with you and your wife. Looks like these days my nightly prayers are taking longer as time passes. I hope soon they will return to normal as we hope for a return to normalcy in our lives.

  5. So sorry you and your wife are not feeling well Fritz. Sure is a crazy time and I do think I’ve been feeling grief also…not really sure but trying to keep our chins up. Please keep us posted on your health and I will be sending healing prayers and loving vibes your way!!

  6. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I hope you both are feeling better soon, regardless of what bug you have, and really, that goes for everyone out there with frightening symptoms.

  7. Thank you for taking the time to share your reflections, Fritz! I will continue to pray for our world and all the ways this pandemic has affected everyone. I am thankful for your commitment and drive to service others as you’ve been called. Godspeed!

  8. Fritz, I agree with everyone and sincerely hope you and your wife don’t have the virus. It seems everyone is being affected one way or another now. My employer has told all but essential employees to stay home for two weeks (with full pay). I don’t know what they’ll do after next week. I guess I’m getting my 2 week trial retirement now so I’m trying to make the best of it. My wife is a nurse at our local hospital so of course she is working as usual. Luckily we have no confirmed cases in our town or county. So despite the anxiety of watching our retirement balances go down, there are things more important than money. Thanks for this article. Stay safe and healthy.

    1. Funny you mentioned “trial retirement”, Dale. My wife and I were talking about exactly that point yesterday, said we hope folks use their “forced sabbaticals” as a time to do a Test Retirement! Make good out of something that’s not so good, right?

      1. Week two into our “trial retirement “ and so far so good. I’ve never gotten so much yard work done so early! Actually I’ve been going to the office every other day for a couple of hours to keep things caught up. It’s looking like we’ll be going back to work next week, just don’t know on what kind of schedule. Things are definitely up in the air.
        I hope you and your wife are doing better. Stay safe!

  9. It sounds like you’re feeling better, that’s good news.
    I’m really worried about my brother. He’s an ER physician in the Bay Area and he’ll be exposed to the virus constantly. It’s scary. Money isn’t important right now. Let’s get this virus under control first.
    Yes, we’re staying home mostly. I go to the grocery store and take my son out to ride bike. That’s about it. Oregon seems to be doing relatively okay so far. Most people are taking this seriously here.
    Hope you and your wife feel 100% soon.

    1. Joe, your hopes have been realized! Today, for the first time in 11 days, I feel 100%! It feels GREAT! I spent the morning finishing up my winter landscaping project, feels great to be outside on this beautiful spring day in Georgia!

  10. Fritz,

    Wish you well!
    That’s a scary subtitle “I Have Coronavirus”.
    Could you change it to “I Have Coronavirus?”

    Zac

  11. Hope everyone stays well and safe. That said, we need to go on with life. This will pass but in the meantime, diligently practice what the CDC recommends just like how we should diligently plan for our retirement. BTW, our family is probably at higher risk than the general public as my spouse works at a long-term care facility in the Seattle area (similar and not far from the “epicenter” one in Kirkland, WA) and my brother works in an ER in CA. And yes, there are shortages of PPE and health care facilities have to lock up and re-use masks, etc. but we need to continue our normal lives.

    Appreciate life and what’s really important. That said, planning for retirement is still important.

  12. Hey Fritz, wishing you and your wife a speedy recovery. It deeply saddens me to think of the grief families across this country are going through right now. I feel so blessed to be home safe with my family. That’s worth more to me than the money in my bank accounts.

    Have you in my thoughts.

  13. Hey Fritz,

    My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your wife. Thanks for sharing this – anything that helps people understand the importance of “isolating” matters. Anyone can get this. Hope you continue to feel better…

    Denis

  14. Couldn’t agree with you more Fritz and wishing you and your wife a speedy recovery!

    As important as money seems, health is far more valuable!

    We’ve been watching CNN and the magnitude / spread of this pandemic is absolutely staggering. We’ve self-isolated on the palatial country estates of Shannon (fancy name for our acreage) and intend on staying put for at least the next couple of weeks. At that point, we expect to be out of toilet paper and need to decide if it’s safe to venture out.

    This whole pandemic is changing the way many of us perceive the world. For instance, is it worth exposing yourself to the virus and keep working. Believe it or not, pet food stores are deemed “essential” in our area and a good friend is terrified to go to work. Apparently they’re the only place to buy live crickets for your pet Gecko (who would have thought).

    In the greater scheme of things, I suspect this virus will prompt more folks to retire simply to get out of the rat-race. Of course, slow economic times will also force many more early retirements.

    Stay well and happy belated birthday!

  15. Definitely much better than the prior post where it seemed that you were only focusing on buying stocks at a discount and not on the Human tragedy unfolding (although you did clarify in comments later).
    Out of curiosity how much grocery have you stocked that you don’t need to venture out? And what kind? Maybe a blog post topic

    1. FFC, I had others who made similar comments on my “Bear” post, and I hope folks didn’t misunderstand. That post was written strictly from a financial planning perspective, and demonstrated some potential financial moves folks may want to consider in these difficult times. Thanks for pointing out my clarifying comment.

      As for food preps, we’ve always been “Prepared” (See “Am I A Prepper? No, Just Prepared.” Fortunatley, my wife is an excellent cook and we’ve been surviving well on lotsa pasta, fresh baked breads, frozen foods and refrigerated items we stocked up on at the start. And, fortunately, we always keep several months of toilet paper stock on hand!

  16. Fritz, hoping you and your wife are on the healing path, I can picture your beautiful walks in the woods and that is a blessed picture!

    I am in NY and facing this full on. Journaling, cooking, teaching long distance. I’ve come to understand that we all have a role to play here and it comes down to these roles in my opinion, I often waffle back and forth among these 5:
    A leader
    A helper
    Vulnerable
    A Victim
    A Bully

    At 3 am this morning the power went out and I raced through all different scenarios—I turned to journaling and lesson planning with a flashlight and 3 hours later the work truck pulled up and repaired the power—I cried my eyes out with gratitude-I will be able to teach from my laptop. Those workers were heroes/helpers to my neighborhood. As are all the medical professionals risking their very lives every moment.

    Thanks for this post Fritz. I’ll keep checking in. Karen

  17. Dear Fritz, I was an early follower of your site but don’t believe I’ve ever posted however now seems right. As a Otolaryngologist Head & Neck surgeon over 60 whos job requires working closely with the airway, pretty much still working full time ; hospital, clinic, ER , OR, ICU ect. , I am thankful for my military medical training. Things sure have changed and will continue to evolve as we globally cope with the biology of this novel virus new pandemic. That being said treatments will develop as the global scientific community engages its vast resources and hopefully we as a species will develop immunity. This virus holds no prejudice against its host and infects all which should serve to remind us just how similar (DNA) we really are to each other. Importantly people should not react to fear with panic, just like with pain we each have our own reaction to a stimulus and fear should just raise your sense of awareness not stop your progress.

  18. Fritz, I love your blog and hope you and your wife are doing well. I’ve now seen Hillsdale twice on your blog, once on your COVID infographic and once on your jacket in a photo. We love that college! Our 15yo daughter is thinking of attending. Best wishes and God bless you.

  19. Fritz, best wishes to you and your wife for a complete and speedy recovery. Times like this really hit home what’s important in life – at least it does for me. We all think we know how important health is but the situation in the world today make us realize that health is the ultimate priority.

  20. Technically for NON-AMBITIOUS personalities – if you EARNED more than 25 to 30 percents of the general population, money has little value in your life if you are not enjoy your work.

    Technically for AMBITIOUS personalities – if you ACCUMULATED more than 25 times the earning of the general population, money has little value in your life if you are not useful to others.

    Technically for ALL – money has NO value when you are clinically declared dead.

  21. Great post. It’s difficult times when most of us tend to focus on what matters. When going long-term on the planning… well, stuff here doesn’t matter as much (and yet it’s still totally important.) 🙂

  22. I’m a fan of your blog. I hope you and your wife don’t have the corona virus and wish you two a speedy recovery. Please keep us updated! God bless you!

    Sara

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