Is There A Silver Lining to the Coronavirus?

Dennis O'Keefe |

Tragedy is a terrible thing.  And for the most part, it is unavoidable.  If X doesn't get you, Y is waiting around the corner.  Tough times are an inevitable part of life.

We’ve had a lot of tragedy in the last 100 years or so.  Two world wars.  Various other military conflicts.  A presidential assassination.   Multiple recessions.  

Yet after it all, we look back and see the good that each produced.  World War II ended the Great Depression and ushered in a massive industrial boom in the States and around the world.  The Great Recession broke an entire nation of their dependence on consumer debt.  

That is what makes humans unique in the animal kingdom - our ability to adapt and change and become better.  We persevere.  We become better.  We make the world a better place.  

With that, I’d like to take a few minutes and talk about the positives of this current crisis that is keeping us at home and, at times, striking fear in all of our hearts.  

Back To The Future
I grew up in a different America than we have now.  You probably did, too.  We ate dinner as a family every night.  It was a time to laugh, to connect, to deal with difficult issues.  

In the Summers, we would head out to the family pool for a fierce game of pool volleyball after dinner.  We laughed.  Oh my how we laughed.  From my dad’s sky-hook serve to my mother’s creative scoring methods, we just enjoyed our time together.

That time together as a family was important to me.  And I’ve worked hard to ensure we have family dinner time.  It’s a non-negotiable to me.  To be honest, when Justyn entered the Air Force and when Samantha got married, it was like someone had died around our dinner table.  That time together was that important to us all.

Spending regular time with family is something that’s been lost in America with scheduled activities and busy schedules; not to mention smartphones at our fingertips.  Don’t get me wrong.  Scheduled activities and such are wonderful on their own.  But maybe we’ve accidentally sacrificed relationships for full calendars.

For the last several weeks, families across the nation have had multiple meals together daily.  We’ve had time to connect.  More than one person has commented to me, “What would this look like thirty years ago with no computers and smartphones?”  Honestly - a lot like current family time together.  Board games.  Jigsaw puzzles.  Just sitting and talking.  (Just go on Amazon and try and find a jigsaw puzzle.  They are as sold-out as exercise equipment!)

Many pundits say that time of close-togetherness will increase the incidence of divorce.  I don’t think so.  I think we are going to see a resurgence of family time - guarded fiercely.   

With stronger family ties, we are going to deal with issues and learn from one another.  I believe that many of the problems that have crept up in our society are a direct result of this lack of family time.  And I believe as people rediscover this family time, these problems will wane in the coming years.

Cooking Up A Plan
Last year, Americans, for the first time ever, spent more money eating out than on groceries.  I find that statistic frightening.  Again it's a product of our over-scheduled, family-last society.

Between chain restaurants, fast-casual take-out pioneered by Chipotle and meal delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash, Americans have decided to skip cooking and eat out more often than not.

I’m not sure you’ve noticed or not, but eating out is expensive.  How many other categories are suffering because of the money people spend on restaurants and take-out food.  Most importantly - how much more money would a family have for emergency funds, college education and retirement - if they ate out less?

Over the last few weeks, we are learning that we can cook.  It really doesn't take hours to prepare a quality meal.  (If you need some simple less-than-one-hour recipe’s email me.  I love to cook.  I actually rarely eat out anymore.)  Plus it costs a fraction of the cost of a prepared meal - even one of those reasonably-priced Chipotle burrito bowls.

Cooking at home also means more healthy eating habits.  I’m not so sure about you, but I don't eat nearly as healthy at a restaurant or from take-out as I do when I cook my own food.  $2 add-on dessert?  Absolutely!  $1 extra fries?  Yes, please!  Those sorts of decisions are reduced considerably when you cook your own food.

There may be a reduction in the food service industry in the coming years.  The frantic pace of restaurant growth may subside after we all come out of hibernation.  But the benefits of more disposable income and healthier eating may far outweigh the alternative.

Can We Make The Planet Better?
There is a lot of debate over conservation and the environment.  What I believe everyone agrees is that if we use less resources, it can’t be all bad.  At the very least, it saves resources for the next generations.  At best, it helps maintain our climate stability.

Currently, we are living on less of just about everything.  We are cautious about what resources we use.  It’s not just toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  Instead of 3-5 trips to the grocery store a week (of which I am very guilty), we are making one trip - sometimes only a single trip every other week.  

This is saving vast resources.  Just the fossil fuels alone saved is incredible.  We are currently in the midst of an oil price war between OPEC nations.  But the price at the pump ($1.69 today!) also includes the fact that we are using less gas than we did a month ago.  

As an added benefit, smog and pollution is down world-wide.  In China, cities that haven’t seen the sky regularly in years are as clear as Los Angeles during the annual Santa Ana winds.  And that pattern is repeating itself across the world.

While I’m sure we will ramp up pollution as soon as the Coronavirus subsidies, I believe that we are headed to a point where everyone agrees that we need to do more to help our environment.  It is just too obvious how a change in how we live can make a huge difference in our immediate environment.

I’m sure there are other changes that we will make during this crisis that will pay dividends in the coming years and decades.  As I said earlier, it’s no fun right now.  Entire industries are at a temporary stand-still.

And I know this:  World War II was hell - physically, emotionally and economically.  Yet when I would talk to my grandfather about World War II, he wouldn’t talk about the rationing, the war, the death or the economic toll.  He talked about victory and the great times that were brought about after the war.  

We can’t avoid what is already here.  But there is hope - not just for a return to “normal” but a return to something better.

Stay safe.  Stay at home.  Let’s beat this thing and move on to a brighter tomorrow.  Because, as humans, that’s what we do!

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This blog is the opinion of Successful Money Strategies, Inc. and is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any investment advice or service.  Statistics and other figures are accurate at the time of original publishing.  Any advice herein should not be acted upon without obtaining specific advice from a licensed professional regarding the readers own situation or concerns.  Always count your change.