Coronavirus Coping Tips for Family and Finances

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is scary. But there are ways to channel that anxiety in a positive direction.

Can this situation get any worse? Sometimes it seems that it can’t. But by using our strengths we can make things better for all of us.

This scary coronavirus is striking the way the shark in Jaws attacked, without any notice. It spreads secretly and can stay on surfaces for weeks without warning until it hits. As if this were not bad enough, now let’s throw the stock market in. Disaster.

I’m sick of people saying, “Don’t panic.” We are human. To say to someone, “Don’t panic” and, “Don’t be afraid” is not only useless, it’s not fair. It’s real that your personal wellness, both physically and financially, are at risk. OK, I’ll stop depressing you.

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Instead, let’s focus on what we can control right now. We have a choice about how we, ourselves, handle this crisis. As my insightful, dear friend RoseMarie Rubinetti Cappiello told me: “It’s time to channel your fear and anxiety into something more helpful. It’s time to do your best to stay emotionally, physically and mentally clear, grounded and centered.”

Her calming words of wisdom pertain to all areas of our life. Follow these tips to stay sane and make the best of a stressful situation.

Tell the grandkids the family stories

Talk to the grandkids about how your parents and your grandparents coped with the Depression and WWII. My mom and grandma told me about rationing and how their skirts’ hemlines moved up because we were using cloth for the soldier’s uniforms. I loved to hear how neighbors would pool their sugar rations when one of their kids needed a birthday cake.

My grandfather lost all his money in the stock market. My grandmother forbade him to ever invest again. He would sneak change and started to invest again. He bought original Xerox and ATT and stocks like that. Those stocks supported my grandmother until she died at 100 years old.

They survived, and we will too. We need to send that message to our grandkids.

Time to clean up

While you are cleaning and sanitizing your home and protecting your loved ones, do it with other parts of your life, as well. Clean up all of those financial loose ends. You know what they are. Maybe you need to update your will, living will, insurance, health proxy, power of attorney, etc.

It’s also time to have those conversations that you have been putting off. Those conversations with your loved ones to tell them what you want if you find yourself in the toughest of situations. Also say the words of love and gratitude that you may just assume they know.

Remember: You are not your money. Your legacy is not about money and never was. It’s about your values. Tell your kids and grandkids. Now. FaceTime them and tell them how you feel and what you want your legacy to be. Maybe you have left money for college, or that first house or for your favorite charity. It’s time to tell them. You can write them a letter, if you can’t speak to them. It’s more than having a will. That is lawyer-stuff; I’m talking about heart-stuff.

Step away from the TV

Watching the Dow drop thousands of points a day is unsettling at best. The big thing is that selling as the market goes down then buying back in when it goes up, is obviously not great, and you know that. I don’t want to be cavalier about any of this. If you need the money now, you have no choice. If you can hang in there awhile, try to do that.

How long is awhile?

Here’s the most honest answer, “Who knows?” Monetta Financial Services put this in perspective when it described the last five bear markets.

“Since 1969, there have been five bear markets, all with different duration periods and price percentage declines. Using the S&P 500 Index, the duration of a market decline has ranged from three months to 2.1 years. Likewise, price declines ranged from -21.0% to -50.9%. Each market decline had its own unique characteristics that impacted both the duration and percent decline of each respective bear market.

“The shortest bear market was the ‘V’ shaped 1987 crash, lasting about three months, declining 29.6%. The longest period of decline was the 2000 dotcom crash, lasting 2.1 years, and declining 44.7%.”

I’m back to; “Who knows?” But do I believe we globally will get a handle on this? Yes. Within the two years that the worst bear market has experienced? Yes. Are we behind the curve of getting a handle on this? Yes. Am I giving you financial advice? No. But I’m going to actually buy into this market. I AM NOT a market timer; in fact, I think that is a really bad approach. But I have faith that we will survive and I can guess some of the companies that will still be here to thrive.

The miracle of compounding: Let the Force be with you

Einstein nailed the message when he was credited as saying that “compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.” That is the lesson to pass on to our next generations … now.

Mike Hackett is a SVP of Education Department at My Secure Advantage, with whom I work and have great respect. His company is stepping up to the plate to coach people in these anxious times. Mike said it best, “It’s about time, not timing.”

It’s a wonderful moment to teach your grandchildren about the miracle of compounding. Challenge your grandchildren to go online to find interest rate calculators to find out how much they could earn by investing money in the stock market on a regular basis. They will be surprised.

My favorite miracle of compounding story is about Benjamin Franklin. He left the equivalent of $4,400 each to Boston and Philadelphia in his will. The condition was that the money be loaned to young apprentices. But the cities had to wait and could have access to some of the money after 100 years and some more after 200 years. After the 200 years, both cities had over $6.5 million.

These are tough times, but we will get through it. We have a chance to breathe a collective breath and get back to being a community of folks who will protect each other.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Neale Godfrey, Financial Literacy Expert
President & CEO, Children's Financial Network Inc.

Neale Godfrey is a New York Times #1 best-selling author of 27 books, which empower families (and their kids and grandkids) to take charge of their financial lives. Godfrey started her journey with The Chase Manhattan Bank, joining as one of the first female executives, and later became president of The First Women's Bank and founder of The First Children's Bank. Neale pioneered the topic of "kids and money," which took off after her 13 appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."