Thursday, October 1, 2020
12 Positive COVID-19 Related Changes That Should Continue “On the Other Side”
In an article, Some of What COVID Has Brought Should Stay, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher describes adjustments that farmers have had to make to comply with COVID-19 protocols (e.g., social distancing at harvest events). The piece ends on a high note with “pandemic positives,” including more family meal time together. Secretary Fisher got me thinking about other positive practices that should remain after Americans reach the proverbial post-vaccine “other side.”
Below are 12 recent changes that I believe should continue:
¨ Double-Digit Savings Rate- The U.S. savings rate shot up to a record 33.6% in April and was 14.1% in August. Two key reasons were fear/uncertainty about job security and COVID-19 and fewer opportunities to spend amid pandemic lock-downs. It should not take a financial crisis, however, to encourage people to save.
¨ Budgeting- Many people started or revised a budget as a result of COVID-19 because they were living closer to the “edge” than before, with less slack in their checking or savings account. Budgeting practices established during the pandemic should continue, including replenishing an emergency fund for many U.S. households.
¨ Reduced Debt- U.S. debt dropped in the second quarter of 2020. This was attributed to consumers telecommuting and/or cutting back on non-essential spending during COVID-19 lockdowns. Like savings, paying down debt as quickly as possible is something that should always be practiced on a regular basis.
¨ Family Video Chats- Videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom and Skype have skyrocketed in use after families were unable or unwilling to travel to see others face to face and risk infecting loved ones. The cost of these platforms is free or nominal and the connections that people make with others are priceless.
¨ Hand-Washing, Sanitizing, and Plexiglass- Increased attention to frequent and proper hand-washing, sanitizing frequently-touched surfaces, and protecting retail cashiers and customers with “sneeze guard” plexiglass can only pay future dividends in reduced transmission of the common cold and the seasonal flu.
¨ Family Meal Time- “Dining in” at home has many benefits including lower cost (vs. eating out frequently) and more control over meal ingredients (e.g., salt, sugar, and high calorie sauces). In addition, as Fisher notes “the day’s events can be discussed and connections can be reinforced with those closest to us.”
¨ Gratefulness and Charity-Studies show associations between gratitude and positive emotions, resilience, and relationships. Similarly, charitable gifting and volunteerism produce positive results. People who practiced gratitude journaling and increased philanthropy during the pandemic should consider continuing to do so, perhaps using donor advised funds for donations to those in need.
¨ Creativity and Flexibility- COVID-19 challenges have fostered creativity, flexibility, independent thinking, and trade-off decision-making. Specifically, Americans have learned how to cook, sew (masks), fix computers, shop and bank online, use virtual learning platforms, and more. Key life skills should continue to be enhanced.
¨ Slower Pace of Life- Many workers have enjoyed the extra time and cost savings afforded by working at home. They are exercising more and not stressed out by commuting. In the future, workers may be able to negotiate increased telecommuting (e.g., two days a week in the office and three days working from home).
¨ Online Learning Opportunities- Many professional and trade associations, libraries, and educational organizations moved conferences and classes online. Some made as much (or more) money than face-to-face meetings and reached more people, who spent a fraction of a typical registration fee. Content providers are getting better at using virtual platforms and will, hopefully, continue future online learning experiences.
¨ Automatic and Advance Payments- To save money or due to lack of use, some people ended “autopay” arrangements for gyms, streaming services and payroll deductions (e.g., parking and childcare). Like getting refunds for advance travel deposits, undoing automatic debits is not always easy. Think twice about making future auto payments and long range advance deposits.
¨ Attention to Underlying Conditions- Since COVID-19 began, we have heard that “underlying conditions increase the risk of poor outcomes.” Underlying conditions include diabetes, heart disease, and COPD on the health side and lack of savings and high debt for finances. Some people have taken steps (e.g., losing weight) to address their personal “issues” and, hopefully, these personal improvement efforts will continue.
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