“Just stay positive”, they say. “Everything will be okay”, they say. While I have always been an eternal optimist, I read a quote today that really resonated with me:
There is no easy way to say it – times are uncertain. As a pharmacist in a large healthcare system caring for an elderly and high risk population in the midst of a growing pandemic, it is hard to stay positive. Between the hysteria and hype bred from the 24 hour news cycle and our addiction to the social media easily accessible on the smart phones in our pockets, it is nearly impossible to escape the overwhelming stress, uncertainty, and fear caused by COVID-19 and its impact on our economy. Friends and family are losing their jobs, the stock market is as volatile (and feels as rickety!) as a roller coaster at the county fair, and to make matters worse, many of us are isolated out of necessity for social distancing. In these uncertain times, how in the world can we be expected to stay POSITIVE?
I ask you to consider this – what can you control?
Finances are a challenging source of stress and anxiety for the vast majority of us. In the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is hard to make time to focus on finances. The one upside of this situation over the past few weeks is that our normal hustle and bustle has been put on pause. Things you never found time for, you now have time. I encourage you to carve some time out of your day, in between episodes of Netflix’s Tiger King or before your closet clear out, to set yourself in control of your finances. Take one small step – maybe it is inquiring about decreased car or homeowners insurance rates or making sure you are on the right path toward repaying your college loans – it will make a world of difference in the long run.
While it felt foreign at first, analyzing my spending and developing a budget gives me a sense of control and feeling of ease like nothing else. I encourage you to take the time to make a list of every expense you may incur over the next year – whether it be a recurring monthly expense like your mortgage payment or something that only comes up once a year like your Amazon Prime membership fee. Now divide by twelve and compare this to what is coming in monthly – it may surprise you. By taking the time to deep dive and evaluate how much my life costs, I now know with certainty how many months I could maintain if I were to lose my job or be out of work. I now know I can handle an emergency when it comes. I now know how much I can allot for groceries and necessities and allot more if I feel inclined to stock up to avoid the stores for a few weeks. Most importantly, I now KNOW how much I have leftover to invest towards a brighter tomorrow for both myself and my local community.
I look back to my life and tendencies before I invested in myself and understood how to manage my personal finances, and I do not think that I would have been able to stay positive in light of the current events. The old me would have continued to scroll mindlessly on my Facebook or Instagram feed for what would inevitably turn into hours instead of taking the time to review my spending and expenses and put a plan together. I was not running my finances – my finances were running me, but unfortunately I would have been the first one to say I was “too busy” to change that.. I’m a busy pharmacist, after all! The old me would have been scared and overwhelmed by the current state of affairs with COVID-19, and likely would have tried to ease these feelings with a plethora of unnecessary online purchases arriving at my doorstep daily. None of these purchases would have done anything to help myself or others and would not have addressed the root of the problem.
Instead, having dived into the world of personal finance and financial independence over the past two years, I now feel I am able to cut through the noise and keep a sense of calm and positivity despite all of the craziness in the world. By taking the time to invest in myself and my future over the past few years, and taking a good, hard, look at my relationship with money, I am so much better for it. I am now so proud to say that I have a financial plan in place that allows me to stay on track to pay my home off early, invest in my future, save for a rental property, and most importantly donate and support others during this trying time. I am staying positive.
I wish I had a crystal ball that showed every single one of us coming out of this pandemic and economic downturn unscathed. Sadly, none of us knows what is to come. The one thing I am certain of, despite this time of uncertainty, is that if we can put a financial plan in place to prepare, stay calm, and support those around us, we will stay positive and know in our hearts that we will be okay, no matter how things turn out.
Amanda Atherton, PharmD