Dealing with COVID-19 pandemic – Tips to my Jan-2020-self

It is hard to believe that I have been working from home for the past eight months due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. When my work sent out the work-from-home-until-further-notice email on March 13, I thought we’d only be working from home for about two or three weeks, maybe a month at the most. 

Back in March, my co-workers in Shenzhen, China had just completed a month-long office closure and were slowly going back to working at the office. Therefore, in my mind, I didn’t think our office closure would be that long, maybe two or three weeks at the most.

Oh, how naive I was! More than eight months into working-from-home, we are nowhere close to reopening society fully. Cases are increasing and COVID-19 outbreaks are happening regularly. Until we can get effective treatments or a vaccine, the global pandemic is here to stay.

Looking back, it was definitely a good move for me to take home some stationery from work such as the external keyboard, mouse, and one of the external monitors. Without these, it would have been extremely challenging to work effectively on a 12” laptop monitor.

Has anyone seen Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self skits by Julie Nolke? She has done a really good job on these skits. It sure is amazing how much has happened. I had totally forgotten about the Australian wildfires in January.  

With that in mind, I thought I’d write a post on tips to my Jan-2020-self on how to deal with the global pandemic and the fallout. 

Tip #1 Learn to work from home 

Although I have worked from home in the past, I never worked from home for an extended period of time. Working from home with two young kids in the house at the same time has created some challenges. Since I work in one of our spare bedrooms, a rule that I developed is that if I have the door closed, that means I am in a meeting or I need to focus. The kids have been taught about this rule and not open the door or be loud right outside the door. 

For the most part, both kids are respecting this rule, but they have occasionally walked into the room while I am on a voice or video call. Fortunately, most people are quite understanding of the current situation and don’t mind when one of the kids video bombs during the meeting. 

Tip #2 Learn to take regular short breaks

Working from home and having kids at home means they often seek my attention. When I am not in a meeting or working on a task with an immediate deadline, I find it worthwhile to take short breaks regularly and interact with my kids. This has helped me to really connect with them. These breaks can be as short as a couple of minutes. Quite often I just read a quick story with them or play some Lego together. 

Thanks to working-from-home, I have been able to spend more time and connect more with the kids and Mrs. T. This is something I really cherish. 

Tip #3 Get some weights

One of my 2020 goals is to go to the gym at least twice a week and swim for at least 120 km. Since I go to the gym at work and pools are closed, my physical activities have dropped significantly. For me, bodyweight workouts just don’t feel the same as lifting weights.

When I started looking into purchasing a kettlebell or a dumbbell to set up a home gym around May, I was shocked at how expensive things were. The increase in gym equipment price was mostly caused by supply shortages. Therefore, a tip to my Jan-2020-self would be to get some weights while the prices are still reasonable. 

Fortunately, I found some kettlebells on Craigslist and purchased three brand new kettlebells for $110 recently. This was one of the best purchases during the pandemic. Thanks to these kettlebells I can now work out at home. Mrs. T and I also have been working out together which has helped to improve our relationship. 

Tip #4 Get used to not travelling

In 2019, I travelled A LOT. I took a total of 46 flights and spent over six days in the air. And that’s not counting the time I spent in the different airports! 

Needless to say, I’m very used to travelling for work and for pleasure. I do enjoy flying and spending time in different cities, meeting different people, trying different types of food, and checking out different sights. 

But 2020 is different. Other than a quick overnight trip to Redmond to meet Microsoft, another one night trip to San Jose, and a family trip to Banff and Jasper, I haven’t travelled anywhere else. 

So to my Jan-2020-self… get used to not travelling. Enjoy sleeping in my own bed and enjoying time with my family. Once it’s OK to travel again, I may never get the chance again to not travel for an extended period of time. 

Tip #5 Sell everything in February and buy back in late March

Well if I could tell my Jan-2020-self I’d tell him to sell everything on February 21 when the market was near all-time-highs and buy back on March 23. This would mean taking advantage of the market swing and making a lot of money…

While I am at it, I would tell myself the winning lottery numbers… winning $65 million doesn’t sound too bad. 

This tip is obviously a joke! 

Tip #6 Don’t freak out about the market. Save, invest, repeat.

Back in late March, our dividend portfolio was down close to $250k. A lot of stock holdings were showing beet red. Stocks were beaten down and many people were freaking out. Although I didn’t freak out or lose sleep over this quick downturn, it was a good reminder to continue executing our hybrid investment strategy by investing in dividend paying stocks and index ETFs. 

The market goes down and the market goes up. That’s the ebbs and flows of the stock market. Long term outlook is more important – the stock market tends to go up by 8% annually over the long term. It is far more important to focus on the long term outlook than the short term noise. 

Continue to live below our means. Save money and invest money every month. Continue buying stocks when they’re beaten down. Take advantage of dollar cost average. Don’t time the market, time in the market is far more important.

Save, invest, repeat. The financial independence journey is quite boring and it should be that way. 

Tip #7 Let out my emotions. Things will be OK even though they may not appear to be

Without getting into the details, 2020 has been a challenging year for me emotionally. I have had to deal with some personal stuff. More than a few times, I sat by myself and cried my eyes out. 

I have learned that it is good to let out my emotions. If that means crying and feeling miserable for a short period of time so that I can release my emotions, so be it. Crying has a very therapeutic effect and can help to release a lot of unnecessary crap that we hold onto.

In fact, I have learned that holding onto these emotions inside of me doesn’t do me any good. If I continue to hide and suppress these emotions, I probably will end up hurting myself in the long run. 

Things will be OK even though they may not appear to be. Life will always go on…

Dear readers, if you have the chance to talk to yourself back in January 2020, what kind of tips would you tell yourself? 

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15 thoughts on “Dealing with COVID-19 pandemic – Tips to my Jan-2020-self”

  1. January me would not have believed the stock market behavior through this year even if Present me went back with charts. Mostly we did what we should have, but I did stop putting money into the market for a few months that happened to coincide with the dip mainly because I was bulking up our cash reserves. I had no idea that I’d later be selling off the reason for that cash reserve! (The rental, that was going to be a long term investment.)

    I should be better, still, about taking breaks and I should have been a bit better about addressing some stuff at work earlier but I honestly did not foresee the twin complications of the pandemic lasting this long and a pregnancy to boot. What a year it has been.

    Reply
  2. I was lucky that after the gains of the last decades, I took some time to shift to holding more bonds to start 2020. As the market started to drop, I sold some bonds (which didn’t drop much) and bought more stock. I continued this during the drop and was able to buy a good amount at the bottom of the market. As the market started to return to high, I sold some off to buy bonds.

    Some make call it market timing, but it isn’t much different than asset allocation reblancing and I’m always fully invested.

    Reply
  3. We’re retired dinks. Nothing much has changed for us since the start of the pandemic in Canada. Most times when we go out, it’s usually to the grocery store. Wear a mask, social distancing as best we can, wash our hands often. That’s about it.

    I watched an Irish teacher on youtube by the name of Ben Kavanagh during the early stages of the pandemic in Wuhan, China and that got us prepared for the inevitable here in Canada.

    Aside from the Atlantic bubble I’m really, really disappointed in the Canadian response from the very beginning both at the federal and provincial levels. They didn’t seem to learn a thing from either east Asia or Australia/New Zealand.

    As for investing, not much has changed over the last near forty years. Whether the markets are up or down, whenever I have savings to invest, that’s what I do. I don’t market time.

    Market behaviour never bothered me. Somehow or other I always survived since my first major market crash in 1987.

    Reply
    • You’re right, the federal and provincial governments certainly can do a lot more at the beginning of the pandemic. We can certainly take a look at what Taiwan, New Zealand, and Australia did and learn a few lessons from these countries.

      Investing has a lot to do with your emotion and ego. I continue to believe that time in the market is the best way to invest rather than timing the market.

      Reply
    • That is the way to go. We are also retired and fully invested in equities. Dividends are steady and increasing. That is all we need. No emergency fund, no travel fund, no worries. That is what a home equity line of credit is for. Just in case.

      Reply
  4. A lot of people’s mental health is not so good right now. Timely post given the BC restrictions that are now in place as of a few days ago.

    I am also disappointed in Canada’s/ BC’s response. There are no consequences so people don’t see the point in quarantining when they feel well and they are COVID positive.

    Reply
  5. Nice article. I’d say to myself: take your vacation to Europe in January not the end of March!! I’m not as fortunate to have been able to work from home during this time, but I am enjoying the emptier freeways on my commute to work. I can imagine my future post-pandemic self, telling my current pandemic self, to be grateful for the better commute while it lasts.

    I’m with you on Tip #5 haha. I luckily did a little reallocation in last December to hold more bonds, and was able to redeploy to get in on the upswing in April and May. Sheer luck, as I’m anti-trying to time the market.

    Reply
    • That’s too bad you haven’t been able to work from home during this time. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to. Can’t imagine what it’s like to commute to work daily. That seems to be a long distance memory.

      Reply
  6. You can use laundry detergent jugs instead of kettle bells. I have some in 4.43 litres, 4.08 & 2.21 litres.
    Can fill them up with water, sand, or rocks to get the weight you want. The handles on them are big enough to be able to easily hold on to.

    Reply
  7. I was lucky in that I was just transferring my pension in February. I sold when prices where high and the transfer was completed right when the marked was on its low point. Sadly, it was just a few £1,000s so the overall profit is not that big

    Reply

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