Living with Uncertainty

Personal Money Planning |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

It’s time for my weekly column and I don’t know what to say. I do know there’s a lot of stuff that you need to know, problem is, I don’t have the answers. So instead I’m going share what I don’t know. Then, I will try to convince you that you don’t know either, and why that matters. This should be interesting.

When will things get back to normal? Good question. As most of you know I live in a retirement community called Rolling Meadows. There are facilities here for those needing assisted living, nursing, or dementia care. The rest of us are what the world may label “old.” Many of us have various health conditions that, while not requiring aid, would complicate things if we got COVID-19. That “complication” includes death.

This combination of circumstances isn’t unique to Rolling Meadows. This includes many of your parents, grandparents, and older friends. It also describes a sizeable portion of the population in and around Wichita Falls. This, along with some other subgroups, is your at-risk population.  Risk tolerance takes on a different meaning for us; it’s not about our willingness to lose some money, it’s about risking our health.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that other folks can’t start getting out-and-about. Our local and state officials are trying to get this going, with some disagreements along the way. Part of the process is that people should follow the proper guidelines for safety. However, I can imagine a few folks who would call these unnecessary restrictions. Because of that discrepancy, it’s crucial to increase measures to find out who is carrying this novel coronavirus. 

Of course, these measures lead to even more questions. We really don’t know what the test results mean. If you test negative, you might still have the virus. If an antibody test shows you had it in the past, possibly without your knowledge, are you immune or a carrier—and for how long?  There’s still so much we don’t know.

Back to that at-risk group. When should they get back-to-normal? The first step may be to have a treatment for the virus. A treatment would drastically reduce the chance of death or extended hospital stays. That’s a start. But surviving the virus is not near as interesting to me as not getting it in the first place. After all, surviving could result in a few very unpleasant weeks, and even more unpleasant medical bills, neither of which is appealing.

The at-risk groups might also want to wait on a vaccine. There is a tremendous amount of effort going into finding one, producing it in quantity, and getting it out to the masses; that’s the good news. The bad news: The common cold is a virus and we haven’t come up with a vaccine for that yet. Outside of that, it may take until early 2021 to late 2022 before we have something in place.

So, while the majority of the world (and therefore the Wichita Falls area) may get back to some semblance of normal, there will be a sizeable part of our population that will not for a rather long time. And until that happens, society, the economy, and your lives will be different.

And, like you, I don’t know when that will be.

Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing.