There are any number of factors that make circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in modern history.
In working through some of the reading and research piles on my desk, I came across a 2019 investor study conducted by Fidelity Investments which, in part, attempted to identify sources of stress in respondents around their health, life, work and finances. Fidelity broke the survey into two groups, those with more than $1 million in investable assets and those with less.
One question asked both groups to rank their top five concerns from a list of options from each of the categories mentioned above. The top five responses for both groups were identical, with a minor difference to their ranked order of importance. Keep in mind this study was conducted before anyone had heard of COVID-19.
- My weight
- My health
- My family’s health
- Social life
- Paying for health care
Perhaps surprisingly, concerns around investment portfolios or other non-health related financial issues did not make the top five for either group. But all five still have their financial strings attached. In revisiting this study, what struck me given our current situation is how impactful this pandemic is on all five of these concerns.
Call it a quintuple whammy of a crisis.
Weight & Health
While some of it has been the source of humorous memes, we do get concerned about our personal health and weight when suddenly confined to our homes for many weeks or months. Many struggle with balancing the siren song of the pantry and finding the motivation to take a walk, go for a jog or participate in some kind of fitness regimen outside their normal routine. This isn’t solely a matter of self-discipline or motivation. Stress caused by this sort of crisis can be directly linked to stress eating and other sorts of behavior that might negatively impact our weight and our health in the long run.
Our concerns for our families are certainly impacted by this crisis. We hope that loved ones are able to take all necessary precautions and that they’re not living in an area that’s disproportionately impacted by the virus. Many of us have that one family member who is perpetually “fine,” regardless of what the truth might really be and wouldn’t want to trouble anyone if they were without the medicine, food or other supplies they need. This stress is only enhanced by a feeling of helplessness when we can’t directly interact with loved ones.
Remember having a social life? We are social animals by nature and crave human interaction that has been in short supply of late. Short of a Zoom happy hour and talking to neighbors at a distance, maintaining social contact outside our immediately families has become extremely difficult.
Paying for Health Care
Aside from the direct link that this fifth response has to the top three selections, dealing with the financial end of a health issue can be extremely stressful whether COVID-19 related or not. This is only made worse in times where investment returns and our overall financial well-being are seemingly at higher risk.
While this pandemic increases stress around some of our top concerns in life, all is not lost. There are steps we can take in these areas to try and reduce that stress. Just knowing that these stresses are shared as the chief concerns of many can help.
In addition, there are systems and tools we can put in place to help. Have a family member or friend to help with accountability around nutrition. Find an online training resource to replace what you’d typically use for your health regimen. Have someone you know join you on a Zoom workout or socially distanced walk. Knowing that someone else is counting on us can be all the motivation needed to get back to good habits and improved health.
As for our family’s health and maintaining some kind of a social life, communication is key. Maybe we can’t be together, but we can make sure we’re reaching out and checking on those that are most important to us. A drive-by birthday greeting. A get together of friends online. Checking in on each other and staying in touch is important for both our physical and mental well-being.
It’s important to note that this study is certainly not representative of the broader population. There are millions of Americans who would likely have a very different list of top concerns to include just getting by on a day to day basis. This discussion is in no way meant to belittle those issues, but rather bring some light to a set of concerns more likely to be facing the typical reader of this blog. While potentially not as critical, our fears and emotions around these concerns are valid and the impact something like the pandemic can have on them is worth discussion.
To the extent that these stresses do have financial components or are being exacerbated by your financial situation, be sure to reach out to your advisor with any questions or concerns. We can’t solve all the problems of the day, but we can help put the financial impact in context and provide perspective around your long-term plan.
It’s becoming cliché of late, but nonetheless true – hang in there & stay healthy. We will get through this.