Monday, September 21, 2020

2020 Update

It has been another good long time since I’ve posted… and what a strange time it’s been! I feel like the world has totally changed. COVID-19, baby!

First of all, I am very lucky to be able to say that my family and I have all been healthy. But I do have several friends who have had the virus, with varying degrees of seriousness. Thankfully all have recovered, but friends of friends have died, so I don’t feel too far detached from the real impact. My unlucky friend Mortimer, who I’ve written about here from time to time, had the virus in early April and barely avoided going to the hospital, which is a miracle as he has asthma and some other health issues. He still doesn’t feel totally recovered even all these months later. 
My life has been very hunkered down. Travel plans were canceled. ALL plans were canceled. I’ve mainly only left the house to go grocery shopping once a week. From mid-March until now, I have gotten maybe 3 take-out lunches and 4 take-out dinners. I ate in restaurants with outdoor seating for lunch a couple times over the summer, and exactly once for dinner, a couple of weeks ago. I went to visit my mom and sister once, and have entertained friends or family at home 6 times during the summer, always staying outdoors for most of the time. But groceries have definitely gotten more expensive, so I’m somehow still spending more on food. (This may be because Sweetie was the one tending to pick up restaurant bills while I paid in the supermarket.) My gym membership was on hold for a few months and I have yet to go back since they reopened. I spent about $45 on a new yoga mat and a resistance band for exercise (which, to be honest, I haven’t used much), and $60 on two sets of workout videos, which, again, to be honest, I haven’t used much. But I’m going to. I swear. Otherwise, I’m lucky to have outdoor options for walking and swimming so I haven’t been a total slug during the summer months. But once it gets colder again I’m going to have to try to go back to the gym. This will probably be my biggest risk factor for getting the virus. It’s also a big nuisance as attendance is very limited and you have to make an appointment, and you can’t take a shower. So I’ll have to weigh whether the motivational aspects of going to the gym outweigh the negatives, or whether I just have to find some other way of getting myself to exercise at home, instead of just fantasizing about it. 
I spent some money on plants for my garden, which has been getting a bit more ambitious. This summer’s tomatoes were phenomenal, actually, though my attempts at growing peppers and eggplant were a bust. I also spent some money on books— not a ton, but I wanted to support a local independent bookstore so I placed a couple of orders for things to read while the library was closed. Strangely, I haven’t had the concentration to get very far in reading these books. 
Since I haven’t been working, I at least haven’t had to worry about losing my job in the pandemic, as has happened to several people I know. If I’d stayed in my old job, it could well have happened to me, I suppose, though most of my former colleagues are still employed and adjusting fairly well to working remotely. I had been looking into possibilities for part-time work close to my new (not that new anymore) home, but these were all jobs at shops and cultural institutions that had to close down for a while. And now, with so many people out of work, I feel like I don’t want to take a job away from someone who might need it more. Because here’s the weird thing— or maybe not the “weird” thing, but the kind of disgusting thing: I have more money than I’ve ever had right now, over $1.65 million. When the stock market plunged on the initial coronavirus panic, my net worth dropped to a bit less than it was when I left my job. But since then, the market has recovered, and my net worth is currently more than 25% higher than it was when I stopped working. I’ve sold some mutual fund shares to replenish my cash savings, but my cost of living is so low, I can gain or lose more in market value in a week— or even a day— than I spend in a whole year. This may not be the case forever, of course. 

(And in fact, it's been a couple of weeks since I wrote everything above, and now my net worth is only about $1.63 million due to recent declines in the stock market!)

Right now the stock market seems pretty disengaged from broader economic conditions. It is hard to see how COVID-19’s massive impact on the travel, hospitality, restaurant and arts industries won’t have a devastating effect on our economy for years, especially in the NY area. Eventually that will affect the stock market too. But in the meantime, it really is a glaring example of the rich getting richer while the middle class and working class and poor struggle to keep their heads above water. “The rich” is not usually a group in which I’d include myself, but the reality is that only a very small percentage of US households have a net worth of more than $1 million. I’m probably in the top 10-15% for net worth on my own, even adjusting for my age group, and taking Sweetie into account, probably top 5%. (I haven’t found good recent statistics but there are calculators where you can see where you stand based on 2016 figures. The continued recovery of the stock market since then would I guess mean that I’m a bit lower percentile-wise. Using my 2016 net worth would put me around the 90th percentile.) 

Anyway, I'm hanging in here. How are all of you, dear loyal remaining readers who still check in? I hope you are healthy and doing well. Thanks for sticking with me!


frugal zeitgeist said...

I'm glad you've made it through this dumpster fire of a year thus far in such good shape, and with everyone close to you alive. I lost two friends to COVID, and I hope there won't be any others.

I'm still employed and profoundly grateful for it. Like you, my net worth has gone way up: I was just under $2.7M a couple of weeks ago. I'm not checking while the market's tumbling, but I figure I'm in the neighborhood of $2.5M now, which is still a considerable gain since the beginning of the year. I paid off my apartment about 18 months ago with cash my mom left me, but the value has cratered. I live with my partner elsewhere these days, but I'm hanging onto my place for the time being. His job is stable too, and we never take that for granted either.

I quit my overpriced gym; I can't justify the cost anymore, and I don't believe the risk is worth it. I dragged out my old mountain bike and have been doing 30-50 mile rides on the weekends. I'm also running and have committed to an hour of yoga a day (thank you, YouTube), and I have a Peloton on order. I gained some weight that I can't get to budge, not that I've been trying that hard, but I do feel good about the amount of exercise I'm doing.

We cancelled four trips this year (Europe, Hawaii, and the West Coast), but took a couple of short trips within New York State after reopening began. I'm still not comfortable with the prospect of going to eat at a restaurant indoors.

I hope you check in more frequently, and very best wishes for you and Sweetie in these turbulent times!

mOOm said...

Good to hear from you again. We are doing OK down here in Australia. Here in Canberra there have only been just over 100 COVID cases in total and 3 deaths. Schools and daycare were shut down for about 8 weeks at the same time as I had to move my uni teaching online. I now have a 4 and 1 year old... Life is quite close to normal in Canberra now but still some social distancing things. Our net worth has also hit new records post-pandemic. We are in the top 5% in Australia but for households of 4 with a household head of 55 and four members I doubt we are even in the top 10% for Canberra, the richest city on average in the country.

T'Pol said...

Good to hear that you have been safe Madame X. This has been a terrible year for me. Lost my mom after a 77 day ordeal in ICU. She did not have Covid-19 but, she could not find a horrid infection. She passed on my birthday in June. It feels like a truck hit me, came back and hit me again. In my neck of the woods, the virus is on the rise again. My area is now a high risk area. So, I am being very careful. I did have a small week long vacation at the summer house of a friend in a very isolated area. I miss my mom so much. It is rather difficult to fight the depession and sadness. Trying my best.

Paul said...

Thanks for the check-in. Always wonderful to hear from you!

Anonymous said...

Always good to hear about your life. Check in more! I'm glad things are working out for you.

JP said...

I've read your blog since the very beginning. Sorry that I am late to the party in responding, but I am glad to see your new post. My wife is a teacher and she finished the last school year via Zoom starting in March. She's back at school in her building, but with no students. My company went to a work from home model in March and is actually looking at breaking the lease on our corporate campus and doing more WFH and regional small offices. I fell into the "essential worker" category (overseeing a $500 million construction project) so I can only WFH a couple days a week. I feel both lucky to get out, but also cheated that most of my company is a "pajama party" that I have missed out on. My financial advisor says that I can retire now (age 53) but I can't get over the psychological factors of going from saving to spending. Looking forward to more posts from you!

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