Experiencing economic triage for a second time
This article has been updated for the Covid-19 crisis financial environment. It was originally written during the 2008 ongoing recessionary challenge.
Many of you are no strangers to this economic downturn, which is another survival of the fittest challenge.
Readers: this has been some time. How are you handling your finances, worries, health, and mental attitude during this long, isolating, shelter-in-place environment?
Send me a message through the e-mail address at the end of this article. Let me know how you are coping. We can share some of your concerns. Your personal information always kept confidential, any shared information is always neutralised to avoid any identification.
Is this time different? Moneywise certainly thinks so; this time it is your health and your finances at risk.
In 2008, there were warning signs, isolated incidences at first in 2007, then financial retractions gathered steam, eventually into an acknowledged sub-prime downturn as various indicia flashed red.
This time, governments were able to put some mandated impediments to social contact in place to limit communities' health exposures, devastating personal losses, and provide some temporary financial support.
Today, in Bermuda, forced decreased demand in services and products has impacted home values and sales, rental lease terms and occupancies, wages and the possible availability of jobs, tourist and business vitality, and led to sparse retail commerce and thinly trafficked sidewalks. At this moment, little is known of redundancy numbers, or whether guest workers are leaving island.
Even so, relentless inflation marches on without skipping a beat, continuing to exact its toll with increases in cost of living products and services.
Our economic situation is a crisis: Bermuda's community, now more than ever, needs confidence in leadership, confidence in our place in the global economy, and alleviation of our concerns about our ability to support our family lifestyles.
Thousands of individuals and their families are reporting job losses, and some have never fully recovered from the last recession. Resources are running low.
What more can you do now?
There are five types of family groups out there, in varying degrees of economic anxiety, who are seriously re-evaluating their asset positions.
1, No jobs. All family members have been made redundant.
2, Your job hours have been decreased and your hourly wage has been cutback
3, Your job may be on the line, but the position is holding.
4, Your job situation has not changed, luckily, so far.
5, You are retired and living on a fixed income.
Having hope and remaining positive helps. Proactive practical planning forces assessment of your worst-case scenario; it is called financial survival.
The following list are some of the actions you must put in place now.
Stop spending. Yes, this is another blow to the retail sector, but you are in survival mode now. You must preserve your remaining cash.
This means literally what it says — no spending. You cannot afford to charge or pay cash for that new designer bag, buy lunches, dinners out, go on that vacation trip, or purchase lavish Christmas gifts. You need your health insurance more than treats.
Cost Savings. Eat cheap. Eat less. True story — a Northeast single parent determined to survive hard financial times, served woodchuck, not necessarily a favourite, but edible free food. That's right, she shot them when they raided her garden. While an improbable (and possible repulsive) meal for Bermuda residents, opportunities abound to be more food self-sufficient. Talk to your grandparents, they are masters of survival living.
Hoard cash. Jewellery does not pay the rent. Every single item not needed, convert to a cash cushion.
Ignore investing in capital markets. It's not a place you want to be right now. But monitor your pension.
Life insurance. Can you borrow against the cash value of whole life? Preserve your life policy by negotiating no premiums for a lower face value, if possible.
Your pension. Apply for Covid withdrawal support at the Pension Commission. It is your money.
No borrowing. No credit card or other debt. No lending to anyone either.
If you are offered a job, take it. Some money is better than none. The longer you are out of work, the harder it is to get back into the employment circles. Sometimes, we have to take sidesteps in life to move forward.
Ramp up your positive attitude. Many are still not buying into the seriousness of our situation. “Um not taking just any job,” said one individual. OK, but you may be left with just that, no job.
Seek Financial Assistance. Yes, you may feel humiliation. The folks there do try to be helpful, but be prepared to disclose all your financial information. Again, some money is better than none.
Emigrate. If you truly feel that there is no future for you in Bermuda, then assess whether you can obtain another passport, or be sponsored for relocation. Many Bermuda residents have right of abode in the United Kingdom; do not discount that opportunity. You will be missed!
Get mad and get motivated. If you don't like what is happening to your lifestyle, now is the time to become proactive. Get involved. Be sure that your representatives take positive verifiable action to turn this downward spiral around — for your and our communities' benefit. Then, monitor the outcome.
When will the economy improve?
No one knows, and way too often, answers given are politically skewed. Yes, US stock markets indices roared last week, but there is little relationship to the 40 million US residents unemployed.
Prayer helps, if you are a spiritual person.
No matter what, life does go on. Enjoy the little things, the everyday wonders in life: a child's smile, sparkling seas, sunsets when we know we will rise again in good health to meet the challenges of another day.
Next week: We need to jump-start our economy. Which Royal Gazette readers' ideas do we think will work the best for immediate, short-term, middle-term, and long-term economic recovery.
• Martha Harris Myron CPA JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services, dual Bermudian/US citizen. All proceeds earned from these columns are donated by Martha and Royal Gazette to The Bermuda Salvation Army. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org