O'Donnell Kerr Financial Planners
  • 08 April, 2020

What a difference a month makes...

As a regular reader you would know that at the end of February my partner and I flew to Sydney to pick up our beautiful campervan.

Our plans were simple; we would continue to work and use our van to travel as often as we could get away. We had already booked sites in several picture-perfect parks for both Easter and a long weekend in May.

Retirement was close… COVID-19 was a concern but it would never have an impact on our life, so we thought.

The end of February and beginning of March saw markets around the world tumble, stripping billions of dollars of value from pre-retirees and retirees superannuation, including us. 

Retirement was no longer that close.  

We were still healthy and if we were required to work a little longer it was not that big an issue…we still have the van and could travel on weekends and on our holidays.

The number of people contracting COVID-19 worldwide and in Australia was growing rapidly, including Hollywood royalty Tom Hanks, who was hospitalised on the Gold Coast. It had become a little more of a concern for us, but we still did not think there would be too much of an impact on our lives.

I watched with horror the stampede of people purchasing toilet paper and began to think, "what do they know that I don’t?"

On the 18th of March, Tasmania led the way and effectively shut its borders, with nearly all other states following suit. 

The one that did hurt for Donna and me, was the closing of the Queensland border on the 25th of March - effectively cancelling all the travel we had planned for the next couple of months. 

The changes to our lives were now happening daily, and all very quickly.

Both Donna and I are now working from home on a full-time basis - thankfully in the current environment we are both very lucky we still have our jobs.

My mum, who is in an aged care facility, has been placed in lock down and we are no longer able to visit.  We can of course speak to mum via Skype or Zoom if someone shows mum how to use the software and I also have a technical adviser!

We are now limited to essential travel and trying very hard to limit our movements outside the house and yard.

So, what has changed for us:

  1. Grazing more - the proximity of the pantry to my new workstation on the dining table to not ideal.I have had to acquire more self-discipline.

  2. Cleaning and decluttering - I am not sure if going to the local refuse station is essential travel but in two weeks, after cleaning two rooms, I have been twice. Judging by the queue at the dump, I am not the only person cleaning and decluttering. This weekend our two sheds will be opened and emptied of all the unnecessary paraphernalia we have accumulated over the last 13 years.

  3. I am saving money on coffee and petrol – even though the price of petrol is now at an all-time low and I can’t travel anywhere.

  4. Donna and I are cooking more and yes, also drinking a little more – which I know is not good.

  5. I am becoming a little more tech savvy - working remote requires me to be a little bit more independent when it come to the world of IT.

  6. I do miss the personal face to face interaction with my work colleagues.

  7. Access to work is easier on a 24/7 basis because it is sitting on my dining table - the more self-discipline I acquire to stop grazing should help here as well.

There are, no doubt, many more changes that I have missed and, as you can see, not all the changes are for the better.

Human beings are adaptable creatures and even though the last couple of months have not been easy and the turmoil in our lives seems to be never ending we will survive and hopefully learn from the experience.

I am adapting and I don’t mean to just working from home. I have had to adjust my retirement plans, considering the drop in value of my superannuation funds.  I will now work a little longer and reevaluate what I will be able to do in retirement and what is no longer possible. 

Do not let the last month or the next few months get you down. Try to stay positive and if you do feel like the world is getting on top of you, please reach out to family, friends or the professionals in Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Black Dog.

A very wise man Aristotle said, “it is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light”.

What it means for me - Do not withdraw in defeat but focus on the good and what you can control.

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