Week Three in lockdown and the wheels are beginning to fall off just a little. Why the **** do children shout all the time!?! Snack/bored/Mummy!/screentime fnaaaaaaagh! My latest desperation purchase was 2 lacrosse sticks for the kids and last night was like some dysfunctional Malory Towers where Miss Potts was lurching around with a gin in one hand, a lacrosse stick in the other and contemplating dying her hair pink…………
To finance, then, and the FTSE 100 feels a little like the ghostly Marie Celeste – it’s still sailing and ‘just’ 23% off January highs, but I think we have to anticipate some storms ahead as the financial impacts of the world standing still wash through.
We don’t need to be economists to work this out. Our own experiences will tell us why. I run a small business and revenues are tight, I’m making some tough decisions with my loyal team, I’ve furloughed my nanny, my productivity feels as strong as a stoned sloth, many friends have lost their jobs or had large pay cuts – and there’s no magic money tree to effortlessly swallow this all up. Consumer spending is going to take a hardcore haircut for a long time. This much discussed ‘V-shaped’ recovery feels a bit naïve to me.
As the realities of living in a country (world) in lockdown continue to hit home, I’ve been struck at some of the anger emerging on social media, and the vitriolic verbal competitions about whose lockdown is better than whose.
One thing running a consumer-facing business has taught me is that our own personal realities are so often miles apart from others’. I get thousands of emails across the year from all sorts of people who I would otherwise never cross paths with – and my God, there is truth in that saying “There’s now’t so queer as folk.” We all see things through the prism of our own experiences and live in our own bubbles. The same is of course true of our reaction to this crisis.
I suspect we’ve all thought a lot about happiness over the last three weeks. I think we all have a Happiness Triangle with three corners. Physical happiness. Mental happiness. Financial happiness. These are common to us all and of course deeply interconnected. What differs is the priority and the balance between these three. Like a fingerprint, our Happiness Triangles are unique.
For older people, and those with health problems, the physical is typically the largest angle. But for younger folk, already struggling with the property ladder, the financial priorities will be biting hard. And I can see after three weeks of relative isolation that mental happiness is fragile, even amongst the toughest old cockroaches I know.
If we think about the Government’s response, they have clearly prioritised the physical angle. In lockdown, financial happiness and mental happiness have been relegated to second place. For reasons that make perfect sense. And so policy and rules have been dictated based on this.
The cracks of course appear when our personal triangles don’t map to the policy triangles. The newly self-employed, small business owners, asthma sufferers, those with depression, start-ups, single parents, the elderly, those who have lost relatives – the list is almost endless – we all have different angles and feel angry that the policy triangle doesn’t look more like ours. For some, the financial angle will be so huge it dwarfs the others. For others, the mental challenges will be all-consuming. What does yours look like?
At some point over the coming weeks the angles will shift, as mental health pressures and financial pressures mount and start to collectively outweigh the physical. I guess yesterday’s Cobra meeting was really discussing the angles of the Happiness Triangle – and how the policy triangle needs to shift – and when.
For those of you wishing I’d stop banging on about triangles, we have also been busy this week answering questions and responding to concerns about your investments and pensions. We’ve partnered with Standard Life too and have been answering their customers’ questions in a series of blogs for their website (my swearing and alcohol references toned down!!). They will publish more pieces next week – as will we - including specific content for those in drawdown which I know is a particular challenge for many. Here’s a bit of reading for anyone interested:
And finally, if you're interested in what others are buying right now, we’ve also collected some of the platforms' best-seller lists for March – have a nosey at what others are up to.
That's it for this week. Have a lovely weekend – under the circumstances – and I hope the Easter Bunny brings you something nice. I'll leave you with my alternative Happiness Triangle...
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