There are too many sad stories of loss of lives from the novel coronavirus, from health workers to politicians, celebrities and everyday citizens. The impact is even more grave when we calculate the economic issues that will arise from social distance which is required to bring the spread of the virus under control. The headline news about fears of a recession, job losses, pay cuts and businesses closing down, sound like the end of the world! Is there hope?!
But as history has shown us time and time again, the sun will rise at the end of the night. Why do I know this? Because I have gone down a similar road before. Many years ago, my husband lost his job. Being the breadwinner of the family, this was devastating. What was worse, we had a mortgage and we were concerned we would lose it when we were unable to make the monthly payments. Many people might find themselves in a similar situation in the coming weeks and months. The fear of the unknown and the hurt and anger of being ‘one of the people caught up in the crisis’ for no fault of yours, can have its own mental toll on even the strong-minded. But we prevailed and that is why I believe you will too.
To survive, we had to take on drastic measures. Adapting our lifestyle to reflect our new realities, as we engaged in cutting costs in our budget. It was not fun, but it enabled us to live and have just little savings over time. More so, my husband explored and identified opportunities to earn. One of such opportunities was using technology to create a seamless process of ordering and delivering food to customers, in short turn-around time, for a business that operated from a kitchen and later a shop.
Today, this model might look like ‘normal business’, more so, because of the lockdown. But this was several years ago when this was not common and that singular opportunity of leveraging technology to change the business model of that food business, led to new opportunities being offered to him to create digital platforms, products and operational systems for other businesses. In retrospect, my husband had his career largely in technology at this time. Would he have engaged in a food business on a good day? Maybe not but crisis periods can lead to new opportunities to reinvent ourselves and deploy our ‘hidden’ skill set to other areas that require it to survive and thrive, if we apply ourselves. Did we stop to conquer? Yes and the result thereafter has made us humble and thankful for the opportunity to go through that time and come out of it tougher and wiser.
That singular economic or financial impact on our family changed our approach to our family and individual finances. It led us to improve our financial skills, to learn more about investments so we could change the way we behaved to different situations that arose. Now, I am thankful that my husband lost his job, not because I wanted to go through the mental, emotional or financial trauma, but because it was the wakeup call we needed to get our finances straight and become more open to other opportunities we might not have considered. The event happened early in our lives and not while we were close to retirement and the impact could have been more difficult.
What is the lesson in this? The news from the media might seem scary; it can appear that the prayer point should be that you are not affected directly or significantly from COVID-19. Regardless of the way the wind blows, it is important that we are sensitive to the opportunities around us to adapt and change behaviour, which include saving, cutting back on expenses, budgeting properly and being able to look out for the opportunities to serve our community differently. Therein lies the diamond in the rough.
Tolu Dima-Okojie, is a Money Behaviour Strategist, a certified financial education instructor, a business owner, real estate professional, business owner and investor and author. She is the founder of the Money Map Academy, a financial literacy organization, that helps entrepreneurs and business professionals who want to build wealth independent of their business/ salary, to invest, so they can be financially free. Tolu is the creator of the Money Behaviour QuotientTM (The MBQ), a tool for assessing how your lifestyle is hindering you or helping you to build wealth.