As we approach an easing of home quarantining, Baby Boomers are wondering what their brave new world will look like for the foreseeable future. One thing is for sure, it will be different.
First, don’t expect social distancing restrictions to ease up this year. And wearing a mask may be a clothing statement for some time to come. Those with COVID-19 antibodies may enjoy more freedom of movement in the future than people who have never been infected.
As stores, golf courses, businesses and events open up, social distancing is expected to remain the norm. But over half of small businesses may be gone forever, unable to overcome the financial disaster wrought by the coronavirus crisis. Unemployment is expected to be in the twenty percentile for the remainder of this year. A continued curtailment of city and state tax revenues will lead to reduced services and resources. Schools will not open until the Fall, if then.
The national workforce will ultimately become more dispersed. Working at home several days weekly will become the norm for many businesses, now that everyone has mastered virtual meetings. Telemedicine will become widespread. Expect crash programs focused on increasing Internet bandwidth to handle more traffic. Even major supermarkets may transition to only accepting online orders with curbside pickup. If you are a luddite without even a smartphone, life will be tough.
Entertainment venues will change. Crowds at sports arenas and music events will be sparse. Movie theaters will be in serious financial trouble as video streaming companies become the desired outlet for new releases.
Restaurants already have a hard time making ends meet; some will survive by finding a new balance between take-out and inhouse dining. Business at fast food outlets will flourish. Many families will begin to grow food in their backyards.
The country is entering a deep recession. Unemployment will rival that of the worst times we’ve seen in America. Workforce transition to online providers like Amazon and Walmart will lead to millions of new (albeit low-paying) jobs. Congress will not be able to continue to throw money at the problem. Airlines, automobile manufacturers, cruise lines and luxury goods providers will be hit particularly hard. The forty percent of Americans who could not handle a financial emergency greater than $400 are the first casualties of this crisis. Economic ripple effects will also hit our defense industry and military budgets. Those burdened with heavy student loans will be financially overwhelmed. Homelessness will explode. Many people will lose their homes because of lack of jobs, and real estate values will plummet, affecting Boomer retirement assets.
Future government priorities will focus on feeding, clothing and housing people and ensuring that everyone has adequate health care. Expect new programs designed to stimulate small business growth, the backbone of the American economy. National programs that create jobs, such as fixing America’s highways and bridges, will bring back memories of the CCC and WPA programs enacted during the Great Depression.
And the effects will be worldwide. There will be more turmoil and mass migrations as countries strive to adjust to the new realities. Many countries will need help to avoid starvation. Unfortunately, history has taught us that global upheaval like this is a petri dish for birthing dictatorial governments.
To top it off, a second wave of the coronavirus is expected to return in the Fall. The CDC says it may be more deadly. Hopefully, we will be better prepared by then.
For those who yearn for life as it was just a few months ago, that time is gone. The coronavirus has been a stress test for everything we took for granted. And it has revealed serious flaws in our infrastructure, our way of life and government’s crisis management capabilities.
Our advice to Baby Boomers is to consolidate your finances, cut expenses and avoid big purchases. It is time to hunker down.
Our whole way of life is undergoing a transformation as a result of the coronavirus. And while the crisis currently has us back on our heels, we can be thankful it is not something worse. We will eventually conquer this immediate challenge and a stronger country will emerge, one that is better prepared to protect its citizens from deadly surprises.