Gain Personal Momentum Coming Out of the Pandemic

Part 1: Better Habits for a Healthier Mind

Since the Covid-19 outbreak we’ve all had to make adjustments so that we could cover our basic needs, care for our loved ones, and remain productive during quarantine. No matter how well you’ve adapted to these extraordinary circumstances, there’s probably a part of you that feels like you’ve been just trying to get through the next day. But it’s important that we create some personal momentum as life returns to normal, so we can hit the ground running.

And, to your credit, you have!

But as the country begins to reopen, it’s time to stop “getting by” and start approaching our lives and work with the same vigor we had before the pandemic. Regaining our old momentum isn’t going to be as easy as flipping a switch. So we asked some leading experts on behavior and peak performance what mental strategies they would recommend to help us start building personal momentum as we approach, hopefully, the end of quarantine life.

  1. Live in your “Present Box.”

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Beth Kurland says that evolution instilled a “wandering mind” in humans as a survival mechanism. We’re never totally in the present because our survival instinct is constantly reminding us of things we overcame in the past and alerting us to potential future dangers. Dr. Kurland says, “In this pandemic of uncertainty, these kinds of mental ruminations can really increase a lot of the anxiety that people are experiencing.”

The more that we focus on the here and now, the less anxious we are going to be, and the more motivated we will feel to tackle immediate problems. To help achieve this mental shift, Dr. Kurland recommends drawing two large boxes on a sheet of paper. Label one “The Present,” and label the other “What If?” Then, write the things that are occupying your mind in the appropriate box. According to Dr. Kurland, separating what’s happening right now from what could happen helps us “to really think about what is in our sphere of influence, what we have personal agency and control over.”

Yes, eventually, you might have to move some of those “What Ifs?” into your “Present” box. But for the moment, try to imagine putting a lid on your “What Ifs?” and structure your time around what you need to do – and can do – today.

  1. More Teflon, less Velcro.

Psychologist Rick Hanson says, “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” The anxiety and worry we’re all experiencing during quarantine only enhances our tendency to dwell on the negative and overlook the many good things we have in our lives.

Dr. Kurland believes that an added benefit of her Two Boxes exercise is that the more present we are, the more likely we are to notice and appreciate the positive. For example, many of us are feeling closer to our extended friends and families thanks to Zoom calls and care packages. Other folks have used the working from home experience to chart new career paths.

However, a Teflon mindset doesn’t mean boxing away some of the real emotional hardships you’ve experienced during the pandemic. Instead, Dr. Kurland encourages us to find a healthy balance between letting our feelings in and not letting them keep us down.

“I think it’s really important to acknowledge and have an opportunity to process those emotions,” Dr. Kurland says. “But try to both hold a space for the grief, the sadness that may be there, and also really find ways to notice the moments where we can really appreciate the positive things that we can take in. The warm glance from a family member or a kind word from a coworker. These kinds of things that really, as we take them in, can help us to get through a difficult day, a difficult moment.”

  1. Separate good stress from bad stress.

“Stress is good to a certain extent,” says Commander David Sears, who served for 20 years in active duty within the United States Special Operations Command as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer. In Commander Sears’ experience, stress can be a catalyst for growth and improvement. Right now stress is instilling good new habits in you, such as wearing a mask when you go shopping or retooling your monthly budget to adjust for changes in your work and living conditions.

But Commander Sears cautions, “You can get overwhelmed by stress and then it starts to become chronic, debilitating and it turns into a sort of pain.” To manage his own stress response, Commander Sears leans on lessons from his military service, including the importance of having a support system around you and finding order in a personal routine.

“It’s Physical Distancing”

“This whole idea of social distancing that we have is wrong,” says Commander Sears. “It’s physical distancing. We still need that social interaction, you need to have those communications. And you have to put in some structure in order to put some sanity into your life. Maybe develop your own schedule in the morning: I’m going to get up, I’m going to work out, I’m still going to put on my pants and get out of my pajamas. I’m going to then go to my first project of the day, then I’m going to go to the second. You might even need to implement a little more structure and discipline in your life in these times so you don’t feel like you’re wandering.”

We understand that transitioning back to living and working outside of your home is going to present its own set of challenges. We hope the expert strategies discussed here will help you approach those challenges from a more positive place. We’re also available for video calls or in-person meetings to discuss how your Life-Centered financial plan can help you build more momentum towards living your best possible life after quarantine.

If you would like to create personal momentum in your personal finances, reach out to us.

Additional Government Resources

Dubai Set To Open Heart Of Europe With 6 Outrageous Themed Islands

Floating Seahorse Villas and skyline

Based on six islands that bring the best of Europe to Dubai, The Heart of Europe is located 2 miles from the coast of Dubai and will offer up a variety of European cultural, dining, and hospitality experiences across resorts, cafés, bars, boutiques, and entertainment. Kleindienst Group developed the $5 billion master-planned tourism island destination that came a long way since its original concept was launched in 2008.

The Covid-19 outbreak may have stopped business on the mainland, but the Heart of Europe islands continued work at an aggressive pace with a goal to open Phase 1 by the end of 2020.

The development will offer “world’s first” attractions such as; the First Underwater Hotel with Gym and Spa, the First Dedicated Wedding Hotel, the World’s First Artificial Rainy Street, the First Floating and Underwater Living Experience and the World’s First Outdoor Snow Plaza.

Phase One opening of The Heart of Europe consists of, Sweden Beach Palaces, Germany Villas, Honeymoon Island, Portofino Hotel, and Côte d’Azur Resort.

Floating Seahorse underwater bathroom
The Floating Seahorse HEART OF EUROPE

THE FLOATING SEAHORSE VILLAS

(3 level villas with underwater living, glass-bottom Jacuzzi, and private man-made coral reefs teeming with marine life)

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Connected to Honeymoon Island by jetties, the Floating Seahorse Villas were designed for investors and second home end users. Consisting of over 4,000 square feet with three levels, each will feature state-of-the-art technology and outdoor climate-controlled areas. The ultimate attraction will be the underwater level with exclusive views to the coral reefs.

Germany Island
Germany Island HEART OF EUROPE

GERMANY ISLAND

(15 beachfront villas, 17 lagoon villas, offering four or five bedrooms in Bauhaus inspired style)

The horseshoe-shaped Germany Island will face onto an azure-blue lagoon with its own bar, lush gardens, white sandy beaches and bent palm trees. 

There will be traditional German carnivals, Christmas markets, festivals, and the famous Oktoberfest. Famed international chefs will offer up the finest German-style menus as well as the largest selection of German beers and wines.

Viking style villa on Sweden Island
Viking style villa on Sweden Island HEART OF EUROPE

SWEDEN ISLAND

(10 four-story palaces, 7 bedroom waterfront homes, each ground floor has a gym, sauna and snow room, while on the rooftop there will be a glass-roofed party room)

Sweden Island was inspired by Swedish Viking Vessels and will offer up palaces furnished by Bentley Homes with glass roofs and private snow rooms. The $27 million beach palace was among the first properties to sell out on the island. Restaurants will incorporate Sweden’s famed cuisine, featuring items like sour herring, meatballs, Raggmunkar, toast Skagen, smörgåsbord, Snaps, and Glὃgg.

Honeymoon Island surrounded by Floating Seahorse Villas
Honeymoon Island surrounded by Floating Seahorse Villas HEART OF EUROPE

HONEYMOON ISLAND

The unique heart-shaped Maldivian inspired island will be a couples retreat surrounded by Seahorse Floating Villas that will sell up to $5 million each. Next to the island, there is the islands Empress Elizabeth Hotel, the first dedicated seven-star wedding hotel, where couples can celebrate their union overlooking white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.

Floating Venice Resort
The Floating Venice HEART OF EUROPE

FLOATING VENICE

(411 cabins, 180 underwater cabins, underwater lobby, gondola transportation, yacht club)

Inspired by the floating city, this will be the world’s first underwater resort with dining and accommodations located below the surface. Restaurants, bars, and shops will all be underwater with views of coral reefs and passing gondolas above. Entertainment will be offered from masked carnivals to opera performances.

The resort will have 12 restaurants and bars (three of which are underwater) and an underwater spa.

Switzerland Island Ice Cave
Switzerland Island HEART OF EUROPE

SWITZERLAND ISLAND

(Beachfront and lagoon villas, featuring master bedrooms, swimming pools and viewing decks)

Switzerland Island offers villas with water views and access to beaches, a seawater lagoon, and private swimming pools. The villa chalets utilize timber, stone, and glass design. A large blue water lagoon in the center of the island will be reminiscent of the large lakes in Switzerland.

The Côte D’Azur Resort
Monaco Côte D’Azur Resort HEART OF EUROPE

MAIN EUROPE ISLAND / COTE D’AZUR RESORT

The Côte D’Azur Resort comprises of 4 boutique hotels all named after the famous and picturesque cities of Monaco, Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez which are located in the South of France. The 4 boutique hotels will have Suites and penthouses with large balconies offering panoramic sea views.

Monaco will feature French fine-dining with an upscale contemporary décor, high-end fashion boutiques, and a large white sandy beach. There will also be lagoon swimming pools and a replica of the famed Monaco Marina.

Portofino Hotel on Italian Riviera island
Portofino Hotel on Main Europe Island HEART OF EUROPE
Aerial of Portofino Island
Aerial of Portofino Hotel HEART OF EUROPE

PORTOFINO HOTEL

(489 Princess and Queen Suites, Rooftop penthouses, Marina and Lobby with 514 aquariums, 6 Italian restaurants & bars, Women’s only social lounge and spa, Olympic size pool with underwater performances and Kids Club)

Designed to look and feel like the Italian city of Portofino, with colorful terracotta buildings, the Portofino Hotel on the Main Europe Island is a family hotel that will feature Italian-style suites with kids rooms, a kids club operated by a leading kids club operator, restaurants and cafes serving Italian cuisine and organic food. The facade will host an extraordinary hanging garden with 31,000 plants.

There are five swimming pools at the resort and even a snow-play area where children can build snowmen. Add synchronized swimming shows for entertainment.

The island will have its own fully-serviced private Paraggi Bay marina where all guests will arrive by boat. The front of hotel employees will speak Italian and the hotel will even accept Euros as currency.

Floating Seahorse Villas and skyline
Floating Seahorse Villas and skyline HEART OF EUROPE

SUSTAINABILITY

The Heart of Europe will oversee the development of more than 100,000 coral reefs and will also feature centenary Spanish olive trees that were sourced from Andalusia, Spain. The islands will also offer up the world’s first climate-controlled rainy street and snow plaza. 

The development will also use sustainable landscaping that will be pesticide-free and fungicide-free, and all green areas will use recycled water. The island will be totally car-free, use clean energy, and will offer sustainable water transportation to the guests. Designed with a zero-discharge policy and zero micro-plastics policy, the developers hope to ensure the protection of the Arabian Gulf and species of marine life that reside around the six islands.

This article was written by Jim Dobson for Forbes.com

Get Away In Your Own Backyard


Summer travel plans are up in the air right now as federal and local governments sort through the best strategies for keeping COVID-19 under control. Although it’s disappointing to put off a vacation or big family party you’ve been planning forever, there are still recreational options right in your backyard that will get your family outside safely. If you’re starting to reschedule your summer, keep these ideas in mind to make the most out of the months ahead.

Stay safe

No matter where you go or what you decide to do, social distancing is still Rule 1.

The CDC recommends that you and members of your household stay at least six feet away from other people, even in open air. If you visit a public park, avoid group activities or team sports like basketball, soccer, or football that put you in close contact with other people and shared equipment. Avoid public facilities like bathrooms and playgrounds. Hiking trails and taking bike rides are good alternatives.

Also, make sure you bring along a cloth face covering and some hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, and wash up when you get home.

Find a nearby National Park

According to the National Park Foundation, there are 62 sites in the U.S. that include “National Park” in their name, including such famous destinations as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

But before you load up the camper, keep in mind that the CDC recommends staying close to home. Long-distance travel will require stops to refuel, eat, and use public restrooms, which could expose you and your family to germs – as well as spread your own.

Also, even though parks are technically “open,” many of their public facilities aren’t. That means no restrooms or cafeterias. Maintaining a safe social distance could also be challenging at more popular parks, especially as the weather turns warmer.

If the big parks are outside your radius, our wider National Park System spans 419 sites, including historical battlefields, monuments, nature trails, rivers, and preserves. Take a look at the National Park Foundation’s database. There’s probably an interesting, beautiful spot near you that you’ve never noticed before.

Explore local options

Many state and country parks are open as well, with many of the same restrictions in place. You can take a long walk or bike ride with members of your family, as long as you can maintain safe distance from other folks. But depending on your local health guidelines, playgrounds and public restrooms might still be off limits. Check state and county websites for more information about what facilities are available and plan ahead, especially if you’re bringing children along.

Kids are one reason that your local neighborhood park is still a great option for a day out; emergency bathroom breaks and snack time are a lot easier to manage when your house is just down the block. Neighborhood parks can also be less of a crowding hazard, making it easier for your family to maintain safe social distance.

Of course, that empty playground is more tempting in a small park too. Before you head outside, have an age-appropriate chat with your kids about why they need to stay off public equipment.

REALLY local options

If your home has private yard space, wake up your inner child, especially if you have children of your own. Kids who see their parents really throwing themselves into family time are going to feel a little less anxious and sad about things they can’t do right now.

When you’re not working or teaching, leave your phone inside and make this family time special. Plan a treasure hunt. Lead a backyard yoga session. Organize a family soccer game. Plant flowers together. As the weather improves, move inside activities outside, like meals, story time, and board games.

Finally, use the space available to you to embrace some of the simplicity that this situation has created. Hang up a hammock or set up some extra reading chairs around the fire pit. One of the reasons we struggle to fill time during quarantine is that rushing through our normal lives makes us feel like we should always be doing something. Older children and adults should take advantage of extra downtime to think, reflect, and be creative.

We know summer travel is just one of many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted your life. As our country and our local communities start to reopen, please be safe, and please be in touch if we can help in any way.

How To Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions to Financial Events

As part of our Life-Centered Planning process, we’ve talked about how market volatility is a normal part of investing. We’ve also discussed how we’ve structured your investments to “weather the storm” and maintain a comfortable level of income for you and your family during turbulent times so you can avoid knee jerk reactions.

But we also understand that even folks who are armed with this knowledge can get nervous during a market dip. What’s important is that you know how to prevent that initial wave of negativity from leading you to rash decisions that could damage your nest egg much worse than a market correction.

Dr. Martin Seay is a specialist in positive psychology, which focuses on strategies that people can use to improve their sense of well-being. Dr. Seay’s ABCDE method can help you work through your reactions to distressing financial news and arrive at a positive outcome.

Let’s walk through an example of how to use this method to avoid making a bad, emotion-based financial decision.

A. Activating Event


Sometimes stress and anxiety can feel all-encompassing. Dr. Seay believes it’s important that we pinpoint the event that triggered our negative feelings.

So, while you might feel general anxiety about your finances, drill down a little deeper. Is your job secure? OK. Are you saving and investing according to your financial plan? Good.

Did you just read on social media that today’s market correction was “THE BIGGEST ONE-DAY DROP IN HISTORY!”

Ahh, there it is. Let’s move on to the next step.

B. Belief

Market volatility can rouse some of our worst instincts about investing. We might fall back on long-buried Beliefs like, “This game is rigged!” We might feel like we’ve entrusted our financial future to powers beyond our control.

As you work through this step, it’s important to ask yourself where your Beliefs come from. Have you been unsettled by widespread media coverage of major financial problems, like the 2008-2009 housing crisis? Have you had negative interactions with the finance industry in the past? Perhaps one of your parents distrusted the markets or made a poor investment that had a negative impact on your family.

Figuring out why you believe what you believe about the markets can help alert you before you fall back into bad financial habits.

C. Consequences

Panicked investors who can’t shake negative Beliefs about the markets often make poor decisions during downturns. They think they need to “get out fast” to avoid more negative Consequences, like further losses.

Ironically, cashing out your investments during a market correction usually leads to far more serious Consequences in the long run.

So how can you stay focused on the big picture?

D. Disputation

Start by using what you know to push back a little against what you Believe.

For example, we’ve discussed in our meetings that the historical, long-term trajectory of the financial markets has been to rise over time. And now, market averages such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average are near all-time highs. Therefore, when the market does have a temporary drop, we might say, “The Dow was down x hundreds of points today.” It sounds like a big number, but as a percentage, it may just be normal volatility.

We’ve also discussed that “market timing” strategies usually just don’t work. That’s why your portfolio is diversified, balanced, and strategically rebalanced as necessary. Decades of market history have shown that sticking to this type of investment strategy may be more effective – and stable – than trying to jump in and out of the market based on what’s happening in the news right now.

Today’s losses are really just a kind of “tax” that you’re paying on the wealth we’re helping you build for tomorrow.

E. Energized

It’s amazing how just reminding ourselves of what we know to be true can make us feel better about a negative situation. Hopefully at the end of this process, you feel a renewed sense of positivity about this present moment and your financial future.

But we understand that market volatility can be complicated. And as you’re nearing retirement, a downturn can be downright nerve-wracking.

So if you need help walking through your ABCDEs the next time the market corrects, make an appointment to meet with us. We’ll run through the important facts you need to know and decide what moves, if any, we need to make to keep you on track with your financial plan and avoid those costly knee jerk reactions.

Putting the economy back together again: What the future holds for Americans

A stylist wearing a protective mask cuts a customer’s hair at a barbershop in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Dustin Chambers | Bloomberg via Getty Images

When the coronavirus crisis, or at least the worst of it, passes, the U.S. economy will still be big — the biggest in the world, with any threat to be overtaken likely put at bay for many years.

But in other ways, things will feel smaller, much smaller in fact. 

Growth rates will be lower. Big crowds will be few. Profit margins will be tighter.

Life will continue in many regards, but nothing will be the same, not for a long time. Much of what will become routine daily life will go against instinct. Society will reach for ways to continue churning forward. But that will come with a mind not to repeat the trauma wrought by seven weeks of social distancing that has separated this connected world in ways that few ever thought possible.

“There will be lower densities of people everywhere,” said Nick Colas, a Wall Street veteran and co-founder of DataTrek Research. “That affects restaurants and bars and sports and everything.”

The size of the world and the magnitude of the task will be important as policymakers try to piece together a broken economy. Layoffs have soared as thriving businesses have been shuttered indefinitely. Manufacturing is in a steep recession, retail and restaurants could take years to get back to normal, and governments will be hamstrung in trying to provide basic services.

As the world indeed is apt to feel smaller, it will require big ideas to get the U.S. moving again.

‘We’re social animals’

While formulating investment strategies and market analysis, Colas spends a lot of time studying sociological trends — how behavioral patterns impact what we do with our money and how we view our lives. One day he might be writing about thought exercises using game theory, the next examining, as he did in a recent daily note, how long specifically it takes people to develop new habits — 66 days, it seems, a number useful when considering the current lockdown.

Looking at the present social distancing situation, Colas figures on some key trends developing. 

He expects a faster return to domestic travel than might be apparent. Restaurants and retail will grapple with a host of challenges, like how to arrange seating and what happens in clothing stores when customers want to try on something. Sports will continue, but with fans mostly watching from home.

All of it will come against a backdrop that will force people to keep a safe space from each other, something profoundly counterintuitive to a culture ingrained with hugs, handshakes and kisses.

“It’s very hard, because it goes against the most fundamental human need of social contact. We’re social animals,” Colas said. “This current phase already has been hard on people, particularly in areas like New York where a lot of single people live alone. They’re going to want to have contact. That’s human nature, that’s the human spirit. It’s going to be hard to tamp that down without mental health disruptions.”

Baby steps

Regions of the country are taking the first steps, albeit gingerly, back to normalization.

New York is reopening parts of the state, while Mississippi also has loosened restrictions. Idaho is transitioning into the first phase of relaxing its stay-at-home order. Arizona and Nevada have extended their directives to May 15 but relaxed some rules. You can now play golf in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but most of the Keystone State remains closed. Some resorts around the country are taking reservations for June.

Reopened areas will serve as fishbowls for others looking to relax restrictions. More than that, they will provide a window into how quickly the $21.5 trillion U.S. economy can get back on its feet.

Gross domestic product contracted 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020, the worst decline since the Great Recession, and more than 30 million people have filed unemployment claims, making the progress toward normalization all the more important — and urgent.

“The issue’s going to be, can you get people feeling like the new normal feels like the old normal?” Colas said. “It should end up feeling a whole lot better, because some of your normal life is back. You can at least hang out with your friends in the backyard while maintaining social distance. But at least people are coming over again.”

How that translates into economic activity, though, remains uncertain.

The shape of the future

Economists have been pondering the shape of the recovery: Will it be a U? V? W? Check mark? Square root? Nike swoosh?

No one seems to know, though the immediate expectations are that after the first-quarter slip the second quarter will post a number worse than anything the U.S. has seen before. In fact, the GDP number may be so bad — something on the order of a 20% collapse or even worse — and the unemployment rate peak — anything from 15% to 30% seems perfectly likely — as to become meaningless. 

What will matter more is the path forward.

Most economists expect a considerable rebound after the second quarter. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said he sees “a fairly large increase given the size of the fall,” thought “it’s unlikely it would be bring us quickly back to pre-crisis level. ”

That’s all theory, though. As a practical matter, the country just has to get moving again.

“The point estimate of GDP right now is not really that valuable,” said Marin Gjaja, a partner with Boston Consulting Group, which is helping businesses come up with strategies for reopening and how to conduct business in an altered landscape.

“The variation by sector is enormous,” he added. “You’ve already seen what this has done to airlines, cruise ships, amusement parks, concert venues, amusement parks, any place where there are large amounts of people involved. They’re trying to figure out how they can come back, what they can do to change their business in order to survive.”

Gjaja also sees a landscape dominated by smaller social gatherings. 

At a business level, that means shopping and eating closer to home. That benefits small retailers and locally focused restaurants but still leaves into question community-based businesses like barber shops and movie theaters. 

“We’ve never seen a recession impact that looked like this with this degree of volatility in terms of impact by sector and geography,” Gjaja said. “The degree of variability is really unique. We’re going to have to figure out a way to navigate through that.”

Boston Consulting released a report called “COVID-19: Win the Fight, Win the Future” that outlines what businesses need to do. 

Gjaja stressed that different locales will have different needs. New York won’t be the same as Montana which won’t be the same as Michigan. Certain general rules, though, will apply.

Among the contingencies businesses need to take into account before opening are safety for employees and customers, preparation for additional shutdowns, and health monitoring for workers once they do return, he said.

Traveling forward

For the travel industry, such questions are paramount.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, which represents the industry perhaps most impacted by the coronavirus lockdown, is advocating for a global set of rules to follow in airports, hotels and on planes.

“These must provide the reassurance travelers and authorities need, using new technology, to offer hassle-free, pre-vaccine ‘new normal’ travel in the short term,” said Gloria Guevara, the council’s president and CEO.

Guevara sees the liftoff in travel starting with something approaching “staycations” with trips near home, but then being led by younger people who can take advantage of lower fares to move about the country. 

According to the WTTC, some of the changes travelers are likely to see at hotels will include digital check-ins, hand sanitizers in plentiful supply and contactless payments rather than cash. Cruise line workers will wear gloves and the ships themselves will be cleaned more frequently. At airports, flyers will be tested when boarding and exiting, and likely will have to wear masks while on board.

Companies that fail to follow safety guidelines may have to pay a steep price just in terms of business lost.

A survey from Vital Vio, a New York-based biotech company, found that 51% of people won’t do business with companies that don’t show a commitment to being sanitary, while 76% said they will “hold brands accountable” that don’t invest in cleaning up their spaces.

Respondents also said they are willing to pay more for cleaner and safer travel as well as activities like dining out and going to the gym.

All of the measures will combine to tell what kind of a recovery the U.S. has after what could well be the worst downturn in its history.

Who will be first?

Analyzing companies on how safe they are to reopen based on potential to spread the disease, Goldman Sachs said the first sectors will be manufacturing, professional services and agriculture. The riskiest industries, and thus the last ones likely to come back online, are health care, education, retail, arts and entertainment and the accommodation and food service industries.

The firm’s economists compared the U.S. open to what’s happening in Sweden, where social distancing practices were widely used through the country did not shut down at a level comparable to the U.S., and China, because it is well ahead of the U.S. on the recovery timeline. 

“We believe that the level of economic activity in the US will get better rather than worse over the remainder of the year for several reasons,” Goldman’s economists wrote. “Partial relaxation of shutdown orders will allow some businesses to reopen, people will learn to adapt in ways that minimize the economic costs of social distancing, wider antibody testing should allow those who are hopefully immune to resume normal activity, and improvements in treatment should reduce fear and raise willingness to be around others. In addition, fiscal stimulus should largely short-circuit the usual second-round effects of income losses.”

They found, however, that China’s pace is “too optimistic” for the U.S. while Sweden offers some hope though the country is still using fairly strict social distancing measures. In China, commerce has largely come back, but traffic studies show that consumers are driving to work during the week but not going out on the weekends, indicating that a significant level of fear remains.

How well the U.S. comes back ultimately will come down to a lot of factors, but feeling safe is likely to be paramount.

“It’s not just what the numbers say. A lot is going to come down to how it feels, how much of people’s normal lives they can reclaim,” DataTrek’s Colas said. “As we restore some normalcy, it will feel a lot better.”

This article was written by Jeff Cox for CNBC.com.

Use the Pandemic as a Catalyst for Change

The coronavirus pandemic has put all our short-term needs front and center, creating a lot of change in it’s path. Just getting through one week of virtual work meetings, grade school math lessons, and grocery shopping can be a challenge. And if you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling with income loss or unemployment, those daily to-dos can feel even more pressing.

However, as the conversation starts shifting towards when and how to reopen the country, it’s worth taking a few moments to broaden our perspective beyond immediate concerns. As hard as this experience has been, social distancing has probably changed the way you live, work, spend, and communicate in a few positive ways as well. Some of the habits you’ve developed over the last couple months might be worth bringing with you once we’re all out in the wider world again.

Change how you work.

Your first few virtual conference calls were probably awkward, with participants struggling to adjust audio/video equipment and talking over each other. Now that we’ve all learned the “language” of Zoom and Skype, those meetings are becoming much more productive.

Whether you’re a boss or an employee, explore how remote working arrangements could save time and create a more flexible and personal work routine. Once your company isn’t in crisis mode, integrating more virtual meetings into your communication rhythm might make your workforce feel more connected, especially if you have offices across the country or overseas.

Change how you eat.

Except for the occasional curbside pickup run to support our local restaurants, most of us are eating our meals at home. Working through all those cookbooks has been an educational and entertaining way to pass time in quarantine. But it’s also been better for your health, especially if you’re not drifting in and out of the kitchen for snacks all day.

Develop a solid menu of at-home meals you can keep in rotation so that after the pandemic your family will still be spending some extra quality time together while eating quality food.

Change how you budget.

Whether you’ve economized just by staying home or made some tough cuts out of necessity, quarantine has probably had a profound impact on how you spend your money. Some folks are setting a monthly budget for the very first time.

That’s a habit we hope will continue after this crisis passes. The single biggest factor in your financial plan is your spending. If you have extra cash right now because you’re not filling up your gas tank every other day and popping into coffee shops, we recommend using those funds to top off your emergency savings accounts. We can also discuss if increasing contributions to your retirement and investment accounts might be a good move while prices are low.

Social distancing might have made you look at some of your non-essential spending in a different light. Under normal circumstances, were you really using those social club and gym memberships enough to justify the expense? Are there entertainment subscriptions you’re still not really using, even during lockdown? How much money could you save on food if you keep planning out weekly meals before grocery store runs?

Change how you live.

We’ve all experienced the coronavirus pandemic in both public and personal ways. Some of us can’t wait to jump right back into our old routines and add in a few positive habits we’ve picked up during quarantine.

But maybe working from home has made you realize that you want to keep working from home – as your own boss.

Maybe the necessity of social distancing has made you think about all those unrealized vacation dreams.

Perhaps video chatting with friends and family scattered across the country has you thinking about relocating.

Maybe you’ve been asking yourself, “Before all this started, was I really using my money to live my best possible life?”

If the coronavirus pandemic has added some new transitions and destinations to your financial $Lifeline, the best time to start making those plans is right now. We are online and ready to talk about the changes you want to make to keep your financial plan in sync with the life you want to live.

Experiencing anxiety during the pandemic is normal. Just don’t let that sense of uncertainty lead you to one of these serious money mistakes.

Preparing for possible coronavirus recession — 5 ways to reduce your debt

Experts say a recession is in the cards. Here’s how to keep debts from bringing you down when it hits. (iStock)

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked economic havoc in recent weeks, causing unprecedented levels of unemployment, extreme stock market volatility and falling consumer confidence and spending across the board. It even spurred major financial players like Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, to predict a “bad recession” on the horizon.

If he’s right and the economic downturn continues, Americans will need to act fast to recession-proof their finances — especially if there’s debt on the table.

Recession-proofing your debts

Credit cards, mortgages, and student loans can all complicate things when times get tough, and it’s important to take steps to get ahead if you want to keep your head above water when things get hard.

As Mike Desepoli, vice president at Heritage Financial Advisory Group, put it, “Navigating a recession can be difficult enough, but it’s increasingly more difficult when you’re saddled with debt. A job loss during a recession could set off a spiral of financial issues from missed mortgage payments, student loans and credit cards. In difficult times, it is important to control what you can and prepare yourself in advance.”

Here’s what experts say to do before it’s too late:

Reduce your higher-interest balances

Focus on paying down your high-interest debts — usually your credit cards and any personal loans you may have. These debts not only cost you the most in the long run, but paying them down first creates some financial cushion, making it easier to pay off other debts or just get by when purse strings are tight.MORTGAGE RATES NEAR RECORD LOW — HERE’S WHY IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO REFINANCE

“Start by focusing on your highest-interest balances,” Desepoli said. “These are the debts that are most damaging to your finances because they compound so quickly. This may cause you to redirect some of your monthly payments from lower-interest vehicles towards the higher ones. Your out-of-pocket will remain the same, but you will be having a more profound impact.”

Consider a balance transfer

Transferring your credit card balances to a new, zero-interest card can be a good option. This allows you to consolidate your other balances and pay no interest for a set period of time — usually at least six months or more.

While these promotional offers are generally widely available, according to Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com, they may be hard to come by in today’s economic climate.HOW TO AVOID HAVING YOUR CREDIT CARDS CLOSED

“You probably need a steady job and a credit score of 700-plus in order to qualify for the best balance transfer credit cards these days,” Rossman said. “If this describes you and you have credit card debt, I’d recommend signing up for one of these cards as soon as possible. You can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest, depending on how much you owe. And you can get a long runway — up to 21 months — with no interest being charged.”

Refinance student loans and mortgages

If you’ve got student loans, a mortgage, or a personal loan to your name, refinancing might be an option. The goal here would be to lower your interest rate, thus lowering your monthly payment as well as the long-term costs of your loan. You can then use those savings to pay down your debts faster or help offset any financial strain you’re dealing with.HOW TO RECERTIFY YOUR STUDENT LOAN INCOME-DRIVEN REPAYMENT PLAN?

A word of caution here: If this is a route you’re considering, you’ll need to act fast — especially if you expect your income or job may be effected in the impending recession. These changes could impact your ability to refinance (or the rates you’d qualify for when doing so).

If refinancing isn’t possible, a debt consolidation loan could be another option — as long as it would lower the total interest you’re paying, thus freeing up more cash.

Ask for help

Many financial institutions and credit card companies have options for consumers who are dealing with financial hardship. These can include loan modifications, repayment plans, deferment, forbearance and more. The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also offers a number of options if you’re unable to pay your rent, mortgage or student loan bills.

If high credit card balances are your biggest worry heading into a recession, Rossman recommended contacting your card issuer as soon as possible.HOW TO REBUILD YOUR CREDIT AFTER BANKRUPTCY

“Most banks are offering hardship programs that allow cardholders to skip payments — sometimes even without interest,” Rossman said. “Sometimes they will lower your interest rate upon request, waive other fees, and even raise your credit limit in some cases. As long as you have permission to pay late or to pay less for a time, this won’t hurt your credit score. Help is available, but you need to ask for it.”

Have a financial safety net

You should also figure out ways you can start cutting back expenses (could you reduce 401(k) contributions, for example), and start funneling those savings into an emergency fund.

In most situations, experts recommend having at least six months of household expenses saved up, but given the current economic uncertainty, it might be best to go beyond that — potentially up to a year of expenses — just to be safe.

This article was written for FoxBusiness.com by Aly Yale.

Fanatics Founder’s Celebrity Challenge Raises $10 Million To Feed America During Coronavirus

Fanatics founder Michael Rubin is recruiting his friends for coronavirus relief efforts, including Magic Johnson, who offers courtside Lakers tickets and a game of H.O.R.S.E. with him.
 
GETTY IMAGES

Michael Rubin has always been a self-starter. He sold vegetable seeds door-to-door around his Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, neighborhood before he was 10 years old. He organized kids to shovel snow for cash and then opened a ski-tune-up operation in his parents’ basement at 12. The companies got bigger as the career entrepreneur grew up. Today, he is the majority owner and CEO of Kynetic, which counts e-commerce retailers Fanatics, Rue La La and ShopRunner in its portfolio, and is worth $2.9 billion.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Rubin mobilized his companies and his deep Rolodex to help. Fanatics, which makes the official MLB jerseys, stopped production last month on the jerseys and pivoted to making masks and hospital gowns, with plans to donate one million masks and gowns.

This week he launched a campaign to address another of the major issues exacerbated by the global shutdown: food insecurity. The All In Challenge kicked off Tuesday with a Rubin video on Twitter. “Together what we want to do is literally build the largest movement with all the best entertainers, celebrities, athletes, business titans, coming together to make a real impact on this issue,” he says.Today In: SportsMoney

The goal is to encourage celebrities to offer one-of-a-kind experiences and items in an auction and share them on their social media channels in videos. There are 145 offerings available as of Sunday morning. Total donations are at $11.4 million and climbing fast.

Rubin, 47, who is a partner in the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils’ ownership group, started the process with tickets, travel and lodging to ten top-tier championship sporting events, including a luxury suite for 20 at the Super Bowl. He threw in a $100,000 Fanatics gift card. The package is worth more than $500,000 but is available to win with a donation as little as $10.

There are dozens of experiences available, with a winner drawn for each from among contributors. They include co-hosting a show with Ellen DeGeneres, who also personally donated $1 million to the cause; a round of golf at Pebble Beach with Justin Timberlake and Bill Murray; and a private performance at your home from Justin Bieber. A walk-on role with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro in Martin Scorsese’s next film, plus lunch with Leo and the cast, has raised the most money so far.

Another set of prizes is being awarded via auction, like golf and dinner for ten with Peyton Manning, Meek Mill’s 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom, and a private magic show with David Blaine. A handful of these auctions have hit six figures already. The top one involves new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and includes four tickets to the Bucs’ home opener and either dinner or a workout with the six-time Super Bowl winner. Bidding reached $775,000 Sunday. Brady challenged his wife, Gisele Bundchen, as well as rapper Drake and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to also go “All In.”

All funds raised will be donated to Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry and Americas Food Fund, which directly benefits World Central Kitchen and Feeding America. These charities are targeting food insecurity issues facing kids who usually get meals at now-closed schools, the elderly population cut off from food sources, and the millions of people losing their jobs.

Rubin says he is just getting started and targeting a goal of $100 million for the All In project. As the fundraiser kicked off, Rubin said, “I believe when the world faces a crisis, businesses and sports have an obligation to step up and make a difference.”

This article was written for Forbes by Kurt Badenhausen

How To Plan For A Future Nobody Can Plan For

Step back and plan for your future so you can execute today.
 
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As a leader during the Coronavirus crisis, you are certainly dealing non-stop with your current emergencies. Your time has probably been spent situating your employees in the new remote working arrangements, talking to customers, and shoring up your cash situation. 

As an executive coach working with startup CEOs, I’m encouraging all of my clients to step out of reaction mode for a focused period of time to conduct planning. The problem with planning right now is that there is so much uncertainty. Here are some tools to use to navigate your business through an evolving and unpredictable future:

1. Accept reality. This may be the hardest step for you and your team. The world has changed rapidly and it’s hard for people to adjust their mindsets so quickly. I talked with one of my clients last week and he told me “we haven’t seen any changes except that some customers asked to put off their payments for 30 days.” It is tempting to use this data point as a way to convince yourself the world hasn’t changed all that much. The problem is that if you don’t get your mind wrapped around a new reality, your team will also be complacent. You will therefore not be geared up to adapt to what is certainly going to be an unpredictable future. Today In: Leadership Strategy

One way to make sure you are being clear-eyed about this crisis is to scan the environment. Get as much information as you can from external sources. The Conference Board, for example, has put out 3 scenarios which assume a base case, a bad case and a worse case. Even though these are hard to swallow, it’s important to be ruthlessly honest and fact-based when you are trying to plan for an evolving future.  

2.  Ask “what if” questions. Once you begin to come to terms with the macro environment, start asking “what if questions” for your business. Questions you should ask include: 

  • What if most of our customers pay in 90 days or more rather than 30 days? 
  • What if I or one of my key executives get sick and is out of work for two weeks or longer?
  • What if we can’t get the parts we need because of delays in the supply chain? 
  • What if revenue goes to 0 for the rest of the year?  

Brainstorm with your leaders and other members of your team to get a long list of questions you should ask yourselves. Encourage your team to ask questions that seem absurd. In the current crisis many unpredictable things have already happened and there are more on the way. Asking your team to be expansive in their thinking will help you capture a majority of the possible outcomes. 

3. Run a sensitivity analysis. Once you list out a set of scenarios for your business, including a worst case, create a budget that takes into account these different cases. Review the model with your CFO or VP of Finance and look at your biggest cost drivers. Change them in the spreadsheet so you can see what changing one element does to your entire budget. It’s important for you as the leader to get informed at a detailed level what might happen to your business in each of these environments. 

Your team also needs to understand the implications of these potential outcomes. I’ve observed that even now some employees in the startups I work with are still thinking about business from their perspective of a month ago. They are, for example, talking about continuing the process with a potential new hire who is now not critical, or advocating for the purchase of an expensive software program which is a “nice to have,” but not a “need to have.” 

As a leader, the more clear you are on the details of what the most important things are and what tradeoffs your business needs to survive, the more clearly you can communicate that to your team to help them make good decisions. Also, having this information helps you adapt more quickly as circumstances unfold. 

4. Think about the upside. Maybe one of the only bright spots in this situation is that in crisis, there is opportunity. You may have developed a product that can’t be used for its original purpose but now has a different use case. Or you may have developed some technology for your internal infrastructure that is suddenly very valuable. Explore all of this. One of my clients decided to convene a war room to specifically ask “What will we do with what we’ve built if we can’t continue this business?” They came up with several possibilities that they are now exploring.

It’s not pleasant to think about what might go wrong, but it’s important to anticipate various outcomes so you can start planning for an uncertain future while executing intelligently today.

This article was written by Alisa Cohn and published on Forbes.com

How Orangetheory Has Built a Devoted Following in a Crowded Boutique Fitness Market

From left: Jerome Kern, Ellen Latham, and David Long, co-founders of Orangetheory Fitness.
SCOTT MCINTYRE

When Ellen Latham lost her job managing a Miami spa in 2000, she was a single mother to a 9-year-old and terrified she wouldn’t find work. She used her background in physical education to make ends meet, eventually turning her at-home Pilates class into Orangetheory Fitness, a fast-growing exercise brand that in 2018 booked $180 million in revenue. 

Latham founded her Boca Raton, Florida-based company in 2010 with franchise-industry veterans David Long and Jerome Kern. They started with the premise that customers might experience better results if they were more attuned with how their individual bodies respond to exercise. The company achieves this with the help of wearables that track exercisers’ heart rates, inclines, speeds, and calories burned. The “orange” in Orangetheory refers to the “orange zone”–that is, a period of time in which a person’s heart beats at optimal efficiency. Ideally, customers should aim to spend at least 12 minutes in this zone during each 60-minute coach-led fitness class.

After hitting this point, a person’s body will work harder later to recover oxygen lost during exercise, which can accelerate the metabolism and help burn calories, says Latham. People don’t keep coming back to the gym for its orange motif, she says. “They are coming back because they get results from their workouts.”

And that’s led to significant growth for the boutique fitness brand. Indeed, in the last year, Orangetheory added 219 franchise locations and one corporate-owned studio across the U.S and India, bringing the company’s global tally to more than 1,300 franchise locations. It has also built a cult-like following among members–with some devotees getting tattoos of the company’s logo, notes Latham. Meanwhile, its two-year revenue totals shot up 341 percent since 2016, helping Orangetheory hit No. 35 on the 2020 Inc. 5000 Series: Florida list, a ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the state.

While the company can credit much of its past success to helping customers understand their orange zones–and cultivating a community of superfans–its future success has everything to do with being able to deliver a fuller picture of customers’ health.

Part of that strategy rests in Orangetheory’s use of wearables. While the company started out simply strapping heart-rate monitors to people’s chests, in recent years it has begun selling the technology. Though customers can still borrow devices during class time, they can pick between four different versions of proprietary wearable devices. The gadgets cost as much as $129 and may be worn around the chest, wrist, or arm.

While Long says the devices account for just 10 percent of Orangetheory’s sales, the hope is the technology will become more popular with users, as the company builds out its offerings. In December, Orangetheory partnered with Apple to create a wearable that attaches to the Apple Watch, so customers can track a wide range of fitness and wellness data.

“We believed in it so much and it was a big focus of the brand early on,” says Long, Orangetheory’s CEO. “We wanted to build a wearable that was easy to use and helped us pick up massive member engagement.”

The company is also looking into joining the at-home fitness craze by releasing content on wellness topics, such as sleep, nutrition, and recovery guides. That’s a step in the right direction, says Andrea Wroble, a health and wellness analyst with the market research company Mintel–though she thinks Orangetheory could go further by streaming its classes. Home workouts have proved to be a promising way to scale for some companies–and that could deliver dividends for Orangetheory, she says.

Orangetheory’s plan to expand further into fitness tracking is a good one, because it could help the company build a stronger connection with its community, adds Wroble. “It creates a partnership with followers where the company can crowdsource ideas and the community feels seen and heard,” she says.

Still, standing out in the boutique fitness industry, which has exploded in size in recent years, may be tough for Orangetheory. In 2019, the U.S. health and fitness club industry reached an estimated $34.5 billion in revenue, amid different concepts like gyms and class studios, according to Mintel. 

What’s more, at-home fitness incumbents like Peloton and Mirror are already doing a sizable business and gaining widespread traction among users. So elbowing in on that market might be tough.

Latham isn’t deterred. “We’re not trying to create another fad in fitness. We are still appealing to huge masses and getting new clients,” she says.

To that end, Orangetheory continues to grow its physical presence, which should bolster its bottom line. Individual franchises cost between $576,000 and $1.5 million to start, which includes a $59,950 initial fee. The company hopes to reach 2,200 locations worldwide by 2025.

This article was written by Emily Canal and published by Inc.com.