7 Obstacles That Prevent People From Starting Businesses (And How To Overcome Them)

Millions of people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, but they never take that all-important first step. Too many things get in the way of their pursuit of business ownership, or they keep convincing themselves that their dream isn’t realistic. 

If you ever want to move past this phase and found your own business, you need to acknowledge the specific obstacles that are holding you back and work to resolve them. Here are seven of the most common challenges that may be standing between you and your entrepreneurial dreams—and ways you can kick them to the curb. 

1. Financial limitations

Launching a business takes money, and most people don’t have ample cash to throw at a startup. There are several options here. First off, you could begin saving now for the funds to establish your business. If you shop for a better mortgage and reduce your house payments by refinancing, you can sock the savings away in your startup fund. You can trim costs in other areas to put away a few hundred dollars each month or save even more by picking up a side gig.

Barring that, you can secure funding in a variety of ways, such as borrowing from friends and family, crowdfunding, seeking loans and grants or even working with angel investors and venture capitalists. There’s always a way forward. 

2. Inexperience

Becoming a successful entrepreneur typically demands experience; you need to understand your industry and business management in general if you want to earn a living from your venture. When you have limited experience, you may be reluctant to move forward, and understandably so.

You can make up for this, however, by actively seeking the experience you lack. Take an online course to gain a grasp of business management basics. Strive for a leadership position with your current employer so you’ll acquire strategic planning and people management skills. Work with a mentor or shadow an entrepreneur you admire. 

3. No standout idea

You can’t build a business if you don’t have a promising idea for a product or service you can sell. Without a solid business plan, you won’t be able to convince investors or partners to join you—and you won’t even know where to begin. Unfortunately, this is one of the least “fudgeable” obstacles on this list. Without a good idea, you can’t start a business, period.

Luckily, there are ways to stimulate better idea generation, such as talking to a broad range of people, reading entrepreneurial content and taking a more robust approach to brainstorming. Techniques like mind mapping and word banking can get your creative juices flowing. 

4. Current responsibilities

Some people avoid starting a business because of existing responsibilities or constraints on their time. Their current full-time job, their status as a parent or other personal responsibilities hold them back from their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Here the best approach is to determine how much of an impact these responsibilities have and consider ways to delegate or remove them. Could you realistically quit your day job, for example, or hire someone to help with household duties or childcare?  

5. Fear of failure

Lack of confidence is an entrepreneurship killer. It’s true that the failure rate for new businesses is relatively high, with half of new companies failing within five years. To buck those odds, you’ll need a healthy dose of confidence in yourself and your idea. 

The only solution to a fear of failure is to change your mindset. You have to see failure as an opportunity for learning and growth and stop seeing it as the end of the road, an indictment of your abilities or a stain on your character. Reading accounts by successful entrepreneurs will inspire you to see the possibilities rather than focusing only on the risks.  

6. Aversion to stress or hard work

Starting and running a business demands a lot of effort. You’ll likely be putting in long hours and dealing with stressful issues. On top of that, your first few years are apt to be highly inconsistent, with your business only making a profit some of the time. This can wreak havoc on your finances and peace of mind. If you’re not feeling up to this kind of pressure, or if you’re loath to work more than 40 hours a week, entrepreneurship may not be for you.

Again, the only way around this obstacle is to change your attitude. Remember that all this hard work will be in service to yourself, not an employer. While the risks are on you, so are the rewards.

7. Poor timing

One of the most common excuses you’ll hear (or hear yourself saying) is that it’s “just not the right time” to start a business. The truth is, there’s never a truly “right” time—you can always find some reason that today, or this month or this year isn’t ideal for launching your venture. 

But like beginning a diet on a Wednesday or joining a gym in February, the trick is to make your own right time. Microsoft was born during the oil crisis of the 1970s, while Airbnb and Uber were founded in the depths of the Great Recession. Remind yourself that the success of your business will depend not on “the times” but on you.

The Realities of Entrepreneurship

It’s true that anyone can become an entrepreneur with enough grit and persistence. Most entrepreneurs with solid ideas have a good chance of becoming successful if they remain adaptable. But it’s also important to realize that not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship

If you’re intimidated by the stress, inconsistency and long hours associated with startup life, or if you truly love your day job and you’re afraid to leave, maybe business ownership isn’t right for you. That said, if you feel the pull of entrepreneurship but keep making excuses to avoid getting started, you owe it to yourself to challenge those excuses and try to move past them.

This article was written by Serenity Gibbons and published on Forbes.com.

What Businesses Can Expect From the Phase 4 Stimulus Package

Congress is set to begin negotiations on the next round of stimulus. For business owners, new measures could bring more tax relief, renewed access to forgivable loans, and more.

With prior stimulus measures set to expire in the next few weeks and the economy continuing to falter as the pandemic resurges across the country, Congress will meet this week and next to hammer out a new relief measure. 

The House already passed its Phase 4 bill, known as the Heroes Act, in May. The $3.5 trillion coronavirus relief bill would provide assistance to state and local governments, extend enhanced unemployment benefits, and offer additional economic impact payments to taxpayers, among other things. The bill has been up for review since the end of May, though Senate Republicans, who prefer a measure with a far lower price tag, have been loath to consider it. They’re expected to introduce their own version of a relief bill this week that will have to be reviewed and negotiated between the two chambers before theyrecess in early August.

Several economic proposals that will affect small and midsize businesses have been building consensus among lawmakers for weeks, so the final version of the Senate bill could contain elements of all of them.

Here are six things you likely can expect from the Phase 4 bill.

1. The PPP will go on, but in a different form.

The Paycheck Protection Program, the $669 billion forgivable loan program aimed at beleaguered small businesses, will continue, predicts Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president and chief policy officer. At the very least, he says, there will be a continuation of the program, which was recently extended through August 8.

It’s also possible the PPP will become more targeted. Testifying at a House Small Business Committee hearing Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed interest in “topping off” the approximately $130 billion in remaining funds and extending the program. But he noted that it would need to be focused on certain industries like hotels and restaurants that can demonstrate actual losses, resulting from the pandemic. “This time we need to do a revenue test,” he said. 

A proposal that has been gaining ground with lawmakers, dubbed the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program Act, or P4, offers to extend the PPP and open it up to companies that already received PPP loans (excepting for publicly traded companies), as long as they can show financial losses as a result of the pandemic.

There’s been widening support for streamlining the PPP forgiveness process, too. While certain loans are now eligible for the EZ loan forgiveness application, there’s greater interest in easing things further for smaller businesses by automatically forgiving all PPP loans under $150,000 or $250,000. On that note, Mnuchin at Friday’s Small Business Committee meeting confirmed interest in blanket forgiveness. “Yes, that’s something we should consider,” he told lawmakers.

2. Local communities will get a boost.

The next iteration of relief funding likely also will focus on companies in low-income and rural areas, as well as minority-owned businesses, which experienced difficulty accessing the PPP. Bradley notes that the Recharge and Empower Local Innovation and Entrepreneurs Fund (RELIEF) for Main Street Actwould earmark $50 billion for cities, counties, and states to support small business local relief funds. One of the key flaws of the PPP is that it failed to reach the smallest businesses and minority-owned companies that often did not have traditional banking relationships prior to the pandemic. As this program would be run through local institutions–and not banks–the effort is seen as potentially better suited to reach these businesses. While the U.S. Treasury would operate the program, as written in the bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate in mid-May, banks would not be involved.

Funding for block grants, operated by states and local governments, could also get replenished. The Cares Act initially provided $150 billion in federal aid to state and local governments across the country, some of which went toward grant funding for local business. 

3. More tax relief is on the way.

Currently, PPP funds don’t count as taxable income, but an Internal Revenue Service ruling prevented businesses from being able to deduct traditional business expenses paid for by those funds if forgiven. That may change soon. A bill that would allow the deduction with some guardrails, called the Small Business Expense Protection Act, was introduced in the Senate in early May.

The Phase 4 bill also is expected to bolster and expand access the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), says Bradley. Currently, companies that have tapped the PPP can’t access the ERTC, which was enacted as part of the Cares Act to incentivize businesses hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic to retain employees. As part of a proposal, dubbed the Jumpstarting Our Businesses’ Success Credit (or JOBS Credit) Act, which was introduced in May, the refundable tax credit–now equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 in qualified quarterly wages–would increase to 80 percent of up to $15,000 in wages each quarter for up to three quarters. Bradley adds that there’s also potential for the ERTC to expand eligible expenses to include a limited amount of fixed costs.

4. Stimulus checks will be back but they may be less generous.

The Heroes Act passed by the House supports another round of stimulus checks that the Cares Act authorized in March for millions of taxpayers: individuals earning under $75,000 would get $1,200, while married couples with less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income would get $2,400. The bill also would provide an additional $1,200 for up to three dependents, regardless of age. 

Senate Republicans are likely to take a more conservative approach to the payments. Last week, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the next round of stimulus checks may be less than $1,200, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in early July stated the next round of stimulus checks may be limited to those with incomes of around $40,000.

5. Enhanced unemployment benefits will continue, but get a haircut.

The Cares Act’s enhanced unemployment insurance, which offered an additional $600 per week on top of existing state benefits, is set to expire at the end of July. Many employers found the measure complicated the task of rehiring employees, who were suddenly earning more on unemployment than at their former jobs.

To avoid that issue–but also ensure laid off or furloughed workers have support–Bradley says that lawmakers are considering more targeted subsidies that would vary the amount offered on a federal level to better coordinate with what’s available at the state level. So between the variable federal supplement and those provided by each respective state, unemployment benefits would replace 80 to 90 percent of a worker’s former wages, up to a maximum federal benefit of an additional $400 per week.

The enhanced benefits also may come with a hiring bonus. The Paycheck Recovery Act, proposed in mid-May, offers low-wage workers–those earning less than $40,100 annually–a $1,500 rehiring bonus upon returning to work.

6. Businesses will receive greater liability protections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his desire to see greater liability protections for employers. The details of his approach are still unclear, though Bradley says it’s likely that the Phase 4 bill will allow for some form of safe harbor for companies that make good-faith efforts to follow public-health guidelines.

This article was written by Diana Ransom for Inc.com

Trump Signs PPP Extension Bill—Giving Small Businesses Another 5 Weeks

TOPLINE

President Trump Saturday signed into law a bill extending the Paycheck Protection Program—an emergency federal loan facility for small businesses struggling because of the pandemic—for another five weeks until August 8, buying Congress time to figure out what the next round of aid for small businesses will look like when it reconvenes later this month to hash out more stimulus legislation. 

President Trump Holds Briefing At The White House
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the briefing room at the White House on July 2.

KEY FACTS

The PPP was originally slated to close down last Tuesday. 

The Senate unexpectedly approved the new legislation by unanimous consent on Tuesday evening, and the House followed suit on Wednesday. 

Some $130 billion in loan money allocated to the $670 billion program remains unspent. 

When Congress returns from its July 4th holiday recess, it must figure out how to allocate the remaining money and determine the next steps for federal aid to small businesses. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that the next round of small business aid will need to be “more targeted” to the specific industries that are struggling the most, like hotels and restaurants. 

Another popular Democratic proposal would allow businesses with fewer than 100 employees to take out a second PPP loan from the remaining funds. 

BIG NUMBER

4.8 million. As of June 27, that’s how many PPP loans had been approved. All in, those loans were worth nearly $520 billion.

KEY BACKGROUND

The PPP was created as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, signed into law by President Trump at the end of March. The $350 billion program provided forgivable loans to cover payroll and overhead expenses for cash-strapped businesses to keep them from folding during the worst of the economic slowdown. After an initial crush of applications and a chaotic rollout period, the PPP ran out of money in just two weeks, prompting Congress to pass more legislation to re-up the facility with another $310 billion. 

This article was written by Sarah Hansen for Forbes.com

Start Your Retirement Business Now

What do Netflix, GE, Trader Joe’s, Microsoft, Disney, and FedEx have in common?

They all started during economic downturns.

Your vision for your own retirement business might not be on the same scale as those giants. But history shows that it’s not only possible to start a great new company during retirement, it might be ideal. That’s especially true if you have an idea and some capital that you’ve earmarked for starting a new company once you’ve retired.

So why wait? Here are 4 reasons why you should consider starting your retirement business now, even if you’re not ready to retire.

  1. Stay busy.

No matter what stage of your life and career you’re at, it’s likely that Covid-19 and quarantining have given you a little extra time at home. If you’re struggling to fill those hours, ask yourself, “What am I going to do when I’m retired, and I have EIGHT extra hours to fill every day?”

One reason that many seniors put off retirement is that working gives them something to do and a sense of purpose. When retirement rolls around, many of them struggle to create a new schedule that provides that same sense of structure. The foundation you lay today for your new business while killing time in quarantine could grow into a structure that will make your retirement more fulfilling.

  1. Put your experience to use.

Many retirees look back on their careers and think, “If only I knew then what I know now, I would have …”

What?

What would you do differently? What pitfalls would you avoid? What risks would you take? Which ideas would you chase, and which would you leave by the wayside? What strengths would you focus on? What weaknesses would you improve, or offset by creating a key partnership?

There’s so much more to your career than the skillset you’ve developed. You also have the benefit of all your experiences, the good and the bad. Use that lifetime of learning to build a better business.

  1. New realities and new opportunities.

It’s very likely that the home office will soon just be “the office” for many people. That’s one example of how Covid-19 has changed how, where, when, and why we work.

But the best entrepreneurs find opportunity in disruption. Your new retirement company might not be a brick-and-mortar operation. Instead, you might be able to invest the money you’ll save on things like rent and utilities by upgrading your technology infrastructure or building a remote support team.

Of course, the global marketplace has been disrupted too. But many professional services can survive or even thrive during disruption. Accounting, virtual administration, and expert consulting are always in demand. Other services, such as home or auto repair, landscaping, or graphic design can be provided without breaching social distancing recommendations. Your dream restaurant concept could be adapted into a cost-efficient food truck. Children who are struggling with learning at home could benefit from virtual tutoring.

Somewhere there’s a new niche that you are uniquely qualified to fill. Find it and be the first to set up shop.

  1. It’s not work if you love doing it.

Retirement is when many people finally focus on the passions and interests they didn’t have time to pursue when they were working full time. Aspiring entrepreneurs have that same opportunity. Hiring yourself as CEO of your new company will allow you to focus on the parts of your work that truly inspire you.

You could also develop your talents and hobbies into an entirely different career. Open an online store and start selling the pies your friends and family go wild over. Post pictures of your latest woodworking project and see if there’s a potential customer base.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made each of us reflect on what our lives were like before and what we want them to be like going forward. If you think that dedicating some of your time and financial resources to starting your own retirement business could improve your Return on Life, schedule a meeting or virtual call with us.

6 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Retirement

6 Easy Steps to Ruin Your Retirement

Many people I know have concluded that retirement was worth waiting for and worth planning for. Those who planned well (and who are lucky enough to have good health) are generally finding this to be a very satisfying time in their lives. But those who didn’t plan well or who couldn’t save enough are finding that retirement can be difficult.

My commitment is to help people, but this week I’m switching roles so I can give you some dynamite tips for having an unhappy retirement. (Of course, what I’m really advocating is that you do not do these things.)

Don’t save enough money.

Spend (and borrow) whatever it takes to keep yourself and your family happy. You can always catch up later when you get into your peak earning years, when the kids are gone, or when you’re finally finished paying for whatever else is more important right now.

The likely result: You could find yourself in “panic mode” in your 50s and 60s. You could have to work longer than you want. Another popular choice, you could have to reduce your living standards after your work life is through. You could fall prey to persuasive salespeople (see my final tip below) who do not have your best interests at heart. Or maybe even all of the above.

Be careless about how you plan and budget for retirement expenses.

When I was an advisor, I was amazed how many investors neglected to include taxes as a cost of living in retirement. If you’re living off of distributions from a non-Roth IRA or 401(k), the full amount of those distributions is likely to be taxable. For extra credit: Don’t spend any money on a financial advisor to help you plan.

The likely result: You may go into “panic mode” when your accountant hands you an unexpected tax bill.

Lock in your expectations about your life in retirement and make rigid financial decisions.

There are plenty of ways to do this. You could sell your house and move somewhere cheaper even though you don’t know anybody there. Another option, you could buy a fixed annuity to have an income that’s certain. You could fail to establish an emergency fund. (After all, what could go wrong?) You could get sick or need surgery that isn’t covered by Medicare or other insurance.

The likely result: Things will happen that you don’t expect, probably sending you once again into “panic mode” and making you vulnerable to the pitches from all manner of enthusiastic salespeople.

Ignore inflation, since it doesn’t seem like a current problem.

Assume that $1,000 will buy roughly the same “basket of goods and services” in 2026 and 2036 that it will today. Be confident that you know what the future holds. After all, the years of high inflation that are often cited happened a long time ago. Things are different now.

The likely result: You probably won’t be thrust into “panic mode” since inflation is usually gradual. But one day you will realize with a start that things are costing a lot more than they “should,” and your income can’t keep up.

Keep all your money where it’s “safe,” in fixed income.

You’ll have lots of company among current retirees whose “golden” years are being tarnished because they have to rely on today’s historically low interest rates. Don’t just blindly invest in equities, because, as we all know, you can lose money in the stock market.

The likely result: You may start retirement with sufficient income to meet your needs, but those needs will probably increase, especially for health care, in your later retirement years. Your fixed income may be safe, but it won’t expand to meet increased needs.

Attend investment seminars and trust the presenters, then make important decisions without getting a second professional opinion.

You could follow the unfortunate example of a couple I know who, in their 50s, attended a retirement seminar and got some bad advice. They met privately with the presenter/saleswoman, then rolled their entire retirement accounts into a variable annuity. They thought they were giving themselves good returns, future flexibility and saving a lot of money in taxes.

In reality, they gave themselves huge headaches and nearly lost half their life savings. I helped them fight the unpleasant (and ultimately successful) battle to get out of their contract and recover their money.

This couple could teach us all some lessons, but the terms of their settlement makes that unlikely. If they disclose that they got their money back, or if they disclose how they were deceived and cheated, they will have to give the money back to the insurance company.

The likely results: You will be disappointed in the decisions you make. You will have many reasons to never trust an investment sales pitch again. You will have less money in retirement than if you had never heard of that particular seminar.

So now you have it: Six easy steps to ruin your retirement. I hope, of course, that you do just the opposite of each one of these. Unfortunately, I think there’s a high likelihood that somebody you know has fallen into one or more of these traps.

My advice: Learn from their mistakes.

INVEST IN YOU: READY. SET. GROW. Looking for a job? Coronavirus-related layoffs expanding roles for freelancers in these hot sectors

Maskot | Getty Images

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department that 1.5 million people filed new state unemployment claims last week serves as a stark reminder that the impact from the Covid-19 economic fallout is very much persisting.

For those seeking work amid the coronavirus pandemic, there is a bright spot: According to the annual “Future of the Workforce Report” from Upwork, opportunities abound right now for the independent professional. With the unemployment rate at 13.5% and a rapidly changing labor market, hiring managers are accelerating the use of freelancers, says the global freelance job platform.

The survey finds that 45% of hiring managers expect freezes on new staff, while 39% expect layoffs to continue in the coming months. At the same time, close to three-quarters (73%) of hiring managers are looking to maintain or expand their hiring of independent professionals, with a typical employment length of about four months. Nearly half of all hiring managers surveyed said that they are now more likely to use these freelancers as a result of Covid-19.

Upwork’s annual report surveyed 1,500 hiring managers, once in November of 2019 and again in April of 2020, after the coronavirus outbreak. 

“This remote work experiment will also have long-term implications for the traditional ways of hiring,” Upwork’s chief economist Adam Ozimek told CNBC in an email. “As companies embrace more remote work, they will also see that this opens up opportunities for how they think about hiring, recruiting and their workforce as a whole. They will no longer be confined to just their local labor markets but can find the most skilled talent, regardless of their location, that best meets their business needs.” 

Flexible work: Not just a short-term solution

The most popular fields for short-term project work are writing, creative, web and software development positions, according to the Upwork survey. Hiring managers cited projects focused on motion graphic design, front-end data development, internet marketing and web analytics.

“For many the reliance on independent talent and a more flexible workforce is not just a short-term solution but a long-term strategy that will enable businesses to stay competitive and agile as they accelerate into the future,” Ozimek said. 

Employers are also on the lookout for candidates with transferable soft skills and more foundational skills, such as customer service and problem solving

The growth rate of full-time remote work is expected to more than double from 30% to 65% within the next five years.

With the coronavirus pandemic making in-person hiring impossible in many cases, recruiters and hiring professionals are adopting virtual platforms to conduct interviews and speak with candidates.  

WATCH NOWVIDEO08:25Searching for a job? The answer might not be online

The transition to a remote working environment for most white-collar and corporate employees has several benefits, including no commute, less time spent on nonessential meetings, and limited distractions that are typically commonplace while working in the office. Working remotely has provided employees with increased flexibility, and 59% of hiring managers expect that companies who do not adapt to these more flexible conditions are at risk of becoming less competitive. 

“Covid-19 has thrown many companies and workers into the deep end when it comes to trying remote work. But what most are finding is that remote work really does work. … Lack of commute, reduction of nonessential meetings, greater autonomy and, most importantly, increased productivity. … These benefits will be hard to give up,” Ozimek said.

This article was written by Nicole Dienst for CNBC.com

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

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.