As I type this Canada, the country where I live, is now in week 6 of self-isolation due to COVID-19. We have officially beat Moses and the Ark on self-isolation. And I am sure, you are just like me, you have some crazy animals in your house. I love them and cherish them, but my goodness… I did not know humans could sleep that long. All kidding aside, it has been a rollercoaster of emotions, upside down schedules, having to help the kids understand their school lessons, and on top of this, the majority of people living in this time have seen a significant drop in their household income. We have learned a lot about many things. This time has been a true lesson in preparation. I can say, that for me personally, my life will never return to the ‘old normal,’ which I am happy about.
Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to dive into the five life lessons I have learned during COVID-19 and why I am happy to never go back to the life I was living. Here is today’s lesson.
A Lesson in preparation
I have been following the financial side of this pandemic since March 4th, when we at Mompreneurs had to make a decision and post-pone our National Annual Conference. It was an extremely hard decision. To be honest, when Maria, the CEO, started talking about postponing the event, I thought she was crazy. I was like most people, “ah, this is a flu, it is not a big deal.” But as time went on and the news started showing signs of changes coming, it began to make a lot more sense. Once our team made the decision, we informed the venue who, like everyone else, thought we were crazy. In the end, all is well and we are waiting for the “new normal” to return so that we can plan an epic in-person event.
I share this with you because this is when my story started. March 4th. Interestingly enough, March 4th is also seen as March Forth… and that is what I did. I took my marching orders to move forward in what I then believed and now know was my calling. R.H. and I decided that he would be the sole bookkeeper for our clients and make sure that their bookkeeping was being processed. I pivoted to helping our clients make sense out of the COVID-19 financial jargon, subsidies, benefits, and loans.
It has become my job to learn everything I can about everything Revenue Canada is working to offer businesses and individuals. I invest hours into researching, reading, and watching the news to make sure that I have the facts and only the facts. I know where to watch for updated information and who is going to give it. From this, I have created a system to make sure I know when changes to the benefits are coming so that I am one of the first to know. I am prepared for what is coming.
My new boss
As Prime Minister Trudeau opens the door to Rideau Cottage and walks up to the podium, I am ready. As he speaks, I listen intently on every word he speaks about the finances the government is offering or working on offering. What Trudeau says every morning pretty much dedicates my day ahead. I now have a new boss. We have a meeting every morning at 11:15 am EDT, unless he is stuck on the phone, then I am asked to wait.
For the first 4 weeks of this pandemic, my life was about listening for my marching orders. It was about spending endless hours on the phone with my clients (one week I spent 53 hours on the phone to be exact) and creating plans to help clients shift with the times. This included helping 47 clients close and layoff their staff, creating cashflow plans and budgets to see when the money they had would run out and to help them prepare for the loans and subsidies that were soon going to be available.
I must also add that I am not and will not charge my clients’ additional fees for everything I am doing for them. I decided that their monthly retainer for having us on their team would remain the same. This is the right thing to do. Does this all sound a wee bit stressful to you? Working endless hours researching, writing, calling, creating cashflows and budgets, taking orders from an outside source (the government) who, might I add, change their minds, regulations and systems daily, and all while not making an extra dollar for 6 weeks of work? Hear what I said there? For six weeks now, I have not physically made a penny for everything I have and am doing. But, I can do all this, with no stress or worry about finances because I am prepared.
Preparation is key
Preparation is key, my friends. If you are prepared for what is coming, you will not have any stress, worry or anxiety about what you are about to go through.
Think about it. If twelve years ago I told you: COVID-19 is coming and you are going to have to stay home for at least two months. You will have no way of making an income. The only thing you can do is rely on the government to take care of you financially. You will need to defer your mortgage payments and car payments. You will also need to strip down your lifestyle and spending to simply be able to buy groceries. If I came and told you this ten years ago (and had proof, because some need to see it to believe it) what would you have done differently? What would it be like if you did not need to take advantage of the government benefits and subsidies? How would you feel?
A Lesson in Preparation: What would you do differently?
The vision of what I just shared with you, that was me twelve years ago, when we were $3.00 from bankruptcy. R.H. and I vowed we would never ever, ever live like that, ever again (I hope my “evers” helped you get the point). We made a plan. We knew that one day something could happen. If it did happen, we would be prepared. And as I shared above, we were prepared and we are so happy, blessed and relieved that we are because it has afforded us to help others in this time of crisis.
Now, more than ever, we have all come to realize that preparation in life is key. Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for what could be another two (or more) months of self-isolation.
You are not an ostrich!
Take your head out of the sand and look at your current money state. I know it is going to be hard. You may want to crawl out of your skin or spend hours in the bathroom. But I promise the hardest part is ripping off the band-aid. Look at where your money is going and see where you can make cuts. Stop needlessly spending money right now.
Trust me, that thing you are about to buy on Amazon, you are buying it because you are bored, stressed or are a habitual spender. Now is the time to make better choices. Again, I am speaking from experience, not simply pointing the finger. I am the queen of time and money management (self-professed I might add). I even found cuts that I could make in my spending. We are now officially living on 10% of our regular income. It ain’t pretty but I am stress-free!
Prepare to wait a long time for someone to say hello!
Though the wait may be the longest in history, calling your bank and asking for help is the best move you can make. I once waited for 7.5 hours to talk to someone at my bank. It is worth the wait as banks are now helping defer payments, lower interest rates on credit cards and also offering new products to help you get through this time.
Take the hand that is offering you help!
If someone is offering to help you, financially or otherwise, take the help. It could be as big as having a place to sleep at night and taking government benefits. Or, it could be as little as a friend sharing her yeast with you so that you can have a fun afternoon making pretzels with your family. Maybe it is someone helping you pivot your business. If someone is offering you help, get over yourself and take the help. Please! You need it. Everyone needs help today, including me. The yeast story – that was me. I was the receiver of the yeast and Charissa Lynn was the giver and because she chose to part with yeast, my family of six, including three teenage boys had a blast making pretzels. It will be a memory that will last a lifetime and probably longer.
Give a hand to those in need!
Giving is receiving. If there is one thing I know it is the joy one feels when they give. If you see someone in need of something, including yeast, and you can help, please do so. As I said, everyone needs help. Maybe you are one that stocked up on toilet paper and you see someone on social media wondering where they can get some, spare a few rolls and do a porch drop for them.
Be like my friend Peggy. Peggy had puzzles she felt she no longer needed so, she created this cool puzzle chain. Someone can pick up a puzzle from her and once they put it together they sign the inside of the box and then offer it up to another person to take, put together and pass along. This does not cost Peggy a thing and she found a way to help people. I am one of those people. Our family is enjoying a 3000 piece puzzle from Peggy.
Take some time for you!
These days are so weird, even if you remember what day it actually is. You may be completely off schedule, living in your pyjamas (I am today) and maybe even think it is time to make breakfast when it is actually 1 pm. I am so guilty here. One thing that has kept me grounded is to give myself some time alone when I wake up. Close your eyes and find everything you are thankful for and then move into planning your day in happiness. If you are like me, music gets me hyped. I turn on my favourite tunes and pop in my earbuds and dance around the house like no one is watching, because they are all in bed so I know no one is watching and even if they were, who cares!
Preparation doesn’t always look pretty. It does not always have to happen years in advance. It may also never look like you are preparing for something. Charissa didn’t know she was prepared to help me make lifelong memories with my family. Peggy didn’t realize that she was prepared to help relieve boredom for people. It may be hard to start preparing. It may also seem annoying, time-consuming and a waste of time, especially during a pandemic. I promise you, it is the best action that you can take right now. I invite you to take a lesson in preparation and start looking at how you can begin your preparation work. Not just tomorrow, but for years to come.