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While We’re Waiting

John Yeigh  |  March 27, 2020

IN RECENT WEEKS, my wife and I have seen scheduled activities for the next few months come crashing down. Two long-planned vacations with friends, our various volunteer work and our son’s college semester have all been cancelled.

It appears we’ll be effectively quarantined at home for the next two or three months. That means plenty of time to worry about—and work on—our investment portfolio. But it’s also a great chance to bring greater order to our household assets:

  • Every year, our neighborhood rents a couple of dumpsters for spring cleaning. In years past, I was an occasional dumpster patron. But over the last few days, I’ve divested years of junk-room accumulations. The cleaned-up room felt even better than a market rally.
  • As part of this divestment exercise, I listed four dust-collecting assets on Craigslist, including a carpet and some sporting equipment. Two have already sold. Taking huge losses never felt so good.
  • We have three cars, including two that are 15 years old and in need of repairs that would cost far more than their scrap value. Our home quarantine has allowed us to start internet shopping in earnest. We checked out one vehicle in person. The typical dealership glad-handing had completely disappeared. The other good news: Right now, quality used cars aren’t likely to sell out so fast.
  • Closets and drawers, need I say more? If you need an incentive to get going, book a charity pickup for a week from now. You’ll then have a forced deadline to donate those 1970s paisley shirts and bellbottoms.
  • Our rear deck is 40 years old and has long needed replacement. We finally got around to shopping for materials and colors on the internet, while also arranging for contractors to visit to give us estimates. One contractor volunteered that his future docket was light. We’re hoping his pricing reflects that.
  • Who doesn’t have house, car or yard maintenance that needs attention? Being tethered to the home front just might provide the perfect time to attend to that check engine light, overdue oil change or dead tree. We tried to book car maintenance at a local garage. We were advised that no appointment was needed, just drive in but please keep your distance.
  • Been meaning to put together a photo montage of the family trip, kids’ life or parents’ anniversary party? Challenged to scroll through your phone to find certain information? Got an app that needs refreshing or a password update? Everyone has digital records that could benefit from some caretaking or indexing.
  • We’ve also started early on the tax return this year. We even calculated and submitted our quarterly estimated tax payment long before it was required.
  • Another year has passed, so it’s time to shred those financial records that are more than seven years old. Whoever said that we’re moving to a paperless society hasn’t seen the dead trees deposited daily in our mailbox.

These activities can all be performed with appropriate social distancing. Only time will cure our investment portfolio’s ills, so we might as well use our sequestration to catch up with family and attend to our household. It’s more productive than watching Netflix—and less stressful than watching CNBC.

John Yeigh is an engineer with an MBA in finance. He retired in 2017 after 40 years in the oil industry, where he helped negotiate financial details for multi-billion-dollar international projects.  His previous articles include Bankrolling Roth, Losing My Balance and Our To-Do List.

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