Don’t Count on Me

Dennis Friedman

I DON’T THINK I CAN do it. I know it’s the patriotic thing to do—support our local businesses. But I don’t see myself visiting local restaurants, movie theaters or department stores for a quite a while.

After they lift the stay-at-home order, I’m not rushing out to my favorite restaurant and ordering a grilled chicken avocado wrap with a kale salad. I don’t care if the waiter is wearing a protective mask and gloves, and if I’m sitting six feet away from the next table. It’s going to take some time before I feel comfortable being around strangers in a social setting.

I know some people think the economy is going to take off when the current safety measures are lifted, but I have my doubts about a V-shaped recovery. I believe there are too many people like me who will err on the side of caution—and simply aren’t ready to visit the gym, book a flight or sit down at their favorite bar.

A recent Associated Press poll found an overwhelming majority of Americans favor stay-at-home orders as an important way to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Moreover, many individuals will be reluctant to spend money because of the economic hardship they’ve endured during the shutdown—and especially so when U.S. household debt is at a record $14 trillion.

With Americans reluctant to spend, the economy may have a hard time bouncing back. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, consumer spending accounts for almost  70% of economic growth. The key to an economic rebound is getting consumers to a place where they feel comfortable spending again. If businesses focus on the health and safety of their customers, that’ll help somewhat. Having a vaccine to combat the virus would, of course, do the trick, but the earliest that’ll happen is next year.

In the meantime, everybody has an opinion about how and when we should proceed in reopening the economy. But they fail to realize that the ultimate decision is going to be made by the consumer—you and me. Right now, I’m not ready to visit any nonessential businesses.

I’m not just thinking about myself. I’m also thinking about my significant other, about the doctors, nurses and other health care providers who risk their lives every day to protect us, and about all the essential retail employees, whose jobs have been turned into a high-risk profession by the pandemic. I don’t want to risk their health by risking mine.

When my state meets public health officials’ criteria for reopening the economy, that’s when I’ll take some baby steps and start tackling some of the items on my to-do list. What’s on my list?

  • I need to get my teeth cleaned. I missed my last appointment because my dentist closed his office during the pandemic. He’s currently only seeing patients who need immediate attention.
  • I need to have my annual physical. My doctor recommended I delay until the safety restrictions are lifted.
  • I need to get my eyes examined.
  • I need to get my car serviced. It’s time for an oil change.
  • I need to start fixing up my house. Making the necessary repairs would make it easier to abide by the next stay-at-home order, should the coronavirus return later this year.

Yes, that’s it. What about my wish list of nonessential activities? Those things will have to wait until there’s a vaccine, an effective treatment or the coronavirus somehow disappears.

Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. His previous articles include Don’t Go It Alone, Lost and Found and Keeping My Balance. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DMFrie.

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