I write this from my kitchen table. It is my new office, and my family has to check that I am not in a virtual meeting to come into the kitchen, because I am easily distracted. I am on the cell phone and the computer all day long. My wife is also working from home. We had to set rules for interruptions: Don’t unless it is urgent… and “I’m hungry” isn’t urgent.
Grocery shopping takes hours, and requires nitrile gloves and a face mask. I meet my wife on the front porch to help decontaminate the food as it come in the house. Packages are sprayed down and opened on the front porch. Junk mail doesn’t even make it into the house. Is it ok to eat take-out?
I remain six to ten feet from my neighbors when I see them. At any other time, I would be considered standoffish. My car may grow roots where it is now. My hair is too long, and for the first time I do not feel guilty about postponing my annual physical or my dental checkup.
Happy hour is done through Zoom. I miss my friends and co-workers. I can’t put my finger on it, but this is all so strange: the unknown, the changes, the fear. I count myself as one of the more fortunate that I can continue to work and do so remotely, but I need to get out of here. The lack of change in scenery is distressing. If the kids were much younger, I’d have to work out of the garage. My pattern of the day is drastically different, and it is a bit uneasy. When we have virtual company meetings, I find myself yelling at people to keep their hands off their faces… then I realize I am doing the same thing.
The New Planning Landscape
The planning landscape that was formally reasonably static has become far less so. It is a challenge to keep up with the changes. Even though I am at my kitchen table, I have never been so busy communicating with co-workers and clients.
In the days before COVID-19, we were still sorting out clarifications from the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA). Then very suddenly the SECURE Act put an end to stretch IRA distributions! Next were new life expectancy tables… and now we have extended deadlines, clarification on extended deadlines, the CARES Act, Notices on interpretation of the CARES Act, and who knows what’s next.
Then I realize it doesn’t matter what is next. We will continue to inform all the people with whom we work, either through sending out information directly or our regular education and committee sessions during which we share all the challenges we face together. We have a structure in place that makes all this work, and it has done so surprisingly well. We have grown as a team and this helps our cherished clients. As with most challenges, we have become a stronger group. I am fortunate that all our CFP® advisors are smart and understand the importance of changes in the planning environment.
Much of what I write is on the technical side, and those developments have been more formidable, fastidious, and fast-paced than ever. Nevertheless, we have been organized, we have headed off problems, and effectively found solutions to the obstacles we have faced. We have supported each other and through doing that, been more supportive than ever to our clients. My family has been more supportive of each other as well, respecting the now blurred lines between work and home. We have more time to catch up at dinner than we used to as the children are not off in so many different directions.
This experience, while having its accompanying anxiety, will have some rewards. Most of us will be able to look back on this with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps with new hands-away-from-face rules and hand washing norms we can be far healthier in the future.
Until then, we must and will get through this challenge. As we do please know you have a team of concerned, dedicated, well-educated, very competent professionals to help guide you thought this tumultuous time. Know that we are making constant evaluations of all the new rules and discussing them as a group, so that we can understand and help.
Above all, know you are not in this alone, and that together we will get through it. Please stay safe and healthy.