Thursday, May 28, 2020

Our Quarantine: The first 30 days

My partner and I are both teachers, which some of you may already know.  So, we're among those still receiving a paycheck during the crisis of COVID-19.  That is not to say we haven't experienced a loss of income.

In the middle of March, we were given notice that the school building would be closed until at least the end of Spring Break (a full month away), a deadline that has been extended to April 29th, and then again by the Mayor of NYC to the end of the school year.  We had three days to put all of our classes online and learn a completely new platform, not to mention, rearrange our already too small NYC apartments to include a "virtual classroom" for two teachers of completely separate schools, grades, and content areas.  Making these adjustments would ensure our students could still collect the credit they needed despite the growing public health crisis.

What could not be ensured is the additional income many teachers have come to rely upon.  We all know teachers in this country are not paid the best and may have taken on numerous side-gigs to fill in the gaps.  What does that look like in our household?  We both take on additional responsibilities at our schools which generate additional income.  This might be running clubs, after-school tutoring or test prep, scoring state exams...  We are also both certified tax preparers that work during tax season in local tax offices.  Needless to say, all of these sources of additional income have dried up, including tax preparation!  Once COVID-19's extensive reach became apparent, the government pushed back the tax deadline, and people were entirely more concerned with their safety than with their taxes.  Rightfully so!  Of course, this caused the tax offices to reduce the number of hours given to employees because of a change in demand...  More income lost.

Because we use a management company, there's a fairly large buffer between our renters and us.  We don't know what they do for a living but imagine their lives have been touched by the Coronavirus as well.  We've been notified by our management company that they plan to pay April rent.  We hope that they're among those who are able to work remotely and that this trend continues.  If not, we'll still be able to pay our mortgage.

Lucky, right?  While some of it might be luck, the money moves we've made to ensure our safety was anything but luck.  We deliberately choose to live mostly off of my partner's income, leaving mine to be used for savings and/or other financial goals.  So, we've been focusing our attention on building liquid savings for the past couple of years with the goal in mind of saving for a 20% downpayment plus a fully-funded emergency savings.  Also, every dollar of profit from our rental property goes into its own savings.  In fact, our rental property has it's own 6-month emergency savings.  Losing the majority of our side-gig income feels like it drastically reduces our monthly savings rate.  The truth is that we might be slowed down, but not devastated, and that's key!

I remind myself that if this experience teaches me nothing, it was worthless.  I can't have all of this time be wasted; so, what have I learned in this first 30 days?

I have learned not to take for granted my ability to hop on an airplane and see family members.  I lost a family member during this time (non covid-related). With everything that's going on, my only choice was to stay put.  Even if I had tried to fly to this person, I wouldn't have been allowed into the facility where he was staying because I was coming from New York State, the epicenter of the pandemic.  Fortunately, I went to see this family member just before the outbreak, and I feel really good about that.  Regardless, the ability to mobilize during a family emergency is really important and shouldn't be taken for granted.

It's also become clear to me that we need to pay off the mortgage on our rental property.  No matter what happens, we'll be able to make the payment.  However, when I think about the idea of the loan being paid in full, I feel very peaceful.  That seems to be my inner guidance system telling me what my next money move should be.  I tend to wait for that.  I let my brain do the homework so that I fully understand my choices, but then I wait for one to feel like the right one for me.  Paying off the mortgage feels like one that is rising to the surface as being the right choice.  Of course, I'll sit with it for a while.

I've also learned that our choice to learn to live on one income rather than both of our incomes was incredibly wise.  It has kept us safe within this situation.  It feels like something that we should continue to carry into the future.

Additionally, my career field is fairly stable.  Despite teachers being wildly underpaid, we can count on having our positions.

Have you learned anything about your financial situation from your time in quarantine?  Has it inspired you to set any particular goals or take any actions?

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