Hard Times

Featured image above is from a 2008 air show I attended at Miramar Naval Air Station. It’s a good image/analogy for what’s happening in financial markets this week.

We’re in a moment in time I never thought I’d see – a worldwide pandemic driving a worldwide economic crash. It appears to me that the world is getting ready to shut down for the next 60-90 days, and things will never be quite the same. For one we’re going to lose a lot of the elderly generation a bit sooner than expected. Demographics of companies, families and governments will change slightly as COVID-19 burns through each country’s populace. There’s a surreal, science-fictiony quality to all this.

As a retired person planning to live off savings for the next 25+ years, the financial news has been hard to take. And it’s going to get worse. I’m predicting our personal net worth will decrease 35-40% in 2020 and then recover over time. I’ve done the long-term analysis and we’ll be fine, albeit a lot less comfortable than before. But that means I can mostly ignore the dramatic financial market news and focus on what I should anyway – the health and well-being of our family and circle of friends. To that end, here’s some solid information from the CDC on how things are progressing in the US. The COVID-19 story is unfortunately playing out pretty much as I thought a month ago, when I wondered if the disease’s progression would be linear or geometric. It’s geometric, so it’s bad news all around.

In more mundane news, yesterday I spent nine hours installing a new microwave link connecting our house’s Internet service to our guest house. Nine hours! And the vast majority of that time was spent trying to contact technical support (three hours) and then chatting online with technical support (three and a half hours). It was a patience-testing day, to say the least.

First, yes I recognize that this is definitely a first world problem – most people don’t have a guest house. Privilege admitted. But the relevant issue here is a good product surrounded by horrificly inaccurate documentation and technical support. If the product had accurate documentation, it could be installed in less than an hour. I’m reasonably savvy with digital products, having spent forty years trying to make them (and people) work in corporations. But it took pretty much all my experience and stubbornness to get through this installation. Almost everything in their installation procedure was wrong, so I was totally dependent on their technical support to configure the devices properly. Someone less experienced and less stubborn would have no chance.

Finally, we’re having a much-needed rainy week here in Socal. Our annual rainfall totals (measured from July 1 2019 to June 30 2020) are still low – about 10 inches so far this year, as opposed to our historical average of 12.5 at this time. This latest rain is an interesting one – it’s a tropical air mass from the south, and it’s the warmest rain I think I’ve ever experienced in Socal. So there’s that.

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