Fandango’s Provocative Question (1 April 2020)

It is Wedgesday, and time for Fandango’s Provocative Question. I’m gonna take care to answer his question meticulously, to fulfil his FOWC prompt too! Today he’s including a post/comment in the question, centered on whether the world will or won’t change as a result on COVID-19, and he asks:

When we finally get through this COVID-19 pandemic at some point in the future, do you think the world is going to change from what is was like before anyone ever heard of coronavirus? Or will things quickly return to “business as usual”?

Straight away, Fandango states that he doesn’t think it will. But I think, while some people will want the world to go back to normal, that some change is inevitable.

We’ve just had a round of panic-buying in the shops. Hopefully it is over now, but who’s to say it won’t happen again. Think about that. For hundreds of years, money has been the definition of wealth, but now it is half-a-dozen eggs! Looking at things that way, you can easily see why governments all over are so worried – because the systems that they have built, which are money-centric, are at stake. So, they want money back at #1. Every day, we’re used to hearing on the news how valuable the pound is against other major currencies, and I wonder how useful that information is now?

I have a mortgage. In common with most every other house-purchaser at the time, I was sold an endowment mortgage. The bank loaned me the money to buy the house, and I pay interest on that loan every month. When the loan matures, I need to repay the original amount. At the same time as I bought the house, I bought this endowment policy. I pay an amount every month which gets invested for me. When the mortgage loan matures, so too does this endowment policy. The thinking is (was) that the policy will be worth enough to offset the mortgage. And the house is mine. Easy!

Except the stock market hasn’t been doing so well since 2008. Periodically, I get “red alert” messages to tell me that this endowment policy is now only projected to pay one half of the original loan back. So, how do I repay the rest? The point here is that it’s not just me, it is millions of other people (in the UK alone) too. Everybody with an endowment policy is in the same boat. That’s why all these equity release schemes have come about, because nobody’s endowment will cover their mortgage!

My point here is that at the time, this was the key type of product that was sold, certainly in the UK. And if people thought they’d maybe escaped the effects of 2008, look at the stock market after corona! And again, there are millions of us! And what about all those additional people thrown out of work by Corona, who now can’t affort their mortgage (whatever type of mortgage it might be)? What are they going to do? Reposess everybody’s house? Everybody?

So, I think something will have to change so as to allow people to keep roofs over their heads.

And, what is another big thing that is invested into the stock market? That’s right, people’s pensions. So, we’ll have all these pensioners walking around, once rich, but now poor. All those people who lost their purchasing power? That’s gonna change the High Street quite drastically, I think.

Plus, of course, when people lose their purchasing power to the extent that they can’t afford the basics? There’s going to be pressure on states [governments] to step in even more.

Those are just a few effects. I think most of them, we haven’t even begun to imagine, yet.

I must admit I have not thought this idea through, but I do see a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Some thinking out-of-the-box. Blue sky thinking, we used to call it. What if, when all this was over, the world’s stock markets were to reset their values, to before any of this happened? Okay, jiggery pokery. And my expertise is in IT, not in the markets, so there are bound to be better suggestions out there. But somebody needs to be thinking of the question what happens afterwards? I do think that because this virus has pretty much hit us all equally, that there is scope for some kind of global reset. So, maybe somebody will come up with some idea which almopst does allow us to go back to normal?

There is, though, an area where I fear that there will be no change. What are the current shortages? Ventilators, in-date PPE, testing abilities… Does anybody seriously think that governments will start stockpiling these things, lest it happen again? In that respect at least, I’m with Fandango.

Fandango’s Provocative Question (25 March 2020)

It is Wedgesday, and time for Fandango’s Provocative Question. I’m gonna take care to answer his question meticulously, to fulfil his FOWC prompt too! Today he asks:

What activities have you cut from your life since this pandemic started that you DON’T really miss?

Just as a general thing, I have to say I am fortunate in this pandemic. A lot of my elderly clients are fortunate. I guess a lot of you are fortunate, too. All of us, just because this isolation malarkey has not changed habits much, because we were all pretty isolated anyway!

I’m glad in some respects, because my weekly voluntary session takes place with clients over the phone, which can happen anyway. So, I spent yesterday afternoon calling my clients as normal. In fact, during the pandemic, the task takes longer than usual. Clients normally ask to be called because they feel isolated, lonely, but actually, you’d be surprised how many are normally out when I call! Last week, for the first time in my eighteen months doing the work, everybody answered. This week, all except one. The result is that the session takes longer.

On top of that, the charity have asked me to call another seven people, on top of my normal ten. I did that this morning. With my regular clients, we can chat about anything – often what the cats have been up to, or what the kids have been up to. With these new people, it was specifically corona – are you getting groceries/meds okay? While my normal calls take three or four hours, I dashed these extra ones off in under an hour.

Normally, I get the bus into Age UK’s office in Salisbury, on a Tuesday afternoon. I leave the house at just before 12pm, and get home about 5pm. Five hours. Of which three are normally spent on the phone to clients. So, that’s two hours just lost in the commute. I wouldn’t mind but when I had my car, Salisbury was just a fifteen minute drive away! The bus journey itself goes through the villages and takes 30 minutes each way, the rest of the time is spent walking between home and the bus stop, or just waiting around.

Because of the virus, we agreed I would work from home. I fire up the browser, then ten seconds later I have accessed their network and can start making calls. Then, when I am finished, it is as simply as closing the tab, maybe firing off a quick email, before I can start doing personal things once again.

So, working from home versus a two hour commute? There’s something I don’t miss.

Fandango’s Provocative Question (18 March 2020)

Wednesday. Fandango’s Provocative Question. This week his sombre topic is COVID-19. He asks us to watch a news clip, and then to comment.

The clip, in full, is over 12 minutes long, but I shall supply it anyway, in case you have not seen it yet and feel the urge to watch.

Okay, my main comment on this clip is, I’m afraid, another question. You can answer if you wish, but I shall provide my answer below.

My question is:

How many people will have changed their opinion of Donald Trump as a result of this show?

My answer? 0.

You see the clip is basically showing how, on the specific subject of COVID-19, Trump has flipped and flitted, and been generaly responsible for disseminating inaccurate information.

Put it another way, my question becomes: what’s new?

Only a couple months ago, we had Trump’s impeachment hearing. From one side, we had how can anybody not understand how serious this is? Trump: huh? Nothing to see here.

I’ve commented both on this blog and on other blogs how Trump’s supporters will let him get away with anything, because they believe that Trump will deliver power. As long as he fulfils that, he will get away with anything. Forget about being objective. The objective people already left the building.

Let’s take another case, dating right back to the start of the presidency. Russian involvement in the US election. One side: how can anybody not understand how serious this is? Trump: Huh? Nothing to see here.

So, why should COVID-19 be different to anything else?

And if my question was indeed provocative, then let me follow it up with another.

What is so messed up about our systems that makes people throw all objectivity out of the window, to get their hands on power? To blindly follow somebody regardless of their actions?

That question applies to all of us, to varying degrees. But it is one that you can think about yourselves.