Following an email exchange with a group of leaders yesterday, one member responded, “We need to reboot 2020, this version has a virus.” This year to date has been filled with optimism, pessimism, confusion, frustration, grief, racial tension, racial reconciliation, lament, and more. From a highly contagious virus, to an economic shutdown, to horrific losses of life, to peaceful protests, to riots accompanied by property destruction and theft, 2020 has left a population emotionally drained.

One action designed to help has created a confusing situation for many. In the early days of the economic shutdown, Congress and the President authorized the Treasury to send a stimulus check to virtually every individual, family, and child in the USA. If the family filed a tax return, the Treasury would send money. Simple!

Unfortunately, the delivery of said stimulus funds has not proved to be nearly as simple a projected. As of late May, 20 million people in the USA had yet to receive their portion of the stimulus funds. There are many reasons mentioned. Those mentioned most were either, “You do not receive your refund by direct deposit and checks take longer,” or “You do not usually file a tax return.”

In order to expedite the distribution to those yet to receive the funds, the Treasury devised a plan to send prepaid debit cards loaded with the proper stimulus funds through the US Postal System. What was probably not considered was how skeptical the public has become from mail scam schemes. A significant number of people, upon learning that the card was real, have reported they had cut theirs into small pieces. Some couples have noted their card came with names mixed up (husband and wife do not use the same last name). Some were warned by financial institutions not to activate the card because the Treasury had not notified them on how to guide their customers.

Observation – If you receive mail including a prepaid debit card, saying it is from the “Money Network Cardholder Services in Omaha, Nebraska,” with a letter stating the funds come from the Treasury Department, do not automatically assume it is a scam.

The second life confusing issue we will briefly consider today is this…Job losses during the COVID-19 shutdown have hit older workers harder than younger workers!

The job losses since late February have been staggering. Through the end of May, more than 40 million people have filed first time jobless claims. Historically, younger workers have suffered more job losses during economic downturns, those age 25-54 suffer fewer claims, and older employees (55 and older) normally suffer the least. This has not been the case at all during 2020, as the unemployment rate for those 55+ has been sharply higher than those age 25-54.

This has created a great deal of confusion and stress for those nearing retirement. These are their peak earning years, and normally a time in life when expenses drop slightly. That being the case, these employees have built a plan for the future based upon their greatest savings ever. What will happen as the economy improves (and when will it improve)? Will their employer recall them to work, or will they choose to search for someone younger (someone with a starting salary lower than the experienced individual and more years to serve)? If they have to join the job search market, how will they fare? Will they find it necessary to sell their home and relocate to find a job? Will they have to cash in some of their retirement savings to help pay bills now? Will these circumstances destroy their future plans?

We have no simple answers for this complex situation. We can hope that the rebound in financial markets is indeed due to investment managers seeing the bottom has been reached and the future (looking 6 months ahead) is brighter.

Here is to everyone pursuing their passions…in spite of confusing circumstances.