The last few months have been a wild experience with the coronavirus pandemic. Socially, physically, emotionally, and financially.
In high school history classes, I remember talking about defining moments in time. Old-timers would say things like “I was just leaving work when JFK was shot in Dallas”, “I was…when Apollo 11 landed on the moon”, or “I was…when the Challenger space shuttle crashed”. People remember where they were, what they were thinking, and how they felt when these pivotal moments of history happened.
In my lifetime, I remember where I was during the Columbine High School shooting (5 miles away in lock down at my middle school), when Y2K hit (playing lazer tag at FunPlex), and when I heard about 9/11 (listening to the school bus radio heading to school my freshman year). The phrasing may seem comical, but I’ll add another to this list “where were you when Rudy Gobert tested positive for covid-19?” March 11, 2020.
This was a HUGE day for the world, and I’ll remember vividly where I was and how the world immediately seemed to change. Hopefully the history books phrase it this way too, because when Rudy tested positive, the world changed quickly!
Where I was
As I’ve said before, I’m a huge basketball fan, so March Madness is an exciting time for me. We went to Las Vegas March 7th to watch the West Coast Conference and Pac-12 basketball tournaments. Prior to this, there was some, but not a lot of panic or hoopla about the coronavirus around me. The first day of the Pac-12 tournament was March 11th. I went to the first two games, then sold my ticket for the evening session so I wouldn’t tire out over the following six games. My wife and I had dinner, then went walking through the Fashion Show Mall. We were in the Stance Socks store when I got an alert on my phone that Rudy Gobert had tested positive for covid-19 and the NBA season was suspended indefinitely. Within a couple of hours, the NCAA conference tournaments were getting cancelled one by one. By the next morning, the NCAA Basketball Tournament was officially cancelled and MLB season was suspended. The world was starting to shut down!
We left our hotel that night and drove back to Utah, even though we’d prepaid for 3 more nights. The world was gearing up for a crazy experience.
By the time we got home a few days later, businesses were telling people to work from home, grocery stores couldn’t keep shelves stocked, restaurants were closing, mayors were issuing stay-at-home orders, and I felt like I was seeing Banes everywhere. Not only was everyone wearing facemasks, but everyone was running around scared like when Bane takes over the Batman movie.
About 3 weeks prior to all this, my wife’s company laid off a bunch of people, including her boss and much of her department. The outlook was grim. As a Realtor, no one wanted to interact with anyone or have people in their houses. That’s not going to be good for business.
Aside from the businesses, people were getting sick and dying! And we didn’t really know how to treat or be around them. However, the stats were not yet alarming in the US. In New York state at this time, there were only about 500 positive test results and 3 dead from the virus (today about 375k positive tests and 24,175 dead).
We were worried about our health, jobs, and (of course) our money!
What the stock market was doing
When we got to Vegas at the beginning of our trip the S&P 500 had already lost about 12% from its peak on Feb 19th. The day after the Rudy Gobert announcement, the market lost an additional 9.5%. Over the course of our 5 day trip, the S&P fell 16.5%. I lost a lot of money while in Vegas, and I didn’t spend a dime in a casino.
On March 23rd, the market hit its low point. In total, the S&P 500 dropped about 34% between Feb 19th and March 23rd. Crushing!
My wife may be losing her job, I wasn’t sure if my business would be steady, and our nest egg was eroding. I’m sure JL Collins was telling people all day that it was not the time to panic (about their stocks at least), but there were plenty of us more like Woody ripe for a come apart moment.
I knew we’d be fine with money, but it didn’t make the damage any more palatable. That wouldn’t be our biggest worry, because little did we know that we’d also get covid-19 six weeks later, but that’s a story for another day.