Life is full of trade-offs. We’re fighting the coronavirus pandemic. So, we trade the economic cost of “flattening the curve” against the lives saved. We trade the debt we leave for our grandkids against mitigating economic disruption. Acknowledging these trade-offs does not condemn or commend the choices.
What about you and me individually? Each month we decide whether to race the yellow light at the intersection. We choose whether one more business task is more important than an extra 15 minutes with the family. Should we make the inconvenient trip to see a senior we care about or attend a grandchild’s dance recital?
Health experts and elected officials continue to weigh the balance between minimizing the health risk and minimizing economic disruption. Whatever they do, some people will benefit more than others.
In life the advantaged, affluent, college-educated, young, healthy, optimistic, prudent, and well-connected fare better than the disadvantaged, high school dropouts, old, frail, pessimistic, foolish, and isolated. People and businesses, in the first group suffer far less than those in the second. The latter will perish disproportionately and suffer more from hard economic times.
An unspoken reality is that decision-makers consider the cost of keeping Social Security recipients alive an extra 10 or 20 years. Our federal government borrowed $2 trillion to cushion the damage of sending most Americans home for weeks. If that delayed 100,000 deaths, our nation is paying $20 million per delayed death.
Such trade off thinking is not crass, but reasonable. Airline safety experts, traffic engineers, surgeons, and military leaders must make such calculations. Most of us don’t make societal choices. Someone else decides whether the extra cost of freeway intersections is worth the number of deaths averted.
Our society chose safety. Seniors and people with weakened health systems will benefit the most. The cost will be borne by our kids and grandkids.
We’ve made our choice maybe … wisely, maybe foolishly. What can we learn as a society and as individuals?
Within the last month most of us have had more time at home and less time at work. Maybe, you like me, have considered the marginal cost and benefit of more time and effort away from those we love.
Psalm 95:12 says: “Teach me to number my days so that I may show you a heart of wisdom.”
This verse has more impact on me since I survived a potentially fatal, fluke biking accident. Our coronavirus experiences will have a disproportionate impact on our future thinking.
As you consider days, months, and decades ahead, what will you value? What will you give up, sacrifice, in the attempt to gain or preserve what you believe is most important? How will you spend your time and your treasure? None of us has the certainty of mortal life tomorrow. What major choices will be different in your life in years to come? You get the rest of your life to decide. Choose wisely.
In the meantime, let’s all wash our hands more frequently, maintain “social” distance from others, and cover sneezes more effectively. Be blessed and be a blessing. Those around us need our extra concern, love and thoughtfulness.
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”