In the past few months, we've experienced massive changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have lost their jobs or been furloughed. Many of us who are working are working from home. Children, teenagers and college students have transitioned to online learning, with college students moving back home. With no change in scenery for those of us who are homebound, the days seem to both stretch forever and fly by.
It seems to be a time of contradictions.
In our home, all four of us are now working or learning from home. We are blessed to have high-speed internet and enough room for each of us to focus and work. Our college student has been graceful in her reentry into our daily life, and our high school senior has been stoic and realistic about the pandemic interrupting the spring semester of his senior year. We are grateful to be home and safe but also yearning to go out and connect with others again.
From an economic perspective, some service industries (restaurants) are struggling or failing. Other industries are ramping up -- information technology and health care are struggling to keep up with demand in some sectors. Friends I connect with have a variety of experiences. Some are working nonstop; others are not working at all.
The transition to sheltering at home seems to be easier for introverts than for extroverts, but everyone is dealing with a different day-to-day world than they did a few months ago. Gone are the days of running to the store on a whim, or even gathering for a sports event or concert.
What we all have in common is living in a period of uncertainty. We are not sure when the peak will happen, when we will resume somewhat normal activities and how the economy will restart.
What we should know is that we can't wait for others to figure everything out. Each of us needs to make individual progress by either changing our business model if we own or run a business that is faltering; adding products or offerings to our clients; or changing how we deliver our value-added services. Even if we can't figure out what we can do today, we can all spend time and effort gaining new skills and knowledge so that when this crisis has passed (and it will), we will be ready.
For parents and teachers who want to help their students gain valuable skills during this time, the FoolProofMe website offers free online learning for both middle school and high school students. Financial knowledge has always been important to me. I can remember my mother writing on the back of her checkbook every penny (yes, literally down to the penny) that she spent.
While she taught me to track my own expenses, she did not teach me about how money could and should be used. That was because she did not know that then. But she learned that later in life when she joined a ladies' investment club.
According to a survey carried out last year by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation, most Americans lack basic financial literacy. The survey asked the participants five questions covering a broad range of topics including "aspects of economics and finance encountered in everyday life, such as compound interest, inflation, principles relating to risk and diversification, the relationship between bond prices and interest rates, and the impact that a shorter term can have on total interest payments over the life of a mortgage," according to the FINRA website.
These are basic questions that every American should be able to answer easily. FoolProofMe, whose mission is "to teach consumers the importance of using caution, questioning sellers, and relying on independent research before spending money," provides "over 22 hours of free, online, video-driven, self-grading financial literacy instruction."
I like the fact that the videos on the site don't feature teachers lecturing but instead peers of the students. The high school curriculum takes 30 class days, and the middle school program features 14 class days.
The website also features specific topics including student loans, buying cars and buying homes. While we might be in the middle of a pandemic, we still have the ability to control what we do on a day-to-day basis -- as for me, I'm attempting to skill up, not only myself but also my children. With 25 million middle school and high school students in the U.S., we have a great opportunity to drastically improve financial literacy. FoolProofMe, a project of the nonprofit FoolProof Foundation, gives everyone a chance to do this for free.