The New Normal? Hardly.

1204434766I really don’t like trite terms which become overused quickly. The one that leads the pack for me this week is new normal to describe the current situation. There’s nothing “normal” about it and surely, we all hope it is at most a “temporary normal”, even if the situation lasts weeks, or even months.

We all pray that the country (and world) moves through the current situation with the smallest impact on lives, but the growing stats are awful. And living in the Northeast makes the situation doubly worrisome.

But assuming the country moves through the situation, I think there will be a lasting impact in several ways. It’s the lasting impact will in fact be the “new normal”. Some of these are obvious and some are merely acceleration of existing trends, but here’s my 2 cents (now worth 1.6 cents given the state of my investments)

1. Avoiding large crowds

There will be an understandable reluctance to congregate in large crowds. Concerts, sporting events, etc. will be impacted. I love going to Yankees games, but you won’t see me there this year (or longer). Similarly I can’t imagine going to another Dead concert, though the next bad one would be a first.

2. Health/Hygiene

People will be doubly concerned about touching items, disinfecting. Elbow bumps will replace handshakes. Extended hand washing will be common. People will keep their distance and will be doubly cognizant of not invading the space of others.

3. Online purchases

Obviously, this was already a mega trend, but the growth of online purchases won’t decline in calmer days. The reason for being for a bricks and mortar store gets smaller depending on the category. And home food delivery which was still in its infancy will blossom.

4. Changing media usage

Streaming is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it already was up to 19% of video viewing in the 4th quarter. And March data shows 23%. But social distancing and being home bound has caused a greater appreciation of the depth and quality of streaming programming available. It’s a potpourri of re-runs of Friends and Office favorites, plus new content–Tiger King on Netflix and Hunters on Prime Video are 2 great “binge-worthy” series for the moment. At some point demand/need for multiple streaming services in a household will reach a ceiling, but as it does, the erosion of traditional and cable TV viewing will continue. And while much streaming is add-on to existing cable viewing, cord cutting will only increase.

5. Online education

Academia was already heading for a day of reckoning, and that day may be here. The notion of $60-70,000/year college educations at liberal arts colleges already was making no financial sense, particularly for a non-top tier school. Online education is hardly a collegiate “experience” but it gets the job done. Expect more.

6. Remote work

Companies are figuring it out. I am a “being there” kind of guy in general and believe in the power of face to face communications. But clearly our remote work skills have increased. And this phenomena won’t go away when the pandemic subsides.

7. Frugality

The longer-term impact on the economy has yet to be felt but it’s obvious that, stimulus or not, a tougher road is ahead both for business and the average consumer. Short term stipends for most Americans and extended unemployment insurance is surely helpful, but is a band aid. The issue that business will face is reluctance for consumer spending. Surely discretionary items will be delayed/cancelled, expensive vacations postponed, autos sales will decline, etc. All the things one expects from a recession.

8. Consumer confidence decline

Confidence in our federal government is waning. The current administration has attacked our government from day one, dismantled protections and programs, and is now left with little infrastructure to address the crises that we are facing. And others will follow. Environmental issues remain critical and they merely lack a focal point like COVID-19 does. But climate change will actually be more threatening over time. I don’t think we’ll wake up to this one, because it the ultimate impact be an increased series of events that devastates parts of the world but not others.

In general I think the new normal will actually be the era which we will enter if/when the current pandemic is over and we breathe a sigh of relief. Expect frugality, worry and overall societal angst in the short term as the new normal. Over time this may dissipate. I hope we are more prepared the next time.

More Strumings


  1. hillary baker says:

    Very well said Lonnie. Totally realistic and very very scary. Thank you for not sugar-coating anything.

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