Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 1 December 2020

The corona cash crunch could hit you too

Whether you are financially secure or not, this crisis is about surviving the squeeze

Illustration by Gary Clement
Illustration by Gary Clement

Coronavirus is a great leveller – everyone is at risk, not only from being infected, but from being affected financially. How much depends on various factors. The way we experience the measures put in place to protect and preserve the many will also vary.

Here's what I see: there are two camps evolving. One camp is freaked out, cash-poor and totally dependent on cash flow. The other is literally swanning around at home without a money-related care.

This isn't about being 'wealthy' – having a good job, earning good money – when everything is fine. This is about cash in versus cash out.

Nima Abu Wardeh

A friend in Dubai shared that she is making the most of her downtime – as a busy professional, she rarely has this gift. She is sitting on a cash cushion and could retire right now if she wanted to (she is in her forties).

Another is at home wondering when he will be paid, so that he can in turn pay his bills.

The self-employed are especially at risk. An entrepreneur promoting a virtual event she had created for her community was criticised for the fact that some of the workshops would be at a charge. Her response in a post says it all: 'I am not a mercenary! I am self-employed, have lost my biggest client and have bills to pay.”

But as the crisis prolongs, even the swanning-at-home camp could find themselves in the same corona cash crunch as the freaked-out camp.

In a crisis, cash flow is king and queen. Most of us need to earn.

This isn't about being 'wealthy' – having a good job, earning good money – when everything is fine. This is about cash in versus cash out. You might earn a lot, but have nothing coming in right now. It's about surviving the squeeze.

I know many clever professionals who are in deep trouble, because they can’t get access to money in a timely manner to pay all sorts of bills. It's happening everywhere.

We continue to see an incredible number of people signing on for unemployment benefits across the world.

At the same time, we are seeing a growing chasm between the haves and have-nots.

Scotland's chief medical officer resigned earlier this week over going against her own lockdown advice and visiting her second home twice.

In France, there is a backlash against author Leila Slimani, who won the Prix Goncourt for her bestselling novel Lullaby. She has been sharing her experiences in prose since sequestering herself and her children in their countryside second home, having left Paris on March 13. Descriptions of dawn, dew and budding plants have not endeared her to the many.

She and fellow French acclaimed writer Marie Darrieussecq have been accused of elitism and compared to Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France before the 1787–1799 French Revolution, who was seen as oblivious to the woes of the masses in France at the time of the bread shortage of 1775.

I won't delve too much into this debate. Rather, I'm drilling down to people in the city around you, behind closed doors. Many are facing a significant loss of income and some are unable to work due to illness, but many more will struggle to maintain their current earnings as the economy shuts down.

Which tale mirrors yours?

Yes, you might benefit from a reduction in school fees or protection from being turfed out of your home (for the time being) but there are other bills to pay. Food for a start. And what about various insurance policies you have? Some are mandatory in the UAE. What happens if you can't keep the premiums paid up?

The point is not to scare you – many of us are pretty scared already – it's to anchor you in what you can do.

If there is anything you do not need to spend on, this is the time to stop. Even seemingly small amounts, like subscriptions and memberships. Just do it. Be ultra-frugal with everything possible.

Knuckle down to figuring out what you can control and how you can earn in the current climate.

At the end of all this, you might be itching to get out and spend/party/live for the moment in a big way.

Before you do, think of which camp you'd rather be in right now: the one enjoying the downtime or the one panicked about cash flow. And act accordingly.

Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist, blogger and founder of S.H.E. Strategy. Share her journey on finding-nima.com

Updated: April 9, 2020 08:45 AM

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