Just two months ago, I was enjoying a vacation in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The BBC News top of the hour report consistently led with news about a virus in China. Truthfully, I got an ominous feeling as they talked about it.
Little did I know the very exhibit floor where I signed books during February’s Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting — at McCormick Place convention center in Chicago —would, in April, be a temporary hospital for those battling this same virus. So much can happen in two short months.
The news media reports are mind numbing. All the information, webinars and podcasts that are now streaming 24 hours a day can be overwhelming. Suddenly, everyone is working from home, using bandwidth to get a message out.
Now is the time to be practical, sensible and level-headed while you are observing social distancing and treating only emergency and urgent cases. Here are a few simple vital safeguards you can implement now to help protect your financial health:
1. Call your creditors. Although many businesses have reached out to their clients, many have not. You may not get what you need if you do not ask. Yours will not be the only phone call they will get to ask for mercy. For example, I was surprised today by an email from Allstate, stating that the company was going to provide a “payback” for not driving our cars. It will equal about 15 percent of our monthly April and May bills. Proactive. I am impressed.
2. Mind your expenses. If you have automatic drafts for your dental school loans, make sure you have ensured they do not continue if it is a federally funded loan. These payments should be delayed according to the CARES Act. Do not overbuy what you truly do not need. It is the reason there is a toilet paper shortage.
3. Loans are still based on your credit rating and debt ratio. Keep your loans paid, even if you are only paying the minimums. Yes, it is emotionally difficult to pay bills when there is no revenue. Yes, we will all be tapping our savings. Pay some portion anyway.
4. Use this time to analyze and organize. Forget trying to make plans about when you are going to return. Instead, ask yourself, what needs to change in your practice? What systems do you lack? Have you created a checklist of things that must happen before you start back to work? Do an inventory of your office — what supplies are essential to your return? You may not be able to order them now, but talk to your suppliers about timing and understand you are one of 200,000 dentists in the U.S.
5. Be kind. This has been a difficult time for everyone. Be compassionate toward everyone because we are all in this together. Our financial landscape will look much different in the immediate future, and we are mostly stressed as a result. Oh, and then there is this virus that is threatening us and the ones we love. Take a deep breath and then let your words be a soothing balm to those that look up to you.
These are just a few recommendations. They are not specific to any one practice, but relevant to us all. My heart goes out to the industry that I have spent the last 24 years with. Be safe and be smart. And, if I can help, call me. I’m not going anywhere!