Coronavirus is undoubtedly going to cause widespread economic harm and has the potential to reshape the world in which we live. The digital economy just got a huge shot in the arm at the expense of more traditional interaction as households across the country have been ordered to shelter-in-place or work from home.
For some, finding ways to fill up the ensuing extra time means binge-watching Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) or playing video games. I'd be lying if I said my time spent on these activities hasn't increased a bit in the last few weeks. But the increased time at home can also be a great opportunity to strengthen and forge more productive habits as well. Here are three activities to try while stuck at home.
1. "If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you look good."
Thanks go to my pops for that phrase. A phrase I heard often growing up, it simply means this: Exercise and physical activity are inseparable from how we feel about ourselves, and how we feel about ourselves can be infectious (the positive kind!).
Given the current state of affairs out there, spending some time every day to get in a workout -- even if it's only 15 minutes -- can do wonders for both our physical and emotional well-being. It isn't a cure for the woes many are experiencing, but it can help. And the resulting positive energy could rub off on others.
Plus, it's easier than ever to set up a workout routine. All one needs is an internet connection and a screen. Check out the free routines in the Nike (NYSE:NKE) Training Club app or the Planet Fitness (NYSE:PLNT) United We Move home work-in channel on YouTube.
2. Invest some intellectual time in yourself
Many small business owners and entrepreneurs would agree that often the best time to start a business is when the economy is down in the dumps. Consumer behavior gets disrupted, and some spare dollars that get shaken loose can get nabbed by upstarts looking to find their way in the business world. If you have an idea and a plan, some spare time at home could be used to plant some seeds for a future payoff.
Maybe starting a business isn't in your wheelhouse, but investing a few minutes each day in firing up the brain cells is a healthy activity. Starting a blog is another idea (my wife used a few days off in the last week to finally get hers live). Or if writing is out, there's always reading. Warren Buffett is famous for apportioning many hours of every day to reading books.
3. It's never too late to brush up on personal finance
And finally, since this is an investment and finance article, there's that dreaded and oft-ignored habit of giving your personal finances some TLC. But, if you're stuck at home, now's certainly an opportunity to do it.
With so many households confined to their homes, the likelihood of economic fallout is rising. If it's been a while, revisit your monthly budget. Review cash outflows from the last few months, and see if there are any areas to tighten up on expenses. If a layoff or outright job loss is, unfortunately, your situation, this goes without saying. Separate the "needs" from the "wants," prioritize the latter based on what's most important to you, and then start axing said "wants" at the bottom of the list.
But what about the check that is about to get cut and sent to most Americans? It's true, the federal government just approved a $2 trillion economic relief bill that equates to money getting sent to most households. For single filers, that means up to $1,200, up to $2,400 for joint filers, and an additional $500 for every child under 17. If not already earmarked for bills, those stimulus checks could -- at least in part -- be a jump-start on setting up an emergency fund.
Already have an emergency fund? Investing that money for future use is another option. While many are grappling with the question of whether to sell stocks, the right move -- for those who don't need the money for the long-term -- is actually the opposite. After big dips in the market, history says to start buying now. Timing doesn't need to be perfect either. Here's how the S&P 500 has fared since October 2007, the last peak before the beginning of the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
Put another way, the above chart shows that even buying high and then selling low some 12 years later was still quite profitable. Fool.com is awash in good ideas on where to invest. Even if it's a seemingly small amount, getting in the habit of investing now, when it feels all wrong, can be very rewarding further on down the road.