In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp take a look at some past depressions to put the current slowdown into perspective. Robert has some great suggestions on how you can do some financial housekeeping during this period. Learn about some resources you can tap if you are stretched for money. They share some great resources for entertainment and much more.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on March 20, 2020.

Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers, I'm Alison Southwick, and I'm joined, as always, by Robert Broke-Open-the-Piggy-Bank" personal finance expert here at the Motley Fool. Hey, Bro.

Robert Brokamp: Hello, Alison.

Southwick: Well, in this week's episode, we're going to wallow in some depressing labor and market statistics before offering you advice on how to cut costs and where you can go for sources of income when your emergency fund runs out. All that and more on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.

Brokamp: So Allison, what's up?

Southwick: Literally nothing, Bro. Nothing is up. Yes, it's time, once again, to talk about the week that was. And just so you guys know, we're coming to you from our houses. So Rick is in his house, Bro is in his house, I'm in my house. Hopefully it sounds OK; if not, you can have your money back, I don't know. Okay, all right.

Well, let's first take a look at market volatility. And we're coming to you, today, it is Friday, the Friday before your Tuesday that this airs, just so you know. So everything -- again, disclaimer -- could be totally different in the future where you are, listener. But, yeah, wow! Market volatility has really been the story here. We're up one day, we're down the next, we're up, we're down, it's just a roller coaster ride. In fact, it turns out that the VIX, which is basically a measure of volatility, and what is it called? The fear --

Brokamp: It's sometimes called the fear index.

Southwick: The fear index, so great. So yeah, that's cool. It closed at its highest level in history on Monday, the 16, when U.S. shares recorded the steepest decline since Black Monday, of course, being the stock market crash of 1987. The VIX climbed to 82.69, topping its high of about 80 in 2008. I don't know a lot about the VIX, but I guess the higher the number, the worse it is, the higher the fear. Is that how it works, Bro?

Brokamp: Yes, that's it.

Southwick: Yeah, so anyway. All this up and down is making me motion sick, and some experts are even saying that we're in a recession already, but I'll let Bro get to that later.

All right, let's move on and talk about job losses. We're all being told to hunker down and not leave the house, which means many industries that rely on us leaving the house are hurting and already cutting hours and laying people off. Of course, initially, the hardest-hit are restaurants, retail, and travel. It's so painful to read all the articles about the job losses that are going on out there.

Brokamp: It really is. And it's sort of like being on the beach and just seeing a tidal wave coming. You know it's going to hit.

Southwick: Yeah. So according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, they estimate 4 million U.S. restaurant workers are going to face the risk of layoffs within weeks as more cities and states shut down restaurants. Marriott International, for example, they said they would be furloughing tens of thousands of employees worldwide. The U.S. Travel Association is projecting that 4.6 million jobs will be lost this year in the travel industry alone. The Labor Department reported that about 281,000 Americans filed first-time claims for unemployment, that's up 33%. According to Economic Policy Institute, they estimate that 3 million jobs will be lost by summer. And according to the UN's International Labor Organization, they think that 24.7 million jobs globally are in jeopardy.

Okay, those are just a handful of the stats I found, but good news, I guess: economic stimulus is coming. Again, this is Friday and by the time you're listening to this, the government has said that they'll have a deal to provide economic stimulus to help individuals and businesses. At this moment, I believe the package includes $200 billion in loans to airlines and other distressed industries, $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses, and recovery rebates of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, but it's going to depend on income. I believe there's going to be some income thresholds and maybe some other little things.

Brokamp: Yeah, income thresholds based on 2018, by the way, which is kind of ridiculous given the fact that you might have made money in 2018, but you're getting laid off this year, you probably could use some money. But anyways, that's one of those things that might get worked out and might be worked out by the time this episode actually airs.

Southwick: Yeah. I guess the bottom line is, and this is not going to be news to anyone, things are pretty bad, and they're going to get worse before they get better. And I hate that I sound like the Awfulizer here because that is not my role on this podcast at all, that is your job, Bro, and I'm very mad about having to take it on.

Brokamp: I'm sorry about that too, but desperate times call for desperate measures or something like that. So let me just start a little bit about recession. So at this point, we are, I would say, almost definitely at the doorstep of a recession, if not already in one. And some folks are already saying we are. Bank of America, just this past Thursday, said that we are.

And just to give you an idea of what they're projecting, that they're projecting that this quarter, the second quarter of 2020, that the economy will shrink anywhere from 6.5% to maybe as high as 15%. To give you an idea of where that falls: Historically, the worst quarterly drop since World War II was maybe 10%, and I think that was in the 50s. The worst quarter during the Great Recession was 8%. So if we go above 10%, it'll be the worst quarterly drop.

Now, a lot of people think that the definition of a recession is two quarters of declining economic output, but that's actually not true. The folks who actually decide whether we have a recession or not or whether we are in a recession, it's an organization called the National Bureau of Economic Research, the NBER. It's basically an organization of, like, 1,400 economists and academics. They're the folks who say when a recession begins, whether we're in one, and when it ends. Here's part of their official definition: it's "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production and wholesale/retail sales."

So if you look at all those things, pretty much all of those are going to drop or are already dropping, so many people will think a recession is already in the bag. So what does that mean? Well, just to give you an idea of historically how many times we've had a recession, the NBER does have stats back to the 1850s. We've had 33 recessions. On average, we have one every 4.9 years. It's been 11 years since we've had one, so to a certain degree, we're kind of due. On average, they last 17.5 months, but if you look at the recessions from the past 50 years, they've actually been shorter; they last about a year.

What happens to the stock market? Well, actually, we've already seen it. During a recession, the stock market drops anywhere from 20% to 40% to 50%. On average, 35%. As of this taping, the S&P 500 is down 30% already from Feb. 19. So it's possible that the worst is behind us. I'm sort of banking on that myself personally. The thing to know about it --

Southwick: ... Well, how do you mean, you're banking on that personally that the worst is behind us?

Brokamp: Well, because I'm putting the cash that I have slowly back into the market. Yeah, so every major down day, I've bought either companies or ETFs. Leading up to this point, maybe a few years ago, I had stopped reinvesting the dividends on my stocks, so that I could let cash accumulate. Just the other day, I reversed that. So now I'm reinvesting all my dividend, so that I can gradually buy in. And that's an important thing to do now, because the end of March/beginning of April is a new quarter, and that's when a lot of companies do pay their dividends. So if you need cash, don't do that, stop reinvesting the dividends, but if you want a way to gradually move into the market, make sure you're reinvesting your dividends. And for many discount brokers, you have to actively do that; the default is not dividend reinvestment. So that's just a little something there.

Southwick: And I know we're not in the business of calling bottoms, but are you saying that you think the worst is over?

Brokamp: No, absolutely not.

Southwick: [laughs] Because I don't think so either, but it makes it sound like, you're like, "Oh, it's time to hop into the market."

Brokamp: Right. No. But So let me give you this one thing that's important to know about how the stock market reacts with recession. So the stock market is a leading indicator. It tends, historically, to start going down six months before the recession, and it starts to bottom six months after the recession has started. This is a whole different story. I would say, every recession, every bear market is slightly different. And this one is extraordinary. It's the fastest time we've ever had from going from the peak of a bull market to a bear market. We've never had a global pandemic like this that is affecting the stock market. You could, if you wanted to, look back and see like the 1918 Spanish Flu, but things are so different now, I'm not sure you can correlate today's stock market to what stocks were doing then.

But regardless, I think things are sped up. So like I said, usually the stock market starts to fall six months before a recession, but this one happened so fast I don't think the stock market had the time. And it's certainly possible that the stock market will rebound faster this time too. I don't know if it will, but if you wait until the recession is over to get back in the market, you're going to miss a lot of the recovery. So that's why I'm just gradually moving into the market at this point.

So generally speaking, historically looking back to the 50s, it takes about one and a half years or so for the market to go down and come back up again to reach its peak, but if you stretch that out to back to the 1920s, including the Great Depression, bear markets last about three to four years for it to go down and come back up again. And the two bear markets we had this century, it took more than five years for the stock market. So that all goes back to that classic Foolish line, "Any money you need in the next three to five years should be in cash."

A few other things that happen during a recession: Rates go down. Bonds go up, safe bonds go up, so mostly treasuries; if you have any corporate bonds, if you've had any junk bonds, you've seen actually your bonds go down a little bit, but still, they held up better than stocks. Inflation goes up, historically, during a recession inflation goes up 2.5%. During the Great Recession it doubled from 5% to 10%. This one is going to be extraordinary. I think you're going to see unemployment certainly over 10%, how long will that last? I don't know, but I think we're going to see very high unemployment very quickly.

If there's a silver lining to a recession, it's that prices go down. Stores start offering low prices, trying to get people to buy. Stores are closed right now, so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out, but anything you can buy online, especially a big-ticket item, now might be a good time to do that. I'm talking about things like automobiles, appliances, things like that. You couple that with the lower rates that you have on borrowing money, it actually could be a good time if you have the money and you're in a firm financial situation to look at replacing some sort of big-ticket item.

So that's not all great news, but fortunately --

Southwick: I know, it's not all great news. Oh, gee. So close though.

Brokamp: -- that is less-than-awesome news. What should you do now? Well, here is my overarching suggestion. At this time of year, something that we usually do at The Motley Fool when we're actually in the office is something we call our Financial Health Day, and we've talked about it on the show before. But it's basically where we, as a company, take a whole day off to focus on our finances. It involves classes. It involves bringing in outside experts. It involves making appointments with our internal financial planners. But really what we just emphasize is that people should just spend that day accomplishing important financial tasks.

Many of us are now working at home. Many of us are working at home during normal business hours, which is a good time to have your own financial health day, because a lot of things you have to accomplish require you talking to someone who's working 9 to 5. It requires having your own personal paperwork lying around, and it might involve you having a conversation with your spouse, and if you're both working at home, this is a good time to do it.

So I think everyone at some point in the next week or two should take a financial health day and focus on their finances. What should you do on your financial health day? Here are nine suggestions.

So first of all, buckle down with a budget. Many of us are good budgeters; many of us once upon a time had a budget and we never stuck to it. Many of us have heard of things, like, Personal Capital, Mint, a service called You Need a Budget, and we thought, "Maybe I should sign up?" But we haven't gotten around to do that. Now is the perfect time to do that.

See where your money is going. And I think you should break it up into three general categories. Basically, your required expenses -- what are things you have to pay -- the things that are good to have, and then luxuries. Go to your expenses now, break them up into the categories, because if you do hit some sort of economic snag, if you or your spouse are laid off or your hours are cut back or your income is slashed -- you're hearing more and more nowadays about some people who are getting their compensation cut -- you know which expenses you can cut out pretty quickly.

So No. 2, cut costs. Of course, you don't have to wait. You could start doing that now. In January, we did a whole episode called Marie Kondo Your Money and talked about different ways to sort of clean up your finances. One of the suggestions, and I'll just repeat, is that, just take a look at your bank statements, look at your credit card statements. At the end of the year, you got probably some sort of breakdown of where your money goes. Take a look at that, find the things that you don't need anymore, and cut them out.

A few other tips that some Fools have passed us is, there are some Fools who are very big fans of Honey, which is just an extension you put on your browser, and when you search to buy something, it pops up and tells you whether you're getting the best price. There's the classic, renegotiating your bills. I think if you're in a difficult financial situation, you'll find that some companies are going to be a little more lenient or more willing to, if not lower your costs, put off the payments. You've already seen some providers saying that if you can't pay your bills, we'll give you another month or two or three.

Southwick: Right. Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, a lot of these businesses are cutting people a break, a lot of power [companies], like, utilities too.

Brokamp: Yeah. So definitely look into that. Sam Whiteside, our Internal Wellness Fool, says that she annually gives her insurance company and her apartment rental company a call to see if there are ways to save money, do some shopping around, things like that.

Southwick: One thing that I personally have noticed is that it can be pretty boring being at home all the time, which means that I may be going to get some idle thumbs and go to Amazon and maybe do some shopping that I shouldn't do. And so one piece of advice I thought was really great came from Doug Reale; you might remember him, he was on the show. He offered his advice on using the website Personal Capital for tracking your finances. But his advice was to use the "grandma test" and he wrote, ask myself, "If I had to explain this purchase to my grandmother, what it is, why I needed it, how it makes my life better, what would her reaction be? Would I be embarrassed when she scolds me or rolled her eyes?" If it doesn't pass the grandma test, I don't buy it. And I thought that was just a great piece of advice, because so much of being bored can often mean spending money needlessly.

Brokamp: And I can think of instances in real life when my grandmother did scold me for money I spent, so that really hits home for me. [laughs]

Southwick: Oh, dish, like what was it, do you remember?

Brokamp: [laughs] Well, one thing, for example, I used to practice -- back in the days when you actually developed film and you didn't have digital cameras, so I would fancy myself a sort of an artistic photographer, so I took all these pictures. Of course, you had to then go pay to have them developed. I showed them to my grandmother, and her first reaction was, "How much did you have to pay for all that stuff?" Thanks for encouraging my artistic side, Grandma. By the way, it didn't occur to me that, I think we're actually, all of us, are now saving a good bit of money. Where we have this sort of enforced austerity, because we're not going out to eat, many of us have canceled our spring break plans. Our gym contacted us and said we're closing the gym, but we're not going to charge you. So this is a good time to build up some savings, because you're probably not spending as much as you used to, unless you are going on Amazon to allay your boredom.

All right. Let's move on to the things you should be doing on your financial health day. No. 3: Do your taxes. So more than 70% of taxpayers get a refund, and the average is almost $3,000. So if you are short on cash, do your taxes and get that refund.

Now, what if you owe taxes? Good news is, a recent bill has come out, it's likely going to be approved. You don't have to pay your taxes until July 15, but you should still do your taxes now to find out whether you're going to get money back or whether you're going to owe taxes. If you're going to owe taxes, you just don't have to file it till now.

Southwick: Obviously, things are all happening very fast, and so I would encourage all of our listeners to go ahead and fact check us, because it's possible that things could have changed in, I don't know, the next 30 minutes after we taped this.

Brokamp: Right, absolutely. No. 4, save more if you can. So if you are in a good financial situation, you've looked at your budget, you found ways to save some money. Maybe you are saving money because you're not going out to eat as much. Get that into a retirement account, get that into a college savings account. You still have time, actually, to contribute to an IRA for 2019. The deadline is tied to the filing deadline. So if they're moving the filing deadline to July 15, you have until then to contribute to your IRA for 2019, but don't wait if you have the money, because generally speaking, it's better to get money in sooner. That said, I'm not making a market call. I'm not saying that the market isn't going to go down.

Southwick: Bro called it, he called the bottom.

Brokamp: [laughs] Called the bottom, but if you have a long time until retirement, the sooner you get the money in, the better, as far as I'm concerned, and that's certainly what I'm doing. I actually was just calculating -- when is my next 401(k) contribution, when is it going in -- because I do want that money to get in sooner rather than later.

The other thing to consider now on your financial health day is whether a Roth makes sense for you. We've talked before about how, historically, we're at very low rates. A Roth might make sense now, because you're paying taxes today, but it's tax free in the future. If you've ever thought of converting to a Roth, it might make sense now, because your account is down, convert it while it's down. You do have to pay taxes on the converted amount, but we're at historically low tax rates -- and if something else happens this year where maybe you don't have as much income, so you'll be in a lower tax rate -- if you can bite the bullet on the taxes on that conversion, you'll be happy you did it in retirement.

No. 5: Submit receipts for reimbursements and your flexible spending. So maybe you have some business expenses or something that your employer will reimburse you on. Flexible spending, get those receipts in, get that cash back as soon as possible, especially if you think you're going to need cash in the future.

And that brings us to No. 6, which is review your work-related benefits. If you and your spouse still have jobs, take a look at everything that is offered. You want to make sure you're taking advantage of the full 401(k) match and the flexible spending. Those are the obvious ones, but there are other benefits you may not know about. So you might have an EAP, an Employee Assistance Plan. They often provide some free financial counseling. Many companies do have, sort of, an emergency fund for employees.

We at The Motley Fool have a program called Fools in Need that employees can voluntarily donate money to. And then if you're a Fool employee and you're in some sort of financial hardship, you can apply to it and get some money that way. And there are all kinds of other benefits that you may just have not thought about, so now is a good time to look at everything that's being offered. And doing it during the day is a good time to reach out to the folks in your HR department to ask about them and see if there's something I'm missing.

No. 7: Perhaps refinance debt. And we've talked about this before. With interest rates going down, the rates on loans are going down. That said, if you've tried to refinance your mortgage, you're going to find that it's very difficult. I've tried to do it, and brokers are just swamped, swamped, so much though that mortgage rates have actually come up a bit because they've now realized they don't have to offer such low rates to attract people, plus the up-front cost. I'm still waiting on one quote, I got one quote and the up-front costs were just ridiculous. It wasn't worth refinancing.

But you should do it if your rate is 4% or higher. At least you should look into it. And there are other loans you should consider refinance -- if you can refinance an auto loan, for example. You could also refinance student loans. And if you're in a situation where you do have significant student debt and you have a drop in income, you should consider doing one of the income-based repayment plans. They're a little complicated but what they do is they'll lower your payment. If your income drops significantly, you might want to look into that. A lot of rules about it, so to get information on that, go to

All right, and No. 8: Turn dust collectors into cash cows. We've talked about this before. Basically, sell stuff you don't need. Many people are sitting around at home, sitting in their basements, sitting in rooms that they haven't used before. Just look around where you are now. You probably see stuff you do not need anymore.

Southwick: What if it's not my stuff, because can I get rid of my husband's stuff or my daughter's stuff?

Brokamp: Wait till that person goes for a walk then donate it.

Southwick: So easy to get rid of other people's stuff in your house.

Brokamp: [laughs] Obviously, if the economy is going down, you may not get the same price as you could have in the past, you may not have as many buyers. But still, if you have a lot of stuff laying around in your house. And I'm looking around my office, I have so many, so many books. I have two guitars, I don't need two guitars. So there are plenty of things. Rick is objecting, of course. [laughs]

Southwick: Rick would like to adopt one of your guitars. He's like, "I'll make a good home for your guitar."

Brokamp: Okay. And the last, I save the most depressing for last, and that is, do all the death-related stuff. In other words, estate planning, getting a will, reviewing your account beneficiaries, making sure you have life insurance, you've all heard this before, but the majority of people don't have an estate plan, the majority of people don't have life insurance or enough life insurance. If you're the household CFO, create that letter of instructions for your spouse and your heirs about where all the accounts are and the insurance policies are and important passwords and where you've hidden your little piles of gold and cash and all that stuff.

Take care of all that stuff. That obviously is not something that's necessarily going to prop up your finances today, but it will help you and your family later on in case it's ever needed.


Southwick: All right, Bro, what if you have depleted your emergency fund and you need a larger amount of cold hard cash?

Brokamp: Right. I'm going to go through some things that we talked about in the Jan, 22, 2019, episode real quickly. I'll cover them again. Go back to that episode if you want more details on it. Just anecdotally, that was also the episode where we paid our tribute to John Bogle, because he had just passed away. And I thought, man, this would've been a great time to have John Bogle alive and pass along some wisdom. So I'm just saying, I miss the guy. He was such a good guy.

Southwick: Oh, if only he'd written a book or something like that.

Brokamp: [laughs] ... or something like that. I'll tell you what, you know what I'm waiting for? I'm waiting for Warren Buffett. So Warren Buffett, during times like these, always comes out, and he goes on, like, 60 Minutes or he writes for The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, we haven't heard from him yet. He's in good shape; I did research it. He's working from home. He says drinking all his Coke is keeping him healthy. I kind of think, what he's waiting for, because he's got over a $100 billion in cash, he's waiting for the time to get in, and then he's going to come out and say something. I'm kind of hoping, as a Berkshire shareholder, that that's why we haven't heard from him yet, but we'll see.

Anyway, so here are some places to go if you've run out of cash. Sort of your backup resources. So No. 1, sell investments in regular taxable accounts. Ideally, you've bought into stocks for the long-term, but sometimes the long-term becomes very short-term based on what fate gives you. Certainly, nowadays, we talked about this in the last episode, is a time to consider some tax loss harvesting? The losses offset gains and then they can offset ordinary income, $3,000 a year, and you can carry those losses forward. So that's one place.

No. 2, credit cards. We don't like credit cards, generally speaking, but they are an excellent backup source. Interest rates have come down. Credit cards, it always takes a little longer, but the average rate now is 16.8%, still high, but it's the first time it's been below 17% in a couple of years. The other good thing about credit cards is you don't have to pay it off immediately. You can pay the minimum until you're back on your feet. Again, you're going to accumulate more interest, but still, it's something to consider.

Southwick: You can get a deal where, for the first year, you aren't paying interest on your bill.

Brokamp: Right. It's possible. And certainly, if you still have your job. I mean, one of the tricky things, and it'll be true of a couple of other things that I'm going to bring up here, is that trying to get a new card or a new loan can be difficult after you've lost your job. So if you think that you want to look for a new credit card or get out a new loan. And let's talk about the next one, home equity loans, you think you might need that because you're worried about your job, but you still have your job, now is probably the time to do it. And whenever you apply for any sort of new credit, if you refinance a loan or you open a new loan, that's a ding on your credit score. You want to, sort of, group them all together if you decide that I'm going to try to get some new loans or something, because if you have many hits on your credit record in a short period of time, it's only considered like one big hit rather than if you spread it out over time. That will lower your credit score more because that's telling the credit reporting agencies you might be in some trouble, and that will lower your score. So just send anything related to applying for a new loan, do it all generally within a short period of time.

All right. So which brings us to the next one, home equity line of credit. The good thing about these is that you're borrowing against your home equity. The interest rates are relatively low, the average rate now is between 5% or 6%. It does require you putting your home as collateral, and you do have to apply. There might be some up-front costs. So it's not something to do lightly. Sometimes you can get a lump sum, sometimes you just open that line of credit and you can write a check on it. So again, you might want to do it now. You don't have to actually use it, but you know it's already open and ready to go if you need it.

No. 4 would be to borrow from employer-sponsored retirement accounts: your 401(k), 403(b), Thrift Savings Plan. If your plan allows it, you can borrow up to $50,000 or your vested balance, whichever is less. Good thing about these is that the interest rate is very low, generally 1% above prime. Prime now is 2.25%. And that interest, you're paying it to yourself, so that's good too. You just want to have a plan for paying it back, because if you can't pay it back, it's considered distribution, and you pay taxes and penalties. By the way, one of the things that was included in the bill from the Senate is that if you experience a certain hardship, you can take out $100,000 from your 401(k) and avoid the penalties. It's not law yet, but I'm just throwing that out there as something to keep an eye on if you do find yourself in trouble.

Southwick: That's a lot.

Brokamp: That's a lot. No. 5: Withdraw money from an IRA. It's very easy to get money out of an IRA. The consequences of taking money out of an IRA depends on the type of IRA. The Roth IRA is actually pretty handy. The contributions come out tax and penalty free. That's the first money that comes out, very easy to take that money out. You take money out of a traditional IRA, generally, you're going to pay taxes and the 10% penalty if you're not 59.5.

However, for both types of IRAs, if you take money out, but then you get it back in within 60 days, no taxes, no penalty. It's considered a rollover, even though you took it out and put it back in the exact same account. You can only do that once every 12 months, but it's sort of like a short-term loan from your IRA if you need it.

And then the last one is borrowing money from family and friends. That's pretty good: No credit check, probably no interest, but mixing money with family and friends can get tricky. So it could be awkward, but it might be the best recourse given your situation. It just depends on your situation.

So those are my suggestions for what to do during these very distressing times. How to spend your financial health day. But we figure that you, dear listeners, have your own tips, tricks, and strategies, and actually we'd love to hear them. So email your suggestions and recommendations to [email protected].

Southwick: Maybe we'll read them on the show.

Brokamp: You'll be famous to dozens of people; dozens and dozens.

Southwick: All right. Well, before we go, let's end on a high note, huh? So there is a lot of really sad news out there right now. And you've got a lot of time out there to consume all of that really, really sad news. And so maybe you need a break, so who wants to go first with our recommendation this week to help people? Bro does not want to go first. Okay, I'm going to go first.

So last week, I recommended learning -- what, did I recommend learning to play the ukulele or guitar or something?

Brokamp: Yes, you did.

Southwick: I did. Solid. This week, I'm going to recommend a couple of podcasts that are light and delightful and I really love them. So the first one I want to recommend is Something True, and it's a podcast that takes stories from history that are not very well known and tells them in a really entertaining way. I will warn you that the podcast does swear now and then. They like to use, drop a strategically funny F. bomb now-and-then, so don't listen to it with the kids, and if you don't like swearing, maybe it's not your cup of tea, but it's a really good podcast. Something True.

And then the other one I want to recommend is Everything Is Alive, it's basically almost like an NPR-style show where they're interviewing inanimate objects. And so it's the sweetest little show. It's just sweet and calm and charming. And one of my favorite episodes is with a lamppost. Her name is Maeve and she's a lamppost in, like, Brooklyn. And they ask her what she does all day? And she likes to -- it's so sweet -- she likes to watch movies, she can look in the window of an apartment and they're watching movies, and her favorite movie is Singin' in the Rain. Well, since she's never heard it, she thinks that the movie is about a man who's fallen in love with a lamppost. It's so sweet. It's just the sweetest little podcast.

So Something True for our history fans out there that aren't afraid of a swear word. And then Everything Is Alive for everyone else. It's just a sweet, charming little podcast.

Rick Engdahl: I listen to both of those on your recommendation, so those --

Southwick: ... Aren't they great?

Engdahl: Yeah. If you want, like, an earnest, feel-good, you know, just feel-good-about-humanity podcast, add to your list here, Alan Alda's Clear and Vivid. He interviews people about empathy and communication and it's just very lovely. In fact, he did one recently with Dr. Fauci about the coronavirus, and even that was more uplifting than most news. But listen to his interview with Sarah Silverman is a great one to start with, maybe it's one of the earlier ones. And just anybody, you can look down the list of his guests, Paul McCartney, he did, recently, a really great interview with Paul McCartney about songwriting. And Alan Alda is just a wonderful person to listen to in a conversation, so I'll add that to your list.

Southwick: Great. Love it. All right, who's going next?

Engdahl: As long as I'm here, I'll say, there's a lot of people out there, artists right now are just converting everything they do to online. And so there's a lot of, like, live concerts and things like that that people are doing, and that's kind of a fun thing to tune into. And there's a site called, and that one is, it basically hosts concerts. So they're not recorded, they're not streamed on YouTube or anything, it's a one-time live event, you have to be there at the time when it's on. So it's kind of like going to concerts. It's kind of a cool concept, cool idea, you can go see live concerts online.

And as a little bonus, one of our very own Fool employees, Burke Ingraffia, he's doing a live concert on March 26 at 6:00 p.m., and he's releasing his album, and he's a kind of jazzy songwriter, a really talented guy, has a real fun song called "Checks and Balances," which you may have heard on YouTube Live and stuff that we're doing right now, that's kind of music that they play as we're waiting for the feed to start, stuff like that. So anyway, great songwriter, and he's doing a Stageit concert March 26, and check it out. Just go to and search "Burke," and his name will pop-up on the list.

Brokamp: I have Burke's CD right behind me. We're doing Zoom when we record this episode. He's right there. So second the recommendation for Burke. By the way, as we --

Southwick: [laughs] Without the context of knowing you have a bookshelf behind you, it's just kind of funny/ "His CD is right behind me." Wherever I go, it's always right behind me.

Engdahl: Maybe I'll use his song as music on the show today, so people will hear it there. You will have heard by now, people.

Brokamp: [laughs] So I was doing some reading about Dr. Fauci, by the way. I assume you've seen him on the news and all that. You want to take a guess how old he is?

Engdahl: He's in the 70s, I think.

Southwick: Oh, I'm going to go over, I guess.

Brokamp: So 79 years old. So first of all, I think that's impressive, because the guy is sharp, and it sort of goes along with my previous recommendations of maybe people shouldn't be retiring at 65. And you look at a guy like that, the day he turns 80 is Christmas Eve, which brings us to my recommendations. So there was an article in House Beautiful by Nathalie Kirby, and she said, "People are putting their Christmas lights back up to spread cheer amid coronavirus scare." And I just love this idea. So this weekend, I'm going to see about putting up some Christmas lights outside my house, and I was listening to Christmas music last night as well.

Southwick: Any excuse, Bro, any excuse.

Brokamp: [laughs] Any excuse. Last night was the last night of winter, so I closed it out by listening to Christmas music. All right. My other recommendation is an article on The headline is, "Here are 450 Ivy League courses you can take online right now for free." It's written by Dhawal Shah, who's the Founder of, which is another place where you can go get free courses.

Basically, you'd think, name the Ivy League school and they have a free class that they're offering online. These are these massive open online courses otherwise known as MOOCs. And it's covering everything from economics to history to sociology. Check it out. I'm sure you're going to find at least one course that you might be interested in.

And then finally, I know a lot of us are working from home, might be listening to music to drown out the sounds of the kids and the dogs. If you're like me and you like classical music, my recommendation is an album called Romances for Violin and Harp. Two folks, Andrés Cárdenes and Gretchen Van Hoesen of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. My wife turned me on to this because she was at a concert in orchestra and they were performing live on the local public radio station, and I love it. So if you're looking for just some calm music to play in the background while you're working, Romances for Violin and Harp, available on Spotify.

Southwick: Well, there you have it. So our advice for getting through these rough times, including financial and otherwise, always holiday related when it comes to Robert Brokamp, so.

Brokamp: [laughs] Merry Christmas, everybody!

Southwick: And always music related when it comes to Rick Engdahl. You guys are on brand. All right. Well, our email is [email protected]. We're going to have Jason Moser, I was going to say, in the studio, but, no, we're going to have him [laughs] beaming to you from his house on our next mailbag episode next week. So again, send your email, questions to [email protected]. Also, Bro wants you to send over your own personal tips, tricks, advice, guidance for how you're managing your money during these troubling times. Also please just send him your holiday traditions, too, because that'll just make him happy as well.

All right. The show is edited -- did I say "remotely" yet? -- by Rick Engdahl.

Brokamp: That's what came to mind for me.

Southwick: There you go. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!