Grandchildren, Risk/Reward, the New Normal

Grandchildren, Risk/Reward, the New Normal

by Doyle Ranstrom on May 9, 2020

Before my first grandchild was born, friends told me grandchildren were amazing.  They were almost right, they are beyond amazing.  My oldest grandchild is five and a half and her little sister and the first cousin are both two. Since the oldest was born, I worked my travel schedule so I could see her and then all of them at least every other month and most often monthly.  This is the longest I have ever gone without seeing them and it makes me very sad.  Sometimes, I just sit by myself and think about all the times I have spent with them.  It helps but also hurts.  

Kids are great and we have two wonderful kids with great spouses.  But let's be honest.  When they are growing up, they are a lot of work and expensive.  When they become teenagers, they go to the dark side.  Teenagers are a lot like those in our country who blame the government for all of our problems, but when there is a problem, they want a bailout.  

Though rare, sometimes the grandkids are not great, and I just hand them to their parents.  Also, I believe changing dirty diapers is a bonding opportunity that should be reserved for parents or grandmothers.  However, a couple of times I had to step up to the plate.  About a year ago, one of the now two-year-olds had what was an impressive movement for such a tiny little person.  I looked at her and said, "seriously, you could not wait another thirty minutes until your parents were home".  She looked at me and said, "dude, I am one year old and you have to do this".  Ok, she really did not say that out loud, but pretty sure she was thinking it.  

Today's question is "when will see my grandchildren next"?  I wish it was tomorrow, but with travel restrictions, I will have to wait longer.  In this new normal, a lot of us grandparents are asking this question.  

Professional financial planners like myself talk in terms of risk/reward.  How much risk does a person want to take for a reward and are there ways to insure the risk. In this new normal, how much risk do we wish to take to obtain a reward?  Be it work, shopping, eating out, sporting events, or travel, to name a few, there is risk and there is a reward.  Keep in mind this is not new, but we are more aware now.

Health care workers, service workers in grocery stores, and truckers are a few examples who have been taking a risk while many of us of practicing self-isolation and receiving the reward for those and other workers taking a risk. Obviously these workers are being paid, though in some cases not much, but they also know they are providing a necessary service.  Going forward, as the country begins to open up, for many, there is no choice, they have to work in high-risk environments to provide for themselves and their families.  

However, for others like myself, in this new normal, we are going to have to make multiple risk/reward choices.  Though very small in the scheme of things, one for me is spending time with my grandchildren.  There are two risks, me becoming infected while visiting them or me bringing the virus to them.  First of all, I will only visit them if their parents are agree it is acceptable.  Assuming they do, I will take the risk because the reward is priceless.  

When it comes to the pandemic, I only listen to infectious disease specialists and qualified public health officials.  Most of what I have read is eventually we will have a vaccine, but it will take time with the earliest being 2021.  Last week, I posted on social media a Ted Talk which discussed using A-I to help create a vaccine and that could speed up the process.  At the same time, it may take longer or there is the possibility the virus will mutate so fast a vaccine is not effective.  In the meantime, all of us who have not been exposed to the virus run the risk of becoming infected.

Some time ago, I listened to Dr. Larry Brilliant, a globally known infectious disease specialist, Ted Talk from 2006 entitled "My wish:  Help me stop pandemics."  When posted in April, I listened to his latest Ted Talk entitled "A global pandemic calls for global solutions".  In this recent Talk, Dr. Brilliant says social distancing is working, but it does not reduce the total number of people infected, but does, as has been stated many times, flattens the curve to increase the health care system's ability to treat individuals infected.  In a very recent virtual check-up with my nephrologist, he said the same thing.  This is important to understand.  Until there is a vaccine, each of us will continue to run the risk of being infected and we have to evaluate this against the rewards of how we live our daily lives.

Again, for many, probably the majority, there is no choice, they have to work and accept any accompanying risks for the reward of an income.  But for many like me including workers who can work from home or other low-risk environments, we will be making risk/reward decisions every day.  It is important we are honest about this and not blame others for our decisions or consequences.  
Another question haunts me every day.  Did I let my granddaughters down?  As an employer, financial planner, and consumer of health care, I knew two things about health care in the US.  

  1. One, health care workers at all levels are driven to be both compassionate and excellent at their jobs.  
  2. Two, the US's approach to health care is expensive, inefficient, and broken in many ways.  

A presentation I give entitled "Long Term Trends Which May Affect Your Future" one of the long-term trends I discuss is Health Care.  I am striving to make a difference today, but where was I five or ten years ago? 

As a country, we took a great risk, not planning and preparing for a pandemic.  There have been numerous warnings from qualified professionals over the years.  The perceived reward by some is we were saving on government spending.  The few pennies we saved are now costing us trillions in federal deficit spending.  The tragic human costs are greater than the economic costs. 

All of us grandparents, the greatest gift we can give to our grandchildren is our time.  Another great gift is to make sure this does not happen to them again.   All of our grandchildren are looking at us right now and saying "dude or dudette, you have to do this". This means, in part, challenging everything we personally think and believe before we question someone else.