My Coronavirus Experience living in China and Thoughts on Being Prepared in 2020.
2020 has already been a full year
2020 has been a year that could be described in so many ways, its hard to even know where to start. From the tension rising between America and Iran in the first weeks of the year, to the coronavirus blowing up in China and spilling across the world and Kobe Bryant and passengers passing away in the helicopter crash.
Working as an English teacher in China while the Coronavirus sweeps across the country, has been an experience unlike any I’ve had before. It serves as a reminder than anything can happen at any time. That life can do a complete 180 overnight.
I’m lucky to have my health and am located in a province far enough away that I am not locked down and my chances of contracting the virus are quite low – in my mind at least. But make no mistake this virus is changing life for everyone in China at the moment. And now across the world
What China is like during the coronavirus outbreak
My new job and new visa had been pushed back close to a month. Since I was between jobs, I didn’t receive any compensation during this downtime. Luckily though It’s been years since I put all my eggs in one basket and relied on one source of income. As I’ve mentioned countless times over the years, aside from teaching ESL in China and Asia, I also teach online. This has been a very lucrative evenings and weekend side gig that has allowed me to save thousands of extra dollars a month towards my financial freedom and early retirement goals.
Finding out my work was going to be pushed back so far didn’t even phase me to be honest, as I knew if no one was working or going to school, there would be a lot of kids at home needing to take classes somehow. Sure enough since I returned back to China from a vacation to Thailand, I’ve been working 10-12 hours a day teaching online.
I was still able to progress towards my financial goals despite life throwing a serious curveball. But now, my eggs were all in one basket again. Sure enough as fate would have it, another obstacle arose. About a week and a half into my return to China, while I am full time online English teaching, my internet and the company platform started to faulter as internet usage went through the roof in China while everyone was at home.
How to reach your financial goals in a crisis
Now my primary source of income is challenged. Never mind the investment pursuits, I’m concerned with paying rent and being able to buy groceries. Ironically enough, I recently commented on another blog article on the topic of maintaining an emergency fund in cash. I was previously of the belief that sitting on a large cash stock of 6 month worth of living expenses was wasted potential. As emergencies rarely come to pass and those that do can be taken care of with credit cards or lines of credit. I was eaten alive, stating my opinion on the matter.
Usually I keep access to no more than a month’s worth of expenses in cash at any given time while I am working. The only time I keep extra cash on hand is during vacation season in the summer and winter to pay off the credit card charges from traveling abroad and to carry myself after being off work for a month or so. Usually this amounts to 2-3 months worth. As my Chinese work Visa was needing to be renewed I decided to keep a little more cash on hand than usual in case anything went sour with the visa process – as there is almost always some sort of hiccup. Sure enough, the coronavirus causing postponement of work was this year hiccups.
As the virus reaches its peak and spring begins to arrives, people – including myself – will begin to return to work, and all should get back to normal hopefully soon. This whole experience has been eye opening and the extra time at home as allowed me to introspect on a few thoughts.
Make hay while the sun shines
I thought I was on top of the world less than a month ago; I had built up a great roster of well paying private lessons around my city in China and had fully booked online sessions on top of my full time job. I was finishing up my year contract and would be starting a new job that came with a serious salary increase, nearly 30%. I had reached and surpassed my expected net worth for the end of 2019. All was well and the future looked prosperous. I had thought about splurging on some material treats for myself, and even let lifestyle inflation get to me by booking some luxurious stays over my vacation in Thailand.
I’m glad I didn’t extend myself too far and that I kept a consistent grind all year. The virus will set me back, but it won’t ruin me. I know plenty of teachers who live nearly month to month, and the lack of work is becoming a concern for them.
When you have an opportunity to earn, make the best of it. Never assume the good times will last forever and properly prepare yourself for the rocky periods.
Diversify your income as much as possible
Most people live pay cheque to pay cheque, there’s just too much going on in everyone’s lives and our consumerist centric societies both endorse and enable debt. Operating like this is risky enough when life goes according to plan. Can you imagine what would happen if your country was put on lockdown and no one was able to work for a month or two?
That’s what’s happening in China. The government has made efforts to support businesses and the general population to make sure they are able to pay bills and survive in this incredible situation. But the cash doesn’t always trickle down as expected.
Teachers for example are getting reduced pay in many situations. I’ve discussed countless times how we make a healthy living out here teaching ESL in China, and even with a disregard for saving, there’s almost always a balance left at the end of the month for most people. But for many, things have become very tight.
For myself, I was in the process of changing jobs while the Coronavirus hit. I am between employers and receiving no salary while we wait to resume work.
Invest for your future
I’m surviving – and dare I say thriving… when my internet is working – thanks to constantly taking advantage of opportunities over the past year to build up as much capital as possible while I could, and by having multiple sources of income and earnings.
I teach online during evenings and weekends to ramp up my saving potential throughout the year while I teach in China. That usually adds a sizeable chunk of change nearly close to what I make at my day job. Since no one is working and everyone is home in China, all the students have turned to online learning and classes are abundant at this time. I’m making much more than a full time salary teaching online all day. Not to mention being productive with all this time I must spend at home. I’d be lost mentally and financially without this secondary source of income.
Expect the unexpected / be flexible
Years ago when I first arrived in Asia to teach English in Korea, I was told to ‘be flexible’. The way things work in Asia is usually last minute and plans constantly change. Over the years I like to think I’ve gotten quite resilient to change and dealing with the unexpected. I’ve got to say this current epidemic takes the cake.
Everything takes longer in a country where you don’t speak the native language, and are an outsider. Now with this outbreak anything that we can still do, or places we can go take longer to get into and are much of a hassle. Putting on masks, constant decontamination. I can’t imagine all the processes we’ll have to go to for safety once work and school starts up again. But that’s life. Nothing stays the same and you’ve got to push forward with the cards you’ve been dealt.
Stay the course
My future, my goals, and my health are all in limbo. Each day I wonder if I’m making the right decision staying or if I should just pull the plug and get out. It kind of reminds me of investing in the stock market. Constantly there’s ups and downs in the short term. Public opinion, business performance, world events – such as the Coronavirus – all make stocks go up, down and all around. Sometimes it makes sense, often it doesn’t. The ups make you want to greedily jump in at more, this can cause risk buying at the top. Severe downturns can lead us to want to jump out and sell preemptively turning paper losses into real losses.
What we need to do when investing, and how I’ve chose to deal with this situation, is to remember why I am doing what I am doing, and look at the big picture. I’ve found myself in a position in China to make literal bundles of cash in a short period of time. For years I’ve obsessed with setting myself up for financial independence. I’ve built it into how I define my self.
When it comes to my investments, I stay the course on the strategy I’ve chosen because I know it works. I don’t let me emotions run me off track. As for this stint teaching English in China, I know this storm will pass and business will continue as usual. I can’t let reactionary fear guide my decisions.
There’s always a silver lining
I like to turn my mind to the cliché “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” whenever things don’t go my way. Thinking of every obstacle or set back as a lesson and type of training making me stronger. More equipped to handle future situations. While the coronavirus outbreak has been awful in so many ways. It could be worse, much worse. There are much more deadly viruses in the world today, and there are common sicknesses that kill at a much high rate than the Coronavirus.
The coronavirus has caused many to be without work a school, on quarantine or full out lockdown. This has cause many to spend even further time with their families. Forced workers and students to take further break and rest from their constantly pressing lives.
Sanitation practices in China leading up to this were lackluster at best. And traditional medicine practices had hot water as the first suggestion for almost every sickness or ailment. I can guarantee at the other end of this Coronavirus outbreak, we will see a very different attitude to how people in this country, and even around the world stay healthy and clean.
Thoughts on 2020, the coronavirus and reaching your goals
This year has been a whirlwind thus far. But as always we can never predict the future and need to always prepare ourselves for disaster. We shouldn’t react foolishly – such as filling a truck bed full of toilet paper rolls – but we always be ready and able to support ourselves should life do some spins.
And finally, best to remember tomorrow’s a new day and this is all temporary.