By Jordan Lee, founder and CEO of Backer
June 16, 2021
As we prepare for the summer of 2021 and celebrate the fathers in our lives, the Covid-19 experience is slowly beginning to fade into the background. From indoor dining to larger gatherings and more travel, American life is starting to return to normal. After such a long period of abnormal, it is tempting to rush back into our routines as quickly as we can—but before we do, we should take a moment to pause and reflect, as there are important lessons to draw from the pandemic period when it comes to family life in America and setting long-term goals for our children’s futures.
Lesson 1: We’re all more vulnerable than we thought
Covid-19 has always been scariest for higher-risk groups like the elderly and immunocompromised, but one of the most nerve-wracking things about the virus is that no one individual can be completely sure how it will affect them. Each person’s physiology seems to respond in a unique, slightly unpredictable way, as we’ve seen in the many stories of healthy adults or even kids having extremely negative reactions. We’ve all had to face the fact that we’re more vulnerable than we thought, and less in control of our circumstances than we felt.
Beyond the physical health risks, the pandemic took a toll on our emotional health. At a time when our elderly needed more support than ever, their younger relatives were forced to keep a safe distance for fear of asymptomatically passing the virus on to someone more vulnerable. Almost everyone was forced to practice true self-reliance, and the experience took a massive toll on our collective psyche.
The pandemic also exposed the fragility of our financial health. Many families struggled to make ends meet in a disrupted economy and had to readjust their financial plans in the face of unknowns about the future. But as we’ve focused on what truly matters, we’ve also become healthier in our financial habits. Many American families took this opportunity to get their financial houses in order with a longer-term outlook, and, according to bea.gov, our nation has seen a steep increase in the savings rate.
What is the lesson in all of this? First, we should recognize how interdependent we are, on both a personal level within and between our families and on a societal level. American families tend to spread out geographically in pursuit of opportunity, but the pandemic has reminded us to cherish the times we share together in person. And as many of us have already started doing, we can use this moment to take stock of our financial situation and better prepare for emergencies that may arise to ensure that our family’s future is more secure.
Lesson 2: Technology helped us cope and can play a new role going forward
Imagine Covid-19 without the internet – over a year of shelter-in-place and social distancing without video conferencing, delivery services, and entertainment streaming services. When the physical world became unsafe, our digital worlds became our sanctuaries, and this effect was felt across the generations. Grandparents who thought they “weren’t good at technology” were suddenly hopping on video conferences with their grandchildren and ordering groceries through mobile apps; becoming almost as tech-savvy as their grandkids.
By forcing everyone to conduct as much of their former lives as they could through technology, the pandemic compressed a decade of technological progress into a year. It took trends that were already underway—remote work, online delivery, online education—and accelerated them massively. In the pre-Covid-19 era, many industries could afford to make smooth online delivery a secondary consideration. Now that Covid-19 has forced mass-market adoption of the latest web and mobile services, digital user-experience expectations have skyrocketed.
My hope is that the technological accommodations we’ve made over the last year, like remote attendance at graduations and weddings, will become the norm so that more extended family members can participate in the celebration of big life events, no matter their physical distance. Given the longer-term outlook many families are adopting, the gift of a college education has never looked so good.
This Father’s Day, let’s definitely celebrate Dad and be thankful for everything he has done to help us stay together and strong during an extremely challenging chapter for our country and the world. Let’s also recognize some of the brighter spots of the last year and make sure we don’t lose them as we get back to normal.
About the author:
Jordan Lee is the founder and CEO of Backer, a social savings platform that helps families add to their 529 savings with the support of family and friends.