At a time filled with so much uncertainty, it is critical to remember the following mantra: DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT PANIC! DO NOT PANIC!

Say it with me, one more time. DO. NOT. PANIC.

The last few weeks have been nothing short of chaotic due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which has swept the globe, infecting over 108,000 people with more than 3,400 deaths. Currently, with more than 500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths in the United States we have moved past containment and have been told to be prepared for disruption to our daily routine.

What does this mean?

It is possible you may have to work from home, and in the event you are exposed to the virus, feel sick or are near someone exhibiting signs of illness, be prepared to self-isolate for up to 14 days. This means having enough food and supplies on hand to cover every member of your household in the event you can't leave. Here is a short list of items to give you an idea of what you should have in case of an emergency or quarantine:

  1. Bottled Water (1 gallon per person for each day you plan to be quarantined)
  2. Anti-Bacterial Hand Soap
  3. Medical Supplies (contact lenses, contact solution, hearing aid batteries)
  4. First Aid Kit (bandages, disinfectant)
  5. Prescription Medication (30 day supply) plus any OTC (over the counter) meds you might need like Advil, Tylenol etc.
  6. Canned Foods (meat, vegetables, in liquid that can be used for cooking)
  7. Cereal, Rice, Beans, Oats (oatmeal, grains)
  8. Batteries
  9. Chocolate or some type of alternate sweet (studies show the importance on maintaining optimal mental health)
  10. Latex gloves, N95 face masks (respirators)
The New York State Department of Health has set up a toll free hotline to address all issues related to the novel Coronavirus and can be reached at (888) 364-3065.

You can also follow the latest news regarding Coronavirus in New York state here.

Why does this seem so bad?

Lack of preparation, transparency from the CDC, clear direction from the government, and a President who fails to inspire confidence in the American people has caused panic across the country in the form of unnecessary hoarding of household supplies like toilet paper and bottled water, xenophobic discrimination and hate crimes against people of Asian descent. It has also rocked the global financial markets as traders desperately seek answers and a bottom to the rout.

By 10pm EST yesterday, it was clear that the world was in for another rough week. U.S. Stock market futures were down near 5% overnight which triggered a halt in trading. Over the years, certain measures were put in place designed to prevent panic from tanking equities markets and give investors time to digest the latest market news. Historically, it has worked exactly as intended and is a critical tool in times of great volatility. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was down 1,200 points in pre-market trading and global markets were in a free-fall for the rest of the night.

And then the market opened......

For the first time since 1997 trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange this morning for 15 minutes following a 7% drop in the S&P 500. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was also down over 1,900 points when the 'circuit' was broken. Designed to prevent a free fall in equities, 3 "circuit breakers" were put in place in the event certain benchmarks were hit, the first of which occurred at 9:35am EST (only 4 minutes after the opening bell!). Trading resumed at 9:49am. If stocks continue to fall and hit a 13% drop for the day, another 15 minute pause will take place. In the event that stocks retreat more than 20%, the market would be closed for the rest of the day.

Oil War For the Ages??

More bad news originating from last week's failed OPEC+ alliance meeting sent oil prices plummeting as a price war broke out in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has announced a massive price cut for their oil, while sources claim they plan to simultaneously increase production to more than 10,000,000 barrels per day with the possibility of exceeding 12,000,000 barrels on some days. This "Shock & Awe" tactic is a desperate attempt by the Saudi's to increase marketshare worldwide. In response, Russia has indicated they will also increase their production to maximum levels. And the price war has begun.

The last time a price war this serious broke out was during the first Gulf War in 1991. As of the opening bell this morning, the price of a barrel of oil dropped more than 30% ($27).

What does this mean for the west?

Quite possibly the end of the U.S. Shale market, for starters. With the price of oil below $30 a barrel, oil wells in West Texas are now operating at a loss.

Since 2014 the price of oil has been subject to wild volatility as the west became one of the largest exporters of shale oil in the world and price manipulation out of Saudi Arabia saw the price of oil drop from $100/barrel to less than $40. Despite a few brief periods of upswings, it still has not returned to normal levels and is showing no signs of recovery.

Now What?

It is important to remind yourself that things will get better. Do not panic. Life will get better, the world will come to its senses and you just have to give it time.

Hang in there.

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

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