Impact of COVID-19 on Small Business and Self-Employed

My daughter offered to write an article about the COVID-19 and its impact on her life. She is a self-employed Chiropractor, so she is directly affected by this Pandemic. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will be impacted by this harshly. She is also at risk due to asthma and lung issues. I offer this for your consideration. Note, this was written in May 2020, just as the Pandemic began.

COVID-19 From the Self-Employed and Small Business Perspective

Work from home if you can! No sick notes needed! Waived week long waiting period for E.I. applications! Relief funding for those unable to work due to closures! The Canadian Government is stepping in to pledge 1 billion dollars to help with the repercussions of the current COVID-19 crisis. I am self-employed as a chiropractor and my business will be affected by COVID-19, even if I don’t contract the virus. Somewhere down the line, there may be some relief funding specifically for small businesses and the self-employed, but I am not holding my breath that it will be any time soon. 

Currently in Ottawa, we have 10 confirmed cases. Schools, libraries, museums, and city recreation complexes, are all closed as of March 16th and will stay closed until at least the beginning of April. Private health clinics have not been given any guidance (as of March 15th) on whether to stay open or close. Hourly, we are checking multiple sources and updating our policies based on our best judgement of what is safe for our clinic but also protects our livelihood. 

Social distancing is effective, no argument on that one. I fully support trying to “flatten the curve”, and as an individual who would most likely end up very sick if she contracted this virus, I am happy to limit my social outings. However, being within a metre of other people is a part of my job. Touching people is my job. I sit in a difficult situation trying to balance having an income, and protecting mine and my patients’ (sub customer/ client/ consumer for other small businesses) health.

As a health care practitioner, I have always washed my hands between patients, my equipment and room has always been cleaned according to health regulations. Lately, I’ve upped my game, as much as possible, to keep my patients safe and my businesses going. I can’t get hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes are at a premium and I am continually being asked if it’s safe to come to our clinic. Even if we do stay open, there is no guarantee patients will feel safe and comfortable coming to the office to be treated. 

Financially, I feel lucky to have parents who have tolerated me living in their house since I graduated 18 months ago. I don’t have a mortgage or children. I also don’t have a spouse with benefits or a salaried income. I do have a load of student debt and am grateful for the Bank of Canada’s recent interest rate cuts. As an independent contractor I get paid based on the number of patients I treat. Full stop. Not salaried, no benefits, no E.I.. Working from home is not an option. Small businesses will feel the hurt from this situation for the next 6 months to 1 year. We are stressed. Yes, an emergency fund is vital. Most financial folks say 3-6 months worth of expenses is what you should have put away. There are people much more qualified than I am to comment on that factor.

Now that I have sufficiently indulged in standing on my soapbox and yelling my problems at the internet, here are some tips to continue to support small businesses if you are healthy, not self-isolating and able:

  1. That local coffee shop you frequent on the weekend or before work, continue to go if you are healthy and not at risk. Get some of their beans/ tea leaves/ product to use in your own home. Buy a gift card to boost their income and help them float until things return to normal.
  2. See if take-out or delivery is an option for your favourite local restaurant. 
  3. Keep your appointments with your health care professional/ hair-dresser/ personal trainer/ etc etc. If you are not able to keep your appointment, reschedule for a few weeks time rather than flat out cancelling. 
  4. If your gym/ yoga studio/ health clinic of choice has closed as a result of COVID-19, make a mental promise to yourself to go back, put a reminder in your calendar a month from now to get yourself back into your routine. 
  5. Stress has you online shopping? Need to buy gifts for a birthday? Choose a Canadian small business that has an online store.
  6. Ask if there is an opportunity online or phone interaction with professionals that have that capability like your accountant or nutritionist. 
  7. Monitor information channels that are giving accurate information on the current state of affairs rather than relying on social media or other social channels that tend to spark fear and panic.
  8. Educate yourself on the actual symptoms of COVID-19, and how the spread can be prevented. I am not writing this from a health care practitioner point of view, so I won’t give any advice.
  9. Save your advice on financial planning in case of an emergency for 6 months from now. The last thing a person in my position wants to hear is advice, however well meaning, on how they could have prevented getting into this awful position. Once we are recovering, that is the time to offer help on that subject. 
  10. Be Kind. We are all trying to make our way through this situation the best we can. Being angry, greedy or selfish will get you no further in life than being kind, patient and fair.

So before you start investing in toilet paper stocks, complaining you have to deal with your kids for 3 weeks, hoarding hand sanitizer or making jokes about the person sneezing in a coffee shop, think of the people in your life who are self-employed. Reach out, ask them how you can help support them, stop the spread of misinformation, and wash your damn hands

CORVID-19 self-employed
Simple Hand Washing Instructions


The Computer: Another Financial Tool

My major tool in my Financial Planning activities is my computer. I use it to track my spending, I use it to make up financial plans for the coming time, and I use it to analyze my spending habits, all in all a very powerful tool for me.

My wife prefers to use pen and paper because she likes to see the spending and such, and if that is the way you work, I have no problem with that either. It takes a little longer, but maybe when it takes longer you might notice and absorb more information from the data entry side of things.

Financial Tools

Old Laptop
Even this overheating, BSOD’ing and old piece of equipment can be used effectively.

My major tools that I use (I am not endorsing these computer tools, I am simply pointing this out to be complete) are:

  1. Quicken, first and foremost this is the tool I use to keep track of spending and attempt to report trends and such. A very powerful tool, that I still don’t think I am using completely correctly.
  2. Tax software, in this case Quicktax, but only because it is so simple when I do it this way and I can E-file my taxes which is quicker and easier for me. I also use that tool to infuriate myself figuring out what might happen if the Government supported Income Splitting.
  3. Excel or whatever spreadsheet you like. I like to extract data from Quicken and then use it for some elementary calculations and forecasts in Excel. Excel has some very powerful financial functions, but make sure you are using the Canadian versions for Interest calculations and such.
  4. Powerpoint, to present information easily to my wife or to my banker, if I am going in to try to get Free Banking
  5. Internet Explorer or a browser for On line banking, and thanks to my PC I no longer walk into my local branch weekly to get my banking updates, I get them daily on line. This is an amazing capability that we take for granted that didn’t exist 20 years ago. I pay bills that I don’t have to mail in any more either.
  6. Firefox or Internet explorer as a research tool, by looking up on Government sites I learn about Tax rules, by reading company’s web pages I learn about good investments and by reading some amazing Blogs, I learn about Finances in general (see my right bar for some excellent financial bloggers).

These tools make Personal Finance for me a little easier to deal with.

Take Care of your PC

As with all tools, you must maintain your PC. Yesterday my PC was taken away, because it was doing suspicious “Virusy” things at work and now I sit at my kids’ computer attempting to get anything done. I am lucky because I have an entire I.T. group to take care of my PC (for now), most folks do not, so here is my views on the minimal I.T. tasks you should be performing on your PC (this advice I do actually stand behind, because this is an area I think I have some expertise):

  1. Backups, backups, backups! If there is any data on your computer that is important, you must make sure itis backed up in some fashion. There are many ways to do backups
    1. Back data up to CD’s or DVD’s if you have a CD writer. If you don’t have a CD or DVD burner, go get one NOW.
    2. Norton and other services are now offering network based back up services that you can subscribe to. I would read their agreement closely to see what re-courses you have if your secret data is compromised by their backup system, but this is still another way to go.
    3. If you have TWO computers at home, make a BACKUP directory on each, and back up important data on the other machine. At least if one fails you still have your data.
    4. Floppies? Well, if you think that is the way to go, knock your socks off, but I do not recommend it.
  2. Restore! Yes this is just as important, you must test that you can restore data from your backup system! Backups are useless if you cannot retrieve your data. If you have important data already backed up on floppies, transfer it to DVDs or Cd’s or something. Also check the state of your old important backups, because the Media it is on, does degrade.
  3. Anti-Virus software, get something, ANYTHING, but do not think that your Internet Access provider or your good ideas are going to stop viruses from getting on your computer. Use Norton, McAfee, NOD or others, but use something or your machine will become compromised.
  4. Anti-Spyware software too, most anti-virus systems now come with Spyware checks as well, important to get this kind of software, or you are going to end up selling Herbal Viagra from your PC.
  5. Clean your computer. Vacuum out the fans at least, or take it to a reputable local computer shop to have it cleaned (ask for references from the local shop, if you don’t know the owner). I had a fan break on my CPU, due to dust and my machine was gone for a few days.

There are many other tricks of the trade you should think about, but this is my minimum list. If anyone else cares to comment on other important tasks, please feel free, as I don’t think this list is exhaustive, just a good starting point.


What is RICH in Canada?

Stats Canada has published an interesting article outlining what your income level in Canada needs to be, to think of yourself as RICH (for 2004 at least):

An annual income of $89,000 was enough to put an individual among the 1.2 million Canadians who made up the top 5% of the country’s taxfiler population in 2004, according to a new study.

Similarly, an income of $181,000 was sufficient to put someone among the 237,000 people in the top 1% of the taxfiler population.

But to be part of the richest one-hundredth of a percent (0.01%) of taxfilers, Canadians had to have income of more than $2.8 million, the study found.

Interesting striation of the data, now this is individual income too, not sure how they would measure dual income families and such, are you Rich? Really Rich? Super Rich?

September continues on, and with the beginning of Autumn, do you need to start thinking about fall financial things?

  • RESP top ups for the end of the year?
  • RRSP top ups as well?
  • Insurance coming due soon?
  • Property tax assessments coming?
  • Preparation for the holiday season, by planning what you are going to spend and maybe figuring out “who gets what” early on?

Just some of the ideas to think about instead of raking leaves!


How do you Retire With Kids at Home?

The phenomenon of Adult children living with their parents is not new. In 2007 I wrote about the concept. Stats Canada had some very interesting info at the time as well.

Stats Canada published a plethora of interesting statistics from the 2006 Census. In the area of Personal and Home Finances: For the first time there are more unmarried folk over the age of 15 than there are married.

In 2006, more than one-half (51.5%) of the adult population were unmarried, that is, never married, divorced, separated or widowed, compared with 49.9% five years earlier. Conversely, only 48.5% of persons aged 15 and over were legally married in 2006, down from 50.1% in 2001.

2006 Census release topics

A large increase in 1 person households (i.e. people living alone). More of us living on our own? Interesting, one theory put forward is folks are trying to get themselves together financially and mentally before committing to a long-term relationship. If that is the case, that is a good thing (in my opinion).

The one really interesting statistic for me is the following:

Over the last two decades, one of the trends for young adults has been their growing tendency to remain in, or return to, the parental home. This upward trend has continued over the past five years.
In 2006, 43.5% of the 4 million young adults aged 20 to 29 lived in the parental home, up from 41.1% in 2001. Twenty years ago, 32.1% of young adults lived with their parents.

Among individuals aged 20 to 24, 60.3% were in the parental home in 2006, up from 49.3% in 1986. Among those aged 25 to 29, 26.0% were in the parental home in 2006, up from 15.6% two decades earlier.

2006 Census release topics

So, more and more of us are not becoming “Empty Nesters” in fact we are turning into a “flop house” for our 20-year-old kids? That seems to line up with my observations from friends and acquaintances that I know. Kids go off to University to get their degrees, but then return and move back in.

I must admit that I was somewhat guilty of that on work terms. I did, however, manage to not move back in with my parents after I graduated.

My question is how can you retire if your kids have moved back in with you? I guess if they move back in, and start paying room and board, that might be OK. If they move back in and resume their role as “child” while pulling in a large salary, that is bad. They keep calling my generation the “Sandwich” generation because we will have to care for both our parents and our children eventually, these statistics seem to imply that may well be the case.

Time to Leave Home ?

I have attempted to instill in my kids a real desire to leave the house. Useful statements like:

  • “You don’t like me harping on you to do your chores? Well if you had your own place, that wouldn’t happen would it?”
  • “If you don’t get a summer job, you’ll be watching your brother all summer for me”
  • “You want money? Room and board is not enough?”

I am kidding (although I believe in a few spots, I have actually said that to my kids at some time). It is important to get our kids prepared to spread their wings and leave the nest (and then move the NEST).


Median Family Income

This is another blast from the past note the date of posting (2007)

Thanks to everyone who commented on my dual income vs. single income family income discussions. That was interesting stuff, I have one more post on that, but I have to do some number crunching first, so I will hold off on that for a little while.

Microsoft Canada

Stats Canada did have a very topical post last week entitled. Family Income which discusses the typical family incomes across Canada. Evidently the Median (remember we talked about what Median means in “Who Lives on the Median Income” , it is the mid-point in a list of numbers) income for a family is highest in Ottawa-Gatineau (should I be proud about that?), which is $86,100, which is far higher than double the median income mentioned before (remember that Median was about $26000 ). For all families in Canada the median is $60,600 which is up 2.1% year over year.

Remember that this is a smaller data set than the generic median income data from last week (it only includes “families”, and not single folks, etc.,).

So what would happen if we gave the Publics from last week the Median income for Canada?

If there was a single income earner and her gross income was $60,600.00the family would owe:$11,914.32 in provincial and federal taxes and $2640.00 in CPP and EI payments.

If the income was split equally across the two of them they would owe a combined: $8475.42 and $3786.42 and in CPP and EI payments.

In that instance a difference in taxes of about 15.7% (not including things like daycare and such). The dual income model they are more likely to get Ontario Tax Credits as well.


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