Keep calm and carry on.
These words were formulated into a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939, as World War II loomed.
The poster was designed to settle the people in that tumultuous time.
This week has seen Ireland go coronavirus mad, and it would be entirely appropriate for that World War II poster to be reprinted now, given that the probability of catching and dying from coronavirus is currently minuscule.
To put coronavirus in perspective, about 7,000 people die per year in Ireland from smoking-related illness, and about 200 to 500 people die per year from the regular flu.
In terms of protecting yourself from death, you’d be better off investing your time, money and energy in some exercise, losing weight (if you are overweight), giving up smoking, improving your diet, and undertaking some heath screening, rather than seeking to equip yourself with a face mask.
Instead of dwelling on coronavirus, you might want to consider disaster preparation plans (from a financial perspective) to help protect you and your family from a host of more likely setbacks.
First up, in my opinion, the importance of having a well-prepared will cannot be underestimated. It never ceases to surprise me, to discover how many people in their sixties, seventies and even older still haven’t gone about preparing a will.
A will isn’t simply for those who have passed middle age.
Give proper thought to who you want as your beneficiaries, and what assets each should get. Go a layer deeper, to consider contingencies.
How would you like your assets to be split, if one or more beneficiaries predeceases you. Equally, if extra beneficiaries come along between now and your death (such as additional grandchildren), does your will cater for this?
In some cases, wills prepared earlier in life might specify that assets are to be divided equally between children. This may no longer be appropriate, if one child now shows particular interest in carrying on the farming business.
Apart from having a will, a basic financial plan can be prepared, to help you get through tough times.
Such a plan could include, for instance, having emergency savings or access to credit; having your spouse or partner included as a signatory on your bank account, so that they can continue to access income, if you become unable to do so.
Consider having a power of attorney in place, so that people you trust can take over and manage your business, if you are medically incapable of doing so.
For more immediate and short-term disruptions, make arrangements with neighbours and friends such that you will cover for each other in the event of serious illness or an accident.
Simple things which can make life easier for anyone needing to step into your shoes could include leaving your phone password with a trusted family member or friend so they can call your contacts. Having a list of suppliers and their contact numbers printed and laminated and left in a prominent place, such as the milking parlour or workshop, could prove really useful in an emergency.
Key phone numbers would include people who repair your milking machine, milk tank, water pump, and your electrician. Laminating milking machine operating instructions and numbering the switches and levers in your milking parlour would help someone take over in an emergency. Keeping a blackboard on the wall of your parlour updated with any antibiotic usage can be invaluable. Having an index of your fuse board, identifying what fuse or circuit breaker is for which plug, switch, light or electrical installation, would be helpful should someone need to take over.
Use a map of your farm, such as an old Department of Agriculture single farm payment map, to sketch your underground water pipe network, where gate valves are located, laminate it, and put it in your pump house.
All of these simple measures can take a lot of stress off family members, neighbours and friends, if they ever need to step in and take over your farming.
Having these measures in place can remove stress for you at a time of illness, knowing that your business can be managed easier in your absence.
Don’t let the coronavirus panic go to waste, do something useful like instigating preparation of your will and business disaster recovery plans.