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As I write this column, it is National Nurses Appreciation Day. There are several nurses, doctors and first responders in our family, so we are very aware of their individual sacrifices and courage during these difficult times, and, it has become clear to all of us that every one of these Americans are the best of the best. We are thankful for them every single day, and it is heartwarming to see all of the creative and memorable ways that Americans continue to show that appreciation.

In addition, if we want to look at some good that has resulted from this crisis, we have also become acutely aware of how many other Americans, that we may have taken for granted in our former “busy lives,” are, in fact, essential to us and have allowed many of us to lead those busy lives. The store clerks; the people working in manufacturing, sanitation, emergency repairs, and agriculture; those working in transportation, and so many more — and we have become humbled to finally step back, “get that,” and be thankful for all of them.

Then there is the question of whether we will we find a way to pay essential workers more in the future for being essential?

As I write this, it is also Teacher Appreciation Week. In the past, if we had children in school, or a past teacher that really made a lasting difference in our life, we celebrated that teacher on a more individual basis. This year, however, with the schools closed, and teachers doing so much to meet the challenges of teaching their students in many creative ways, staying in touch with them as much as possible, and trying to help seniors have a somewhat memorable experience, we all have a much greater appreciation for how important our teachers really are. Question — should we pay them more?

I would like to revisit a few important pandemic-related subjects that we have raised in the past.

First, with the current buzz about new Covid-19 tests, vaccines, antibody tests, drugs that could cure or mitigate the virus,  specialized masks, and more, it is even more important than ever to be on the lookout for scams. You can always check things like this out with your doctor, local health department, or legitimate government websites. In addition, with all the difficulty that many Americans are having paying some of their bills — such as rent, mortgages, utility bills, insurance premiums, and credit card bills — and with all the relief programs that may be available, some put in place by governmental authorities,and others by the creditors themselves, it is critical to avoid scams in this area also. Know exactly who you are dealing with, and really read and understand all of the terms of any financial relief you may want to take advantage of, so there are no surprises down the line.

Second, we have talked in the past about how our educational system will be changed because of increased online learning options, but only started to raise some questions about the financial effects of this crisis, including, what have been the ever increasing college costs. By now, the majority of states have closed their K-12 schools for the remainder of the school year, colleges are closed, and there are discussions every day about whether K-12 and colleges will even open in the fall in many areas. With the financial hits that the states are taking because of decreased sales and income tax revenues, there are questions of what kind of budget and services cuts that public K-12 schools and colleges and universities may have to make going forward. As for the private colleges, it is now becoming clear that with decreased revenues and possibly decreased enrollment, many may have to close unless they receive substantial government relief. I have always believed in the past that the federal and state governments would not let these institutions close because the economies of so many small towns across the country depend upon these colleges and universities, but I am not so sure about that in these current and upcoming economic times.

Colleges and universities have been giving refunds of unearned room and board and certain fees, but as I write this, there have been over two dozen lawsuits filed against colleges and universities for tuition refunds, claiming that online learning is not the equivalent of the in-person experience, both in terms of learning and thus financial value, which the schools disagree with. It will be interesting to see how all of these issues play out, especially as some students and families, for financial reasons as they look to our financial future,  are considering other educational and career options, better financial return on investment when looking at higher priced institutions, and possibly even gap years to let the dust settle, which could all result in that decreased enrollment “straw that breaks the camel’s financial  back” for some institutions.

Third, according to Freddie Mac, the lowest 30-year fixed mortgage rate ever was in November 2012, when the rate fell to 3.31%. As I write this column the rate is 3.32%. If you have been considering refinancing or purchasing a new home, and you have made the detailed analysis that we have suggested, perhaps now is the time to act.

Fourth, as I write this column, the price of a gallon of gasoline at BJ’s Henrietta is $1.65. According to, the average price in Upstate New York, in May of 2019, was $ 2.84. Fill up now before we “reopen” more! It is definitely happening according to my own scientific survey — as I bike ride every day, there are so many more cars on the road now than even a few weeks ago.

Fifth, this week J. Crew and Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy. Unfortunately it is just the beginning for companies big and small, and for many individuals.


John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at or at