The Barefoot Investor’s Coronavirus Scare

An update from Scott Pape, The Barefoot Investor, about the intimate link between mental health and financial stress.  

“Cough, cough, cough.”

My wife rolled over in bed and shot me a dagger: “What was THAT?”

For the next few minutes I successfully stopped myself from coughing, but it felt like my head was going to explode.

Then it burst out again: “Cough, cough, cough.”

“First thing tomorrow, you’re getting TESTED”, huffed my six-month-pregnant wife.

And the next morning I dutifully did.

The lady came out to my car sporting full HAZMAT get-up, two oversized earbuds, and a rough curbside manner:

“This is probably going to hurt”, she said from beneath her facemask and protective visor.

“You really shouldn’t say that, because …”

At that point she stuck the swab deep into the back of my throat. Then, as I was dry-retching, she poked the other stick so far up my nostril it felt like it hit my eyeball. Then the other. And a few seconds later it was all over.  

“It hurt, right?” she said.

When I arrived home I was a little shaken up, so I stretched out my arms for a reassuring cuddle from my three-year-old daughter. She took a step back, folded her arms, scrunched up her little face, and grumbled: “Daddy is sick.”

I was officially the leper of the family.  

As my cough intensified, it slowly dawned on me that, despite doing all the right things (self-isolating on the farm, wearing a facemask in public), I had contracted the ‘Rona’.

My next 36 hours were full of anxiety.

I sat up in bed ‘doom scrolling’ — reading  depressing reports about the virus. Soon I’d have the shame of adding to the Premier’s daily ‘COVID count’ (AKA ‘Dan’s Daily Disease ’n’ Death Diatribe’). I felt totally out of control. 

And that’s when it hit me: people stay up at night with the same worries about their debts. In fact, Beyond Blue came out with research this week finding that financial stress and mental health are intimately linked.  

It’s well known that when you’re struggling mentally the first step is to call Lifeline on 13 11 14. It’s less well known that when you’re struggling financially the first step is to call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. (My hope is that one of the things that comes out of this pandemic is that the National Debt Helpline will be just as well known as Lifeline or Beyond Blue.)

Yet just as I started to peak out, my phone buzzed.

It was a text message: “COVID-19 virus was NOT DETECTED.”


I threw down my phone and fell into a deep sleep. Well, until I was woken by my wife in the middle of the night:

“Cough, cough, cough.”

Tread Your Own Path!

Beyond Blue and Financial Counselling Australia have launched a public awareness campaign to encourage people in financial stress to seek support. Learn more at

For more news & musings from Scott Pape spanning topics like finance, superannuation, budgeting and real estate, sign up for his weekly newsletter called the ‘finance Bible’.