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If you can’t find toilet paper, may be able to help.

Not much of a name brand selection was available when I checked Monday morning, but that’s not the biggest issue if you’re tempted to place an order. More important is the ethics of having someone delivering stuff to you at a time when we’re all supposed to be isolating ourselves to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The magazine Wired discussed this issue in a recent article that describes delivery people as braving “a germ-filled world when people of means would rather not.” The Wired article says that on the surface, it seems obviously wrong to order delivery when you won’t go because of health worries. But at the same time, the gig workers who make these deliveries may not get sick days or paid leave while in isolation. If you don’t order, they don’t get paid.

Let me propose a way through this ethical barbed wire. European countries that have pretty much shut down all public social interaction are allowing grocery stores to remain open. So if you can get out to buy your own groceries, do it. Observe all the usual safety rules, but get your own supplies.

If you can’t get out, then order in. But consider following guidelines from the federal government saying supplies should be left on the front door, and that at least a two-metre distance should be maintained between people. Canada Post is using what it calls the “safe drop process” where items will be left in a mailbox or outside your door. If an item can’t be safely left, you’ll get a card telling you which post office to go to in order to collect your delivery.

Additional thoughts: Put a sign up telling the delivery person to leave the parcel on your doorstep or condo entrance and leave a serious tip. Say, Thanks – I appreciate you doing this for me.

Among the people hard hit by this pandemic are those who have no work at a time when people are holing up to avoid spreading disease. We can help some of them by ordering food and goods online when we need to, and by taking all measures to keep them safe.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

The psychology of panic shopping

Into the heart of the panic shopping phenomenon with a New Yorker writer who includes a perfect German phrase - hamsterkäufe, meaning to shop like a nervous, bulging-cheeked hamster. OK, so we know toilet paper and hand sanitizer are in high demand. Here are some things that are staying on the shelves in U.S. supermarkets.

Close the stock markets?

A few readers have asked me why the stock markets remain open during all the disruption caused by the virus. Here, a financial journalist argues for closing the markets, even while acknowledging this is unlikely to happen.

The current stock market plunge in perspective

Stocks are getting annihilated, but we’ve seen worse. Check out this list of 11 bear markets from the Great Depression to The Great Recession.

Best tax software

A timely comparison of five different software products – TurboTax, SimpleTax, CloudTax, TaxTron and UFile.

Ask Rob

Q: I don't understand bonds. Sitting here in mid-March, should I be buying any and, if so, which (I like ETFs)? I have 15 years till retirement.

A: Bonds should be part of the portfolio of almost all investors and someone who is 15 years from retirement might consider having bonds account for something like 40 per cent of a portfolio. Bond ETFs are a low-cost, well-diversified way to get bonds into your portfolio for long-term investing. Now for a caveat: Financial markets are very nervous and erratic right now, bonds included. The interest rates on bonds is very low and sinking. Consider adding money gradually, not all at once. It’s also worth noting that while bonds have done well lately, stocks have been hit hard. There’s more downside for stocks to come, but they could prove to be the better bargain if you judge 15 years from now, when you retire.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

The Canada Revenue Agency tells you how to find out if you have an uncashed tax cheque waiting for you. CRA says there’s about $1-billion in uncashed cheques.

What I’ve been writing about

  • How does an interest rate cut help a population that has decided its No. 1 financial priority is to buy toilet paper?
  • How’s an ordinary investor supposed to save for retirement in these crazy markets? Four experts share their views
  • Now we see why dividend stocks and preferred shares are no substitute for bonds (For Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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