Finding Financial Peace in Uncertain Times
By Jennifer L. Adams
No doubt, all our lives have changed in some way in the past six months. Finding peace in our lives has been harder than usual.
Finding peace in our financial lives is even more difficult for many Americans who lost their jobs or found themselves in financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider the ideas below to regain a sense of security.
Reassess Your Financial Picture and Get Lean. Take some time to look over your budget. Where can you cut expenses? If you are like me, you’ve already noticed you are not spending as much as you were prior to the pandemic. The fuel category in my budget has been cut in half with lower gas prices and much less commuting to work.
Vacations have been put on hold, so that category is as low as it has ever been with no place to go for several months. The dining out category has improved each month as we have eaten at home more. Now is the time to be as lean as possible with your discretionary spending.
When analyzing where you are financially, keep in mind that judgement is a negative reinforcer. Now is not the time to berate yourself for not having an emergency fund, but instead embrace it as a future goal and plan how you can get there.
Sit on Cash. If you do have an emergency fund, hold onto it for now. It’s important to have that cushion in case an emergency, such as a job loss or pay cut, pops up for your family.
Manage Debt. If you have to take on debt during the pandemic, make it count. If your washer stops working and can’t be repaired, it has to be replaced. If you just need new clothes to make yourself feel better, reframe your thoughts to find a solution for feeling better without spending money. Delay large purchases, vacations, or any items that are not absolutely necessary until the world is a bit more settled.
Stay Steady in Your Investing. Keep the long-term perspective if you are an investor. Continue with your retirement plan and IRA contributions. Market volatility often makes investors nervous and they consider jumping ship. When stocks are selling at a low, history shows it’s not the time to be making investment changes to that side of your portfolio. Feel free to call your financial planner and take advantage of virtual “hand holding.” That’s part of our job.
Things are Looking Up, But We Are Not Out of The Woods Yet. February and March rattled all of us with the arrival of COVID-19, our economy being shut down for the first time in most of our lives, and the volatility of the global stock markets. April and May allowed for more education on COVID-19 and the global markets rebounded much more than expected.
As of the date of this article, unemployment claims have started to decline from the all-time high reached in May. Businesses are slowly reopening and bringing their employees back. However, it will take time for us to get back to full capacity.
Workers in businesses that do not reopen will need to retrain for other jobs. Another resurgence of COVID-19 and a lack of a viable vaccine could stall our lives again before the end of the year. Be as financially prepared for that possibility as you can.
The Silver Lining. It’s not all doom and gloom, because we have seen many silver linings to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some I’ve seen include the courage of a friend that fights the virus during the day in the ICU, taking care of patients with the utmost care, and then going home to nurture her two children.
And another friend that is bonding with her children, spending warm afternoons outside enjoying the sunshine and having conversations that have never been had. Or there is the amazing group of local women that have sewn over 500 masks for nonprofits and frontline workers, while being creative to find ways to make them as comfortable as possible.
Don’t forget to count your blessings. If you are feeling uncertain about your financial or retirement picture, reach out to us for a second opinion. We would be happy to provide feedback on your financial situation.
Jennifer Adams, CFP®, CDFA™ is a financial planner with Starks Financial Group in Asheville. She specializes in retirement planning and divorce planning for women. Find her at www.starksfinancial.com