People are stressing over their personal finances, investments and job security, all while stuck at home because of the COVID-19 led quarantine and resulting recession.
Sixty percent of adults who were surveyed for a Fidelity Market Sentiments Survey this year said they are moderately or extremely concerned about their finances, and 43% said their concern is getting worse.
“One would expect the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and related market volatility has amplified the stress levels Americans are feeling about their finances, as well as affected other aspects of daily life—from sleeping to eating habits, ” as quoted by a Fidelity press release.
Part of the problem of dealing with financial matters during a crisis is that people may feel they do not have enough time or energy to address them, due to increased time constraints and pressures. Many are balancing working from home, while simultaneously taking care of younger and or older family members.
Make sure to take some time out to address your physical, mental and financial health. We encourage individuals of all ages to “dust-off” their financial plan, dial back spending and check up on their emergency savings, credit lines and obligations. Many people are following suit.
Fifty one percent of the survey participants have a plan in place and another 11% said they are either in the process of completing one or they are going to make one. At the same time, 48% are cutting back on discretionary spending and 44% are increasing savings. 15% are putting new money to work into the stock market.
Create a Maintenance Schedule
Our Top Six Summer Financial Maintenance Items may provide some valuable ideas and tips to get more “fiscally fit” and feel better about your finances and financial future beyond this years unbelievable hurdles from national COVID-19 health issues, the quarantine, unemployment issues and the upcoming Presidential elections.
Just like a weekly fitness routine, block out a half hour, four days a week to work on your financial goals and put them in writing. For example, block out a half hour at 12:30pm after lunch. If you have a spouse or significant other, make it a joint activity together. The following tasks could take four weeks of financial “circuit training” to sort out piece by piece.
The first step to get going as your “warm up” would be to write down the top five areas under each of the six sections that needs to be addressed. The second step would be to assemble your financial team including a financial advisor, tax professional and estate attorney.
1. Credit lines and obligations
Crisis mode would involve having multiple credit lines that are open, in good standing and with low rates on any outstanding debts.
Einstein stated it best that “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t, pays it.” Simply put, make sure that the “interest” you are earning on your savings is higher than the interest you are paying on your obligations.
Take out all your statements for your credit cards, student loans, mortgage, home equity, auto loan and any other obligations that are either floating or high interest above 6%. First review consolidating any higher debt obligations into any lower rate fixed programs to benefit from today’s ultra-low rates- or focus to pay them off within the next six to twelve months.
For larger obligations such as a mortgage or home equity loan, ask your lender if they are offering any short-term disaster relief assistance (if you qualify due to unemployment or reduction in income) which may involve deferring payment for six to twelve months or a loan modification, neither of which should adversely affect your credit score.
2. Subscriptions and Services
Crisis mode would involve cutting back (or down) any monthly subscriptions or services you may not need, or plan to utilize. This could involve trimming down your monthly cable bill, magazine or online subscriptions and gym memberships – all of which could save you significant money each month. For example, many people are not returning to their gym or fitness club class because of COVID-19 health safety concerns, but are still paying membership dues that have recently been reinstated.
Also call your home, auto and health care insurance providers to review ways to potentially modify your coverage and deductibles to help lower your monthly premiums which may also save you decent money each month. Dedicate any ‘newfound’ savings to your cash reserves “bucket” and then to making extra payments to get out of debt faster.
3. Portfolio Checkup
Crisis mode would involve opening up your statements and working to analyze and optimize your investments. This exercise is an “emergency drill” test in itself for most people that have not done this in years.
Ignoring your portfolio risk allocation is as insane as ignoring your blood pressure if it were up 20 points too high. Not revising and rebalancing your portfolio can be as catastrophic to your financial health as not periodically having your teeth cleaned by your dentist.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the most fundamental deterrent for many investors to “stay the course” with their investments and not to jump overboard to cash – is simply to help ensure they have properly diversified portfolios according to their age, goals and risk tolerance.
In many instances, an investor’s portfolio “ailment” leading to financial demise may be due more to being “over-weight” in stocks than the COVID-19 virus headlines and resulting quarantine which caused the extreme selloff in March.
Whether your aliment is lack of diversification or lack of discipline, work on reviewing and optimizing your employer retirement savings plans in addition to personal brokerage accounts. Make sure to ensure your money is invested appropriately according to your age, goals and tolerance for risk.
Most important, keep saving and investing each month, even through the COVID-19 storm and ongoing recession. This is an example of dollar cost averaging and following Buffet’s maxim to buy low and sell high, or to be “fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” This statement is somewhat of a contrarian view on stock market, news headlines and human behavior in general.
4. Check your Credit Score
Crisis mode would involve checking and protecting your credit report and score. Now is the time to create a solid security baseline, like ‘cyber hygiene’ for your digital and financial DNA.
Your credit report and score can affect many parts of your life nowadays, even when applying for a new job. Your online “financial foot-print” can be easy to improve and maintain over time, but exponentially difficult and expensive to fix, whether thrown off from poor financial behavior, reporting mistakes or identity theft.
With many people stuck at home shopping online, binging on Netflix, talking to Alexa and working from home, there may be an increased chance to be ripped off. Consider that all thieves need to impersonate you is your date of birth and Social Security number, the first which many people have right on your Face Book page.
You can check your credit report and score for free three times per year from all the major reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) on a site such as annualcreditrport.com.
If you want to take extra -strong preventative measures from being ripped off, you can elect to put a “security freeze” on all three of your credit agency reporting accounts. A Security freeze is designed to prevent the information in your credit files from being reported to others that request it. You may place, temporarily lift or remove a security freeze on your credit files under state laws.
5. Estate Plan Review
Crisis mode would involve meeting with an attorney via video conference or phone to update your estate plan, not trying to DYI (do it yourself) online and consulting yourself via google.
Many people we meet with have either not completed their estate plan or not updated it in 10+ years. With the possibility to end up sick in a hospital due to COVID-19, now would be a great time to discuss with your attorney, significant other and or kids- whether you need to complete or update any parts of your will, trust or critical estate planning documents.
As we discuss with our clients, estate planning is about much more than just about creating a will and considering your eventual transfer of assets. It is a key part of the financial planning process to help maintain and protect your health and wealth decisions before and after you retire, in any and all circumstances. You do not want to be quarantined alone in a hospital and not have written directives in place.
Work also with your financial advisor to implement your estate plan which may involve updating account ownership instructions and or beneficiary designations. Your advisor can also provide an insurance review in addition to providing options for long term care insurance if no already in place for both facility and home health care coverage.
6. Career Assessment
If you are already in crisis mode, like the many people already out of work due to COVID-19 or electing an early retirement, now would be a great time to complete a career reassessment and a resume (CV) makeover. In our opinion, consider first and foremost to ensure your Linked In profile is up to date, well written and has a current photo, as most recruiting now is digital and online.
Note that before COVID-19, it was noted that 48% of current retirees exited the labor force earlier than they had planned to as a result of downsizing by an employer, or from personal health issues. (source: The Wharton School, 2018).
Many boomers have been “reinventing themselves” and starting a second career before they even retire. Whether you are a boomer in your 50’s or 60’s, be aware that professional reinvention is not just for young people. You may not choose to sit around for the next 35+ year phase of your life sitting in a rocking chair. In addition, you may want to “sock away” a few more dollars for your retirement, even through your 60’s and 70’s.
Many boomers we are talking to are seriously exploring startups and small business ventures as an option. These are highly educated people that realize they need to be self-sufficient. For those less entrepreneurial minded, be more flexible in the type of jobs you seek. You’re not “reinventing” yourself, you’re redeploying your skills. Look to industries that are ramping up, specifically healthcare, technology and nonprofits.
With many small businesses and large corporations adapting to allow employees to work from home with flexible schedules, you may discover some unique opportunities by searching around online on job boards or even on Face Book or Linked in from current connections.
Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit or protect against losses.
Past performance is no guarantees of future results.
You cannot invest directly in an index.
The information given herein is taken from sources that IFP Advisors, LLC, dba Independent Financial Partners (IFP), IFP Securities LLC, dba Independent Financial Partners (IFP), and its advisors believe to be reliable, but it is not guaranteed by us as to accuracy or completeness. This is for informational purposes only and in no event should be construed as an offer to sell or solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or products. Please consult your tax and/or legal advisor before implementing any tax and/or legal related strategies mentioned in this publication as IFP does not provide tax and/or legal advice. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and do not take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situation, or needs of individual investors. This report may not be reproduced, distributed, or published by any person for any purpose without Ulin & Co. Wealth Management’s or IFP’s express prior written consent.