Our world has forever changed. This is my opinion, but I think it’s a safe assumption. Our lives are literally upside-down. What used to be unacceptable is now acceptable and vice versa. We can’t go anywhere we want. We can’t find TP at the grocery store. We can’t discern when this market free-fall will stop. But what we CAN do, at least here in the state I live in, is order alcohol to be delivered with your take out food!
Our world is a little crazy, but it doesn’t have to be scary. This post is a collection of random thoughts I’ve had about our “new world” of COVID-19.
Random Thoughts on Our Financial Situation
Since this is a personal finance blog, here are some thoughts about how this is affecting our money.
We have seen a lot of stock market volatility. I mean, it’s a roller coaster and it tends to take our emotions with it. We are now in a Bear Market territory (more than a 20% loss). After years of the Bull, we have all been lulled into thinking that things will always be great. They won’t. In fact, downturns normally come every 5-10 years. In the possible 25 or so years left in my investment horizon (my mom is 98, so who knows how long I’ll live) I could see 5 significant market downturns. It’s part of life. It stinks, but we’re all in the same boat. And, if you are positioned correctly, it can be used to your advantage.
There are some great resources on this subject of market volatility. One is J. L. Collins’ book, “The Simple Path to Wealth.” In this book, Jim explains market volatility and how to calmly ride it out. Also, one of my favorite bloggers, Fritz Gilbert at The Retirement Manifesto has written a post about our current Bear Market. He explains how this Bear can be used to your advantage. Check it out: “The Benefits of a Bear Market”
The market always recovers. It looks like you’ve lost a LOT of money. Remember, you haven’t “lost” all that money if you don’t sell. Please don’t panic sell and lock in your losses. There are numerous posts and articles about buying when the market is down. Stocks are basically on sale. This can be an advantage if you have the resources to do that. If not, just sit tight.
Do you have a financial game plan? If you don’t have a financial game plan, you need one. Just like every NFL coach, you need to have a plan before the game begins. These are best done before a crisis when you’re not panicked or fearful. Given our circumstances you do need to have a plan for the next few weeks. Then when our lives go back to normal, you should get serious about a long-term plan for your money. One bright side to these shaky times is we’re getting a great education on what to do for our future.
If you already have a financial game plan, has this market downturn changed your personal risk tolerance? If so, it may be time to reevaluate and tweak your plan.
Some of us have prepared well, some of us were living paycheck-to-paycheck and as a result, life is scary. If you are prepared, think of ways to use your resources to help someone else who may have lost a job or is struggling. If you are in the paycheck-to-paycheck group, this has probably caught you off guard and you’re not sure what to do. It’s time to make some hard choices.
Your first priority is the essentials: Food, shelter, utilities and transportation. We’re mostly staying in, so expenses will probably be lower without much effort. You may need to cut everything down to the essentials. Remember, this won’t last forever.
If you have lost your job, don’t let your pride or your fear keep you frozen. Some industries are suffering and others need workers. Check with the grocery stores. They are hiring in my area. They need stockers and delivery drivers. Also, other retail, like pharmacies, may need drivers. Check with Amazon or any large distribution warehouse. They may not be glamorous jobs, but it could be a paycheck for a while.
Do you have an emergency fund? If not, this may have opened your eyes to the need for one. A lack of an EF is one of the things that took Stephen and I down financially in our dark days. My upcoming post of Why You Need a Budget talks more about an EF. It is like an insurance policy against life’s “Oh, $#@&”.
Are you sitting on more debt than you’re comfortable with now? This may be another life lesson to come out of our current circumstances. Debt elimination may need to rise to the top of the priority list. Interest rates have just been lowered. This means you can possibly refinance a car, mortgage, or student loan. You’ve got time on your hands and it could be worth real dollars, so check it out!
It may be smart to cut back on your spending temporarily. We’re kinda being forced to do that. Since we are self-quarantining, we are cooking more at home and not going out for any kind of entertainment. Also, some of our events have been cancelled. It all helps reduce the strain on our budget for a while.
Look after your older neighbors, help out where you can. If you’re in a position to do so, tip big on your take-out order. Think of creative ways you can help your neighbors while still practicing social distancing. Check on older or more vulnerable neighbors who don’t need to be getting out. If you know anyone in Assisted Living/Nursing Home/Hospice, call them. This isolation will leave lasting scars on a person who may already feel forgotten. If you have the resources, give to your local church’s needs fund. They will be ministering to out-of-work congregants. Also, give extra if you can to the general fund. Some churches are already seeing a 30-40% drop in giving.
Stay home as much as possible. This will not only help the general population, but it will help our local small business owners and our over-stressed healthcare workers by helping to end this ASAP. Staying home is what we can all do now. Between the day I started writing this post and the day I have published it, most large cities have instituted a Shelter In Place order. Please stay home unless it’s an emergency or to go to the grocery store.
Hard Choices, Easy Life. Easy Choices, Hard Life.
My next post will have a few thoughts on what I have personally learned during this market downturn. See you soon!