OP-ED: Plan your finances for the post-pandemic world
By Chuck Jones
We are nearing the end of the second calendar year in which the Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives and finances of millions of people around the world.
Record numbers of workers lost their jobs – some temporarily, others permanently. The sudden loss of income was devastating to those forced to turn to food pantries to feed their families, or seek ways to defer mortgage and loan payments, or file for extended unemployment benefits just to make it month to month.
The Labor Department reports the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits is falling to some of the lowest levels since before the pandemic began.
“If you are among those Americans who find themselves in a better place, now may be the right time to assess how the pandemic impacted your financial well-being, and start to actively plan your personal economic recovery,” said Audrey Pool, LPL financial advisor with First Community Financial Services.
Online website Investopedia recommends creating an Annual Financial Plan, which it describes as “a document containing a person’s current money situation and long-term monetary goals as well as strategies to achieve those goals. A financial plan begins with a thorough evaluation of the person’s current financial state and future expectations and may be created independently or with the help of a certified financial planner.”
A financial plan can help determine where you are at this particular moment, and provide a roadmap to get you where you want to go.
Consider all your assets – how much you get paid, what’s in your savings and checking accounts, how much is in your retirement fund, etc.
Consider your liabilities – including loans, credit cards, and other personal debts. Don’t forget to include your mortgage or rent, utility bills and other monthly expenses.
You may also factor in your financial goals and what you’ll need to reach them – such as retirement planning, tax planning, and investment strategies.
The cable TV channel CNBC offers a few additional things to think about to help get your finances back on track:
(1) Increase your retirement contributions. Millions of Americans decreased their retirement contributions or stopped saving altogether during the pandemic. In fact, Pew Research Center said that half of non-retired adults in the U.S. told them the pandemic will make it harder for them to achieve long-term financial goals, such as retiring.
(2) Prepare for the worst-case scenario. Estate planning has always been important, but for many, the Coronavirus pandemic drove home just how crucial it is to have a plan in case of unforeseen emergencies. Talk to your family about your finances, the need for a will and a power of attorney, no matter how young and healthy you are, or whether you have children.
(3) Build an emergency fund. If there’s one lesson many people took away from the pandemic, it is the importance of having a robust emergency fund, no matter how secure you feel in your job. Most experts recommend having a minimum of three to six months’ coverage of essential expenses – housing, food, transportation, debt repayment – stashed away in a liquid savings account.
The Pew Research survey found that “33% of Americans responded to a direct question about their financial situation during the pandemic by saying they had used money from savings to pay for day-to-day living expenses, while 25% said they had trouble paying bills.”
Everyone has different financial situations, goals and issues to consider in developing a personal financial plan. If you feel it necessary, consult with a professional financial planner or a trusted financial advisor.