Over the past 18 months, many people have lost their jobs, fallen sick, or taken on additional family responsibilities. All of these circumstances can put a financial strain on any household, even those who considered themselves financially stable before the pandemic.
While COVID-19 is still a factor, the economy has improved and many people are returning to work – even if work looks a little different now. This means it is time to reevaluate your financial planning to adapt to the new normal. To that end, let’s explore some ways to recover from losses experienced during the pandemic and plan for a more emergency-proofed financial future.
How to recover from losses
When you experience a financial setback, the first thing you need to do is shore up your financial resources to prevent yourself from going under.
Reevaluate your budget
There are a couple factors to consider here. Inflation is one issue, as you may find that some of your weekly or monthly expenses are a bit more than they used to be. You may be operating on one income when you previously had two, paying for childcare expenses you didn’t previously have, and many more possibilities. No matter your individual situation, it is important to make a new budget to reflect these changes.
On the other hand, some people may have found that they actually had more spending money after lockdown because of cancelled trips or reduced expenses like eating at restaurants, going to movies or concerts, etc. If this is your situation, be sure not to spend that money just because you have it. Put it towards savings and future planning – don’t go too wild because you’re excited to be allowed outside the house.
If you are a small business owner, you will want to similarly reevaluate your financial management and spending for your business accounts as well.
Pay down debts
Reducing debt should always be a highest priority goal, according to financial experts. Being in debt impacts your ability to save and negatively impacts your credit score, which will impact your ability to get loans, mortgages, etc. in the future. If you went into debt over the past year-and-a-half, you simply can’t budget and spend as if you are not in debt.
Set aside a strict percentage of your income each month to pay off debts like credit cards, student loans, and other obligations. You should prioritize debts with high interest so you are paying less over the long run.
How to prepare for future emergencies
Once you have stabilized your new financial situation, you can start to think about how to prevent future setbacks.
When it comes to saving, there are tons of strategies and tools depending on your financial situation and needs. In a post-COVID world, most people’s first step should be emergency savings, that is, the money you set aside for unexpected medical bills, home or car repairs, etc.
The easiest way to start saving more regularly is to open a savings account. Unlike a checking account, you will not have the option of spending from this account with a debit card. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. are also good options, though these are higher risk, and some will have limits of when you can pull out the money. There may be special rates available from certain institutions because of the pandemic, so be sure to read the fine print.
If you have kids, now is also a good time to open savings accounts or other investment portfolios for them as well. Use the pandemic as a way to teach them the importance of money management so you can grow and plan together.
We can’t talk about pandemic-era finances without talking about insurance. Simply put, if a global pandemic didn’t prove the importance of health insurance, then it’s hard to say what will. Life insurance is another way to secure your family’s financial future because life insurance is paid to your beneficiaries in the event of your death.
It can be tempting to put off the “what if” expenses when money is tight, but you should look at insurance just like emergency savings or investments. It will prevent your family from going into financial ruin in the event of a health crisis or death.
How to plan for future growth
With the immediate financial musts taken care of, it’s time to look farther forward into the future. This is how you go from surviving to thriving in your money management.
While the global economy is still recovering in some ways, the stock market is performing well. If you’ve been wondering about investing, now may be the time to take the plunge.
According to industry expert Alex Williams of Hosting Data, finding the right broker is critical to investing success. “A stock broker is the middle-man in a stock exchange,” Williams explains. “You give the broker a commission on every trade you make and they give you the order that you purchased. The order is sent onto the stock exchange, and the “market makers” take it in.”
This may sound intimidating. Fortunately, almost all brokering happens online these days, making investing more accessible than ever before. Plus, some platforms have no trading fees, so this gets rid of the commission expense in the definition above.. There are plenty of good resources to teach you the basics so you can get your feet wet without incurring great risk. Many platforms now combine financial education with fractional share trading, which lowers the barrier to entry for the average user.
And even if watching the stock market isn’t your thing, there are other ways to invest that will still help situate you for a more stable future.
Plan for retirement
Unless you are living completely paycheck to paycheck, a retirement plan is a must-have aspect to include in your financial management strategy. Your employer might offer retirement plans that can be withdrawn from your salary monthly. If that’s not the type of job you have, there are other options available to help you get started.
Just like insurance, retirement plans are not a “what if” or a “sometime” financial decision. They are a must to prepare for financial success in the long term. Of course, if you are out of work, this is a different story. In this case, preserving what savings you have should be the main goal. You can do this by applying for unemployment insurance and doing everything you can not to dip into retirement savings to pay monthly expenses.
As the working world adapts to its new normal post-pandemic, you should be doing the same with your financial approach. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your financial priorities in light of financial or health setbacks. After all, budgeting to save, investing, and planning for retirement make it more affordable to weather emergencies when they do arise.