Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals nor financial advisors. The following are our recommendations based on our experience and should not be taken as professional legal, medical, or financial advice.
Most of us have been glued to the TV over the last couple weeks following the increasing impact of the new coronavirus.
What began as a minor news story in a far-off country has quickly turned into a global pandemic, and subsequently, a global panic among citizens.
Here in the U.S. public events and sports arenas are suspended indefinitely. Travel to and from many places are grounded. Shopping malls and most businesses are having less customers and losing millions in sales, and some are beginning to close temporarily.
The restrictions continue to increase in every community.
With such widespread precautions this coronavirus is having a major impact on our economic world. As a result, the personal finances of most individuals are also being severely affected.
The coronavirus is here, and it’s wreaking havoc on more than just your health. While it’s too late for most to prepare for such a disruption to their money, there are some things you can do to help minimize the impact.
Let’s talk about the coronavirus and your money: the impact, what you can do, and the lessons we can all learn from this unprecedented event.
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Everyone has been impacted in some way by the coronavirus, but we’ll be focusing specifically on the coronavirus and your money.
The biggest money impact from coronavirus so far has been on jobs that are being affected by closures. Unfortunately, a large portion of jobs do not offer healthcare or paid sick leave, meaning people in these positions must make the impossible choice between putting their health (and other’s health) at risk or losing their ability to pay for their livelihood.
Small businesses are also being hit particularly hard by the ramifications of this virus. While all businesses are losing money, it is the mom and pop shops that are most effected. These businesses do not have the revenue or reserves to withstand a significant drop in business for very long. And again, do they continue to work so they can try and stay open and risk their health or stay home and lose everything else?
The last major way in which the coronavirus is affecting your money is with the stock market. We’ve seen some near historic single-day losses over the last week or so (along with giant single-day gains) and this roller coaster is likely to continue until we get a better handle on this virus.
Whether you’re a young investor or nearing retirement, the volatility of the stock market is sure to have you cringing and possibly looking to make changes.
In fact, the overall impact of the coronavirus on your money probably has many of your near panic mode. Even those with less financial impact are unsettled, so don’t feel bad for worrying.
Before you do anything rash, we have some suggestions for you to consider. It may be too late to be prepared for what has happened, but there are still many things you can do to help yourself and those around you.
What You Can Do
Again, this article is focused primarily on the coronavirus and your money. However, we feel we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind everyone to wash their hands, try not to touch their face, cover their sneeze or coughs, and to try and limit contact with others, especially those who are elderly or immunocompromised.
At this point, social distancing is the most effective and the only way to control the spread of the virus.
If you do feel sick (especially fever, cough, and trouble breathing), call your doctor’s office and follow their advice.
Aside from the general health precautions, here are some things you can do to help minimize the financial impact of the coronavirus on your money and those around you.
Lost or Decreased Hours
For those of your who have lost your income due to job closures or decreased hours, there are some things you can do.
First, try and spend as little money as you can. The first thing to consider with a loss of income is to decrease your spending. At the very least, you’ll decrease debt accrual and possibly be able to tread water until you can begin making money again.
Second, you should look to see if you qualify for unemployment, unemployment insurance, or a disability insurance claim. You may also qualify for some assistance if you must stay home because of illness. You’ll need to check with your state, but here are links to get you started in Washington and California.
Third, you can look for other temporary lines of work. There are some businesses with increased demand looking to hire more workers, such as grocery stores. There may also be increased opportunities with gig economy jobs, especially those that deliver food or other services. Temporarily doing one of these jobs might be enough to get your through until your regular job returns to normal.
Lastly, there are some assistance bills being worked on to help people who’ve lost their job or had a reduction in hours. Congress recently passed a coronavirus relief bill that will make testing free and give paid sick leave to affected workers, along with other relief measures. The government also recently clarified rules for paying employees during this shutdown.
Additionally, many utility companies, banks, and other corporations are offering assistance and waiving/postponing bill payment in the wake of the coronavirus. If you’re concerned you won’t be able to make your payments, contact your utility companies and other companies you do business with and see what assistance they are offering.
State and local governments are also placing a moratorium on evictions or turning off utilities due to late payments.
You can also check out our Resources page for national and local (Oregon) resources for those affected by COVID-19.
For those who haven’t experienced a significant loss in income, one thing you can do to help others and the economy is to buy local.
As previously mentioned, the businesses hit hardest by the shutdowns are small businesses. In fact, many of these businesses may have been barely scraping by before the coronavirus hit. As with workers who’ve lost their jobs, small business owners must make the difficult choice to continue working or possibly lose everything.
In these difficult times, one way you can significantly help others is to buy local if you can. The large corporations will largely recover, but many mom and pop shops will not survive the coronavirus.
The last major way that the coronavirus has impacted your money is through the stock market, which has investors in panic mode.
It’s almost impossibly not to have an emotional reaction to seeing thousands (and even more) shaved off your assets, but as hard as it is, try not to panic.
For those of you who are young and have years left to work, we advise you not to even look at your accounts. With years left until you need the money, you’ll almost certainly gain all of it back and then some.
Remember, the Dow Jones was at around 10,000 when it crashed in 2008, and as of Friday it was at about 19,500. From our experience, even though it is concerning, don’t make the mistake of panicking and selling your investments at a loss or at a lower rate of return. It will bounce back and those who have more time will make the loss and more back.
For those of you nearing retirement, we hope you’ve been rebalancing as you’ve gotten older so that more of your money was in lower risk investments (which in turn means you lost less). If that’s the case, you should have little to worry about.
For those of you nearing retirement who have not been rebalancing, you may be forced to work a bit longer than you had planned until you can regain your losses. While you may not want to hear that, hopefully your career won’t need to be extended too long. It took about 6 years for the S&P 500 to recover to previous all-time highs after 2008. However, once you’ve regained losses, we recommend rebalancing to less risky assets to protect against another drop.
For those who are already retired, we presume that they already rebalanced their portfolio prior to retiring to avoid losses from a stock market crash. In most cases, retirees move a majority of their investments to low risk lower yield fixed accounts, and a smaller portion to mutual funds with a higher risk because they don’t have much time to make up the lost value of the investment after a stock market crash.
So, there is not much of worry for the retirees unless they continued to gamble with high risk stocks or mutual funds. In those cases, you may need to look at going back to work unless you can ride out this current crash.
Help Wherever You Can
This last category isn’t about what you can do to protect your money during this coronavirus outbreak, but more about what you can do to help others.
Aside from buying local as described above, those of you who have a surplus of money may want to consider using some of it to help others. You can donate to non-profits and other charities that are likely overloaded, volunteer your time, and make sure those around you are doing okay.
Especially for our elderly and vulnerable populations, you could make a huge difference. Check on your neighbors, offer to buy them supplies, and help them with tasks they may not be able to complete because they’re stuck at home. For these at-risk populations, your trip to the grocery store for them could mean the difference between life and death.
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to overcome the present situation, but there are lessons that can be learned for the next time a major disruptive event occurs.
Following this impact of the coronavirus on your money, it is essential to learn how to conduct your finances in a way that helps you withstand future economic hardships by learning to be frugal and save for the future as much as you can.
This virus will eventually slow down, but national debt continues to be on the rise. It has gone up nearly $5 trillion dollars over the last 5 years or so. At present, the national debt is nearly $23 trillion, which will likely only get worse with the impact of the virus.
What can you do to protect yourself in the future? We prefer the KISS method.
Keep it simple, stupid by:
- Spending less than you make
- Creating an emergency fund and always trying to increase savings
- Paying off debt and avoid new debt as much as possible
- Streamlining your spending by prioritizing your needs first before spending money on wants
Consider this incident a wake-up call to get your finances in order as much as you can. Obviously, some of the hardships are caused by things out of your control (lack of paid sick-leave, healthcare, etc.), but focusing on what you can control will put you in a much better position to withstand future events.
Good things can come out of unfortunate events. Use the impact of the coronavirus as a starting point for doing what you can to improve your financial situation moving forward.
Moral of the Story
The coronavirus is an unprecedented global event that impacts everyone. Aside from your health, the coronavirus is probably also severely impacting your money.
Businesses and leagues are shutting down, leaving many without jobs or with reduced hours. Many are getting sick but can’t afford to miss work. Small businesses are being hit harder than most, while stock market losses are gutting retirement accounts.
As disruptive as all these shutdowns are, the precautionary measures being imposed by the government are an attempt to prevent the spreading of the virus, which will ultimately prevent an overwhelming of the healthcare system and save lives.
We know the majority of American’s are being hit hard financially, but there are some things you can do.
If you’ve lost your job or have had hours cut, make sure you reduce your spending, look for other ways to make money, apply for assistance, and check with your utility companies and lenders to work out payment plans if needed.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a secure financial situation, try and buy local when possible to help small businesses survive. Also, volunteer your time and offer donations to organizations trying to keep people afloat. Check on your neighbors and offer assistance to at-risk populations.
If you’re an investor, try not to panic. Those with years left until retirement will be able to make up their losses and more. If you’re nearing retirement or in retirement, hopefully you’ve adjusted your asset classes to mitigate losses. If you have not, look to do so when things start to recover.
But most of all, take the coronavirus as an opportunity to learn and be better prepared for the next event so you can better protect your finances in the future.
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