Prior to this global crisis, the economy was humming along and we were at low unemployment rates.
Within weeks, 20 years’ worth of job growth was wiped out and the stock market, which had been trading at all-time highs, crashed. It was quite a shock, and although the world has changed drastically, understanding the current climate can help ease the financial burden.
Here are five tips for steadying your savings.
1) ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY FUND
My biggest take away in this pandemic has been the extreme importance of an emergency savings fund: having cash on hand in the event that you lose your job or need to take a pay cut. The amount of cash in your emergency fund is a personal decision, but I generally suggest at least three months of your stripped-down overhead, or what it costs to pay your bills each month. Start saving money for the future now, if you’re in a posi- tion to do so. Life is unpredictable, and planning for the worst is the most sound financial strategy.
2) COMPLETE A PERSONAL FINANCIAL AUDIT
Given the uncertainty in the world right now, a personal financial audit is one of the best things you can do. It sounds scary, but it’s essentially a deep-dive into your finances to find out how much you own (assets) versus what you owe (liabilities). Your assets minus your lia- bilities equals your net worth. By doing this analysis, you’ll better understand your own financial health and be able to identify ways you can improve it.
Should your personal financial audit reveal that you have debt, determine whether it’s good debt, such as a mortgage, or bad debt, like credit cards. You need to eliminate credit card debt before you can invest any money, which is what I suggest doing if you’re fortunate enough to have excess cash right now. Either seek out a financial adviser or look into the myriad existing investment plat- forms. If you choose the latter, select one that guides you through the pro- cess and takes your risk tolerance into consideration. You might want to start by investing slowly over time; perhaps pick the same day each month to put money into the market. This is called dollar-cost averaging and allows you to build a more disciplined strategy. If you are a parent, you could also in- vest in your child’s college fund early by opening a 529 college savings plan. Research your state’s plan to ensure it works for you. Some states offer tax deductions for contributions, and all plans provide you with tax-free growth, assuming you use the proceeds toward education costs.
4) LIMIT NONESSENTIAL SPENDING
Are you living within your means? Are you using credit cards to pay for things you can’t afford? So many people have realized that, before the pandemic, they were spending way too much on things they did not need. The amount of money they were wasting became apparent when they were ordered to stop...well, doing things. Mindless spending on shared car services, personal care, fit- ness, and travel has come to light in the wake of this crisis. Cut back on those unnecessary purchases.
5) TAKE CONTROL
It’s common to have a mindset that falls into one of two categories when it comes to money: apathy or fear. But instead of trying to avoid dealing with your financial situation or being afraid to look at what you have, it’s time to move on from the excuses, take con- trol of your money, and understand it or hire someone to help you under- stand it. You don’t need to spend years studying markets and investments— outsource, if need be. This awful time has proved that it is crucial to have a strong handle on your finances. And if not now, when?