How do you plan for the future in a time like this?
It’s a fair question, and the answer is different depending on how the pandemic has affected you personally.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the loss of jobs and income, unexpected costs like childcare, and lots of food deliveries.
But for the lucky ones, they might have been promoted, or experienced boosts to their equity compensation valuations, or just saved money from not going on vacations or paying for private school tuition.
During the pandemic, just one change has remained consistent for almost everyone thinking about finances: more people are concerned about growing their savings, paying off debts, and generally finding stability.
Ed Rempel, CFP, has some suggestions on how those concerned about improving their financial situation can still make progress during uncertain times.
Given that two-thirds of Canadians don’t have a financial advisor, it’s clear that most people could use some help.
“There’s no catch-all solution for everyone,” Rempel said. “A financial advisor will learn about your specific situation and give suggestions on how to move forward.”
Facing the Uncertainty:
The first and possibly most important thing is to take a deep breath, face all the uncertainties, and then start working on your finances, anyway.
Many working adults have experienced the Great Recession that began in 2008, and know how it feels to wonder if the stock market will crash, housing prices will soar and the economy will stop working for most people.
That was a painful time, not unlike this one, and it can be difficult to grapple with long-term strategies when you’re feeling overwhelmed with current events. The pandemic is arguably worse for people than the Great Recession, primarily because it poses so many profound and unanswerable questions.
Experienced wildfires on the West Coast? Maybe you’re thinking about moving to someplace cooler and less expensive.
Now that you’re working from home for the foreseeable future, have your housing needs changed? Maybe you’re looking for a place that has more room for an office.
Or maybe you’ve seen your job — and your entire industry — disappear, and it’s time to pivot to a new career.
Have a Vision:
Even if you have no idea what will happen, having a vision for your future is the first step.
As you start working toward that goal, you’ll either discover that it’s not for you, or you’ll find something you like even better — that’s just what happens when we start putting in the effort and making choices, Rempel said.
With many of my clients, they will start making progress, hit a roadblock, and find a new opportunity. They adjust their goals and move on.
Plan as Far Ahead as Possible:
It’s part of Ed Rempel’s job to help his clients plan for 30 or more years into the future. Of course, it’s impossible to see that far ahead, but it still helps you make decisions in the here and now, Rempel said.
As clients recalibrate their projections each year, especially with the help of a financial planner, they realize they are always making decisions with good information, which not only helps them financially, but brings a certain peace of mind.
As long as you’re consistently learning and working toward your goals, it’s okay to be flexible with the how and when of achieving them, Rempel said.
Even if you’d prefer to pay off your house in 10 years, it’s okay to refinance for a 20-year loan. You can always make additional payments to get it done in the time you want.
“You’re making progress and giving yourself flexibility for the future,” Rempel said. “At the end of the day, that’s what financial planning is all about.”