Navigating Your Finances in Stressful Times

Recent months have possibly brought on a heightened sense of stress regarding where you stand financially. These do’s and don’ts could be excellent considerations for you and your family to discuss.

DO Adjust Budget / Trim Expenses

Your expenses have likely changed in recent months due to this constantly evolving environment. Hopefully you have been lucky and your income has been mostly unaffected. In this case, your budget might look better than it did previously due to the lack of notorious budget busters like random shopping sprees or a few too many restaurant outings. 

Perhaps you have been affected in some way, and there is a need for some adjustments to the way you spend. Under this set of circumstances, you must make changes accordingly. If you have excess in certain areas, trim them back. This will hopefully bring about some balance and provide a bit of breathing room. 

This activity of trimming expenses can be grueling but also incredibly valuable. By proactively taking these steps you will put yourself in a more secure position in the short term and then perhaps provide an opportunity to take on the next step!

DO Add to Emergency Savings

If you have reworked your budget and find that you have some additional funds during this time, it would be wise to either add to or rebuild your emergency fund. Uncertainty and market volatility can drive many people to undue financial stress. Your emergency savings can be an ideal buffer in these circumstances. 

If you were forced to pull from your emergency fund during this time, you have first hand evidence of the value that these savings provide. Now, as the world begins to normalize in some respects, rebuilding these savings will prove to be an important activity. Saving money in the short term will provide some sense of security in the long term.

A healthy emergency fund can help to lessen the impact that unexpected events will have on your overall financial situation. There is no need to unnecessarily increase financial stress in times like these and adding to your emergency fund will have the desired effect. More security and in turn less stress.

DO Continue Your Investing Program

Uncertainty in the market cannot be allowed to derail your investment program. Volatility has been a highlight in the investment news. It would be easy to allow this situation to keep you from investing. It is natural to feel unsure of what the best decision in this time may be, but the foundation of any investment program is placing your dollars in a position where they can begin to work. 

By staying the course and ensuring that funds still flow into your investment program, you will provide yourself more flexibility and security in the future. You might not immediately place funds into the market but stopping inflows at this point could be a significant mistake when we are eventually provided with hindsight. 

Save yourself from this regret. Automation and consistency are two highlights of many successful individual investors. Your future self will thank you if you utilize discipline in your investments and investment plan.

DO Connect with a Financial Advisor

If you do feel that it is necessary to modify the way that you invest or your general financial plan, consulting with your financial advisor will be key. A mishap or unfortunate decision could be costly. A prudent financial advisor will be able to assist in avoiding events of this nature.

Additionally, much of the stress associated with financial markets and your own financial standing is associated with many of the day to day decisions that require some expertise. Instead of dealing with these difficulties and attempting to solve them on your own, allow a financial professional to relieve you of some of these duties.

An advisor’s expertise may be more important than you think! A financial professional will be able to take on some financial stress and complicated issues on your behalf. This could give you additional security and peace of mind.

DON’T Check Investment Account Balances

If you have followed recent market events, you already know that your account balance is likely at a lower level than you had grown accustomed to in the last year or so. We have all seen this recent dip, and all have felt the general angst. Even though a recovery may be in the works, all of us are best suited if we take a break from checking account balances on a daily basis.

The stock market has a very short-term outlook. Your financial plan requires a long-term lens. You have invested for the long haul.

Unless you plan on retiring in the next year, these account balances should not be viewed as the end all to your overall financial health. Markets are cyclical by nature. Although the recent downturn was significant, the value of your accounts will likely return with time. 

DON’T Get Caught Up in the Volatility

The market will always change from day to day. Many days the news will be great. The value of your portfolio will increase along with the market as a whole. Nearly as many days will be entirely the opposite.

Watching CNBC or reading the Wall Street Journal can lead to excess fear or additional uncertainty. These sources of investment news will focus on different extremes and the entire economy as a whole, not what the market movements mean to you as an individual. 

Volatility is a reality but don’t allow it to distract you from your goals. You will be better served by focusing on the few elements that you do control rather than the volatility that is out of your control.

DON’T Take on New Debt

Unnecessary debt can complicate any financial situation, let alone in the middle of times as stressful as these. If you have struggled during recent months, your ability to pay down debt could be less than what it was previously. This is entirely understandable but instead of digging in deeper, just throw away the shovel! 

Debt will keep you from tackling other important financial goals. In this time, your financial well-being is vital. Beyond negatively affecting your personal balance sheet, debt can create unneeded financial stress.

As previously mentioned, focus on ensuring that your budget is on track and reducing some of your expenses. Don’t allow a momentary or extravagant desire to wreck your solid financial standing. 

DON’T Drastically Modify Financial Plan

The financial plan that you had in place before these unusual times was intended to carry you through unexpected events, even something of our current standing. 

It would be easy to panic in these times, derailing your carefully placed plans. Evaluating different elements of your financial picture can be a helpful activity but drastically modifying your plan to meet today’s news reel will not be beneficial.

We can never be sure of what the future will hold. Wildly reacting to the present will impact the future in ways that we could never foresee. Your finances are too important to your overall well being to make significant changes without deep thought and reason. Stand firm and stay the course, your future self will be grateful.

Additional Reading and Resources

If you would like to read more and learn about managing your finances in times of heightened stress, consider one of the following articles or reach out to one of our qualified advisors!

Five Rules to Improve Your Financial Health 

Financial Advice for Right Now 

The Coronavirus and Your Finances