Anyone else anxiously looking ahead to brace for what the rest of 2020 has in store?
I know I am.
This year was certainly not what any of us had expected. Since March, families have watched their travel plans, jobs, businesses, and retirement dreams fall apart. Even today, more than six months into the pandemic, you still can’t walk through a store or a town center without visible reminders that things are not what they used to be.
And yet, I am hopeful that this dark situation may carry a nugget of something useful. Here are three questions that may help you find that nugget, too.
What is essential for you?
In the beginning of the pandemic, our worlds were suddenly reduced to a small footprint. Many people, especially those with at-risk family members, hunkered down in their homes. In that locked-down version of life, you can’t help but discover that certain people, things, and experiences are essential for your wellbeing.
For some, it’s the daily walk or the chance to go to a grocery store and choose your own produce. For others, it may be about having a reserve of food, supplies, and money. Maybe it’s that weekly dinner with friends, or a travel destination to look forward to. Take note of what life ingredients turned out to be essential for you.
On the other hand, we have all learned that we can be OK without some things. Sure, 2-day delivery from Amazon is nice when you can get it… But, as you have discovered by now, you will probably make it even if it gets there 2 weeks later.
What unexpected gifts will you remember?
Few things in life are uniformly awful, no good, and terrible. You may have to dig deep, but there were probably moments of re-discovery and gratitude mixed in with all the hardships of 2020.
Having a cup of coffee in the morning while reading the paper on your porch? Finding that great show on Netflix that made you laugh? Intentionally scheduling and showing up for conversations with friends and family, even if they have to be on Zoom? Getting into a rhythm of preparing and eating good food at home? Going to bed at a reasonable hour?
Spend some time thinking about those glimpses of goodness. To be sure, they do not cancel out all the restrictions and worries of 2020. However, they shouldn’t go unnoticed, either.
What money lessons will you take with you?
You can’t talk about 2020 without addressing the elephant in the room. With furloughs, layoffs, and salary cuts, many families must re-assess their money situation. Here are some valuable reminders.
Emergency savings matter
It is easy to think about emergency savings as a luxury that you can do without, as long as your job seems stable and you generally live within your means.
However, the whole point of an emergency is that you can’t always predict it.
If someone had told me a year ago that virtually every restaurant in the US would have to either shut down for months or sell takeout only, I would have replied “I don’t believe it”. Extreme happenings sound so inconceivable — until they happen. So, do what you can to build that emergency savings account. You will never regret having extra money in reserve.
Backup career plans matter
This crisis has shown us that there is no job security. This doesn’t just affect the folks in the notoriously unstable entertainment industry. Even in the “essential” professions (such as healthcare), people have experienced layoffs and furloughs. Now is the time for everyone to reflect on what else we could do with our skills, or what areas we would be willing to learn if we had to pivot.
As a side note: The idea of a side hustle or multiple income streams is a good one. However, the reality is that not everyone can do it. When considering your options for additional income, be sure to look at all angles and consider all the risks.
Financial strategy matters
Remember March 2020, when the stock markets crumbled in some of the worst single day drops ever? It can be terrifying to watch your 401(k) balance take a significant hit, especially if you are close to retirement.
When something like that happens, it is easy to panic and sell your investments to avoid losing even more money. In the wake of market turbulence, many people have made mistakes that have jeopardized their financial future. So, today more than ever, it is important to have a solid financial plan and to work with a trusted professional who can help you make smart choices with your money.