Financial Planning for Geeks

Financial Planning for a Pandemic

- Financial Planning

Last month I wrote about some changes in technology which we might see coming out of the COVID-19 stay-at-home period. I also encouraged you to hang tight in terms of investing. What other nuggets of financial wisdom can I offer, given that taking action and exercising control can help with the anxiety? I’m glad you asked:

Artist's rendering of a scourge

1.       Review your estate plan, or get it done if you haven’t already. And when I say “estate” plan, I don’t mean you have to have a Highclere-sized estate in Hampshire to need this stuff. If you care about the person who will handle things when you die, you need an estate plan. Click here to read my post about the basic documents you need and why.

If you’ve already got your documents done, now is a great time to review them. Make yourself a nice cocktail, pull out the file, and make sure all the people you designated to make decisions, handle your affairs, and take care of your kids (if relevant) are still in line with what you want. Remember that these people may not always be able to travel and you might want someone who lives closer to you. Also review your Living Will/Healthcare Directive: do you still feel the same about being resuscitated, for example?

2.       Cut expenses. This may seem obvious, but I’m throwing it in here, anyway. It’s easy to troll your favorite shopping site when you’re bored and anxious. But you will feel SO much better if you keep your expenses under control during this time. Better yet, build a spending plan if you haven’t done that already.

3.       If you are low on cash, stop or reduce payments on your bills where you can. If you have student loans, your interest rate went to 0% for a two-month period starting in mid-March 2020, so that expense is already down. If you need to stop payments, go to your loan servicer’s website and follow the instructions to request this.

If you have credit card balances and need help, you can also go to your provider’s website and check out their COVID-19 page. Many credit card companies will reduce rates, reduce or push out monthly payments, and/or reduce late fees.

If you have a mortgage, many lenders offer similar types of help. This one can be a game-changer, since a mortgage is often a household’s biggest expense. Again, visit your lender’s website to find out if you can temporarily stop or reduce payments, without late fees or other costs.

4.       Figure out what you will do if your emergency reserve runs out. Friends, if you are among the many who are unemployed, underemployed, furloughed, and so forth, I am truly sorry. You may be saying “What emergency reserve”? Nevertheless, having a plan generally feels better than flying by the seat of your pants and not really knowing what happens next. What will you do when you’re out of cash? Sell some stocks? Ask your parents for help? Get a zero-interest credit card or low-rate home equity line of credit? If you have a 401(k) plan through your employer, you could also look into taking a loan against your plan. And when things improve, I beg you to keep at least three months’ worth of your living expenses in cash as an emergency reserve.

5.       Give yourself a damn break. Forgive my French, but we all need a little grace right now. Give yourself the break you give to everyone else. If you flounder, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and then sublimate that icky energy by doing 10 minutes of yoga

Be well, my friends, both physically and financially!

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Penny Farthing

I, Penny Farthing (non-wizarding name Kerry Read ), actually have a day job in the world of finance. This blog came into being because of my deep and abiding love for geeks and Personal Finance.