None of us planned for this.
But your Financial Life Plan when implemented does have mechanisms in place that will help you get through this tough patch with the coronavirus and the financial market volatility. The key is not letting heightened emotions and bad headlines steer you towards decisions that could have a negative impact on your finances long after this crisis has passed.
Easier said than done, right?
These three steps will help you remember why you have a plan in the first place, what it’s designed to help you accomplish, and how we can help.
1. Acknowledge your emotions.
Worry. Anger. Uncertainty. Nervousness. Maybe even a disbelieving chuckle or two at the craziness of it all.
Whatever you’re feeling right now is OK. We understand that your financial concerns are just one part of a very complicated and very personal situation involving your family, your work, your health care, and your basic needs. Add in the anxiety we’re all feeling about the situation in the wider world and you wouldn’t be human if your emotions weren’t a bit jumbled right now.
So please understand that when we advise you to take emotions out of your financial decision making during a crisis, we’re not advising you to ignore what you’re feeling. On the contrary, we encourage you to talk through your feelings with your spouse, children, co-workers, and other close friends or family. Burying your emotions only makes stressful situations more stressful. Our human capacity for empathy, understanding, connection, and mutual concern is going to help us all weather this storm. It’s also going to lead you towards healthier and more productive outlets for your feelings, such as charitable giving and finding creative ways to support local businesses.
2. Tell yourself your story.
Once your feelings are out in the open, it will be easier for you to think about the financial part of your situation with a clear head.
Try, for a moment, to set aside the market swings that may have been dominating your news feeds for the past few weeks. Instead, think about the reason that you started working with us in the first place.
In those first few meetings, we didn’t talk about how to time your investments to world news or market fluctuations. Instead, we talked about you. About the life you desire for you and your loved ones.
And finally, we discussed how our Financial Life Planning process can help you get that best possible life with the money you have.
3. Prioritize Now, adjust for Soon, stay on track for Later.
Because we plan for clients’ lives, not just their money, we always take in a wide view of financial progress. Today’s big market dip will look like a blip with a thirty or forty-year panoramic perspective. But “stick to your plan” doesn’t mean we don’t do anything during a major market correction, especially if you’re at or nearing retirement age. It means that the moves we contemplate are based more on your upcoming financial life transitions than they are on unpredictable market movements.
To keep yourself focused on things you can plan for, grab a sheet of paper and sit down with your spouse. Divide that sheet into three sections:
- Now: Financial concerns that need to be addressed as soon as possible, such as paying next month’s bills, a necessary home repair, or a health care issue.
- Soon: Important items 6-12 months out that you still have time to prepare for.
- Later: Everything else.
Most of these items will already be things we’ve discussed and planned for over the course of our work together. But it’s possible that recent events have filled up your Nows and bumped some Soons into Laters. We deliberately designed your Financial Life Plan so that it can be responsive to these changing priorities and transitions while still being sensitive to larger economic realities.
That's is why there's no "one-size-fits-all" answer when folks wonder what they should do during a moment like this. Some folks will make the most progress towards their goals by sticking to their current saving and investing strategies, even as the markets are unsettled. Others might need to increase allocations to their cash reserves. And still others might look for “buy low” opportunities that will pay off in the long run.
These scenarios all require their own unique, personalized plans. In each case the you can rely on our Financial Life Planning process to keep your best interests first and your life goals in perspective, not today's headlines.