Pattie Lovett-Reid: 5 money lessons learned from the pandemic
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on so many lives. Loved ones have been lost far too soon. The global economy has been slammed. Small businesses have had their life's work pulled out from under them. Larger industries such as retail, travel, tourism may take years to come back. Families are struggling to make ends meets. Yet, throughout the pandemic, we’ve remained hopeful we will get through this and the lifestyle we once knew will one day return.
But do we really want our pre-pandemic lifestyle back? I put out a call on social media to gauge how people were feeling and what they were thinking. Depending on age and lifestyle, it was mixed. Yes, in some ways we absolutely want the freedom we once enjoyed to return; however, now possibly with a twist.
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Here are some of the aha moments COVID-19 has brought to our attention:
1. Enjoy life: Sadly, none of us has as long as we think we do. Striking a balance between saving and spending is key. Try not to spend as if there is no tomorrow and save enough for the future you hope to enjoy. Spend money on the things that give you the greatest joy yet don't be seduced into lifestyle creep. During our period of isolation, some of the things many have longed for the most don't necessarily cost a lot of money – time with your family, or a face-to-face conversation. A hug. The value of getting outside and enjoying moments will likely never be considered overrated again.
2. Adapting to working from home: For those who have this option, it appears to be embraced. There is a recognition with less workspace interruption there’s an increase in productivity, efficiency and even creativity. But this comes at a price as the lack of socialization, orientation and structure to their day has been shifted. Track pants and yoga wear has resulted in cheaper workplace attire. The limited commute is saving many workers money on gas. However, expect to pay more for bandwidth to handle video chats and the costs to set up your office.
At the end of the day you will save money, but there will be offsets. Businesses are paying attention to this and accommodating where they can – and, in many cases, are in no rush to get people back into the office tower.
However, not everyone is adapting as well. When it comes to working from home, many women expressed frustration and concern that the pandemic has hit them harder than their male counterparts. Those with younger children are torn with daycare and schools being closed and bosses expecting productivity. Caring for family has proven to be a challenge for households trying to balance work, schooling and caring. This for many has proven to be a monumental task that has the potential to set women back.
3. Managing your portfolio: The volatility in the markets and fear of a second wave of COVID-19 has investors cautious and locking in recent gains in the market. The sobering reality laid out by U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggesting the recovery isn't likely going to be a V-shape with a quick rebound has many coming to terms that their investment portfolio is not as diversified as they thought – nor is their risk tolerance as high as they thought. Many are unwilling and unable to sustain big swings in their investments.
4. Borrowing to enrich your life: Borrowing can make all kinds of sense if you borrow to go back to school, start a business, or buy a home. But when it comes to borrowing for the sake of enhancing a lifestyle you can't afford, it’s a recipe for disaster. Breaking the shopping habit and adopting a savings habit is likely not going to reverse itself post-pandemic.
5. Goal-setting: Set short-term financial goals that will excite you to save. Twenty-and-30-year-olds made it clear to me they aren't interested in saving for retirement and I get it. They have more pressing financial needs. Buying their first home or landing their first job. However, others do get excited about saving for retirement. The important thing here is to have financial goals. Our secret weapon is our ability to go out and earn a living. Having a job post-pandemic will be the key to financial success and the reality of this has hit many hard. Those who were a little complacent about their job pre-pandemic told me they covet that same position today more than ever. Having a job is no longer taken for granted.
Finally, something to keep in mind as we get closer to navigating a post-pandemic lifestyle: it isn't just about the money. We’re all different, we have all faced challenges. And we all need to be more tolerant and recognize it hasn't been easy for most.