During emergencies and times of crisis, like the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, it’s important to revisit and organize your finances. We’ve put together a quick checklist of tasks and considerations that may help alleviate some of your stress and allow you to focus on what’s most important – taking care of you and your family.
Here are 8 tasks to review:
- Look at your cash flow and budget. Perhaps most importantly, this is the time to review your current finances. If you’re currently employed or you are a two-income household, how has this time impacted your budget? If you’re retired on a fixed income, are you able to continue on with your current cost of living? What changes should you make to plan for a potential loss of income during the short term? Creating a spreadsheet (or working with your financial advisor) can help you paint a full picture of your finances.
- Prioritize your expenses. While we certainly don’t advocate not covering your expenses, there are certain costs that must be covered first. Make sure your bills are prioritized and check into which companies may be deferring payments in the short term. You could also look at cutting back on spending that may no longer be essential to you. Reevaluate that list every few weeks to see what has changed and where you may need to adjust. Things like 529 plan contributions, custodial account contributions, and discretionary expenses can be put on hold for the short-term with very little impact on long-term success.
- Review your insurance coverage. First and foremost, look into your health insurance coverage. Does it cover everyone in your family in case of hospitalization? Do your adult-aged children have suitable health insurance? What would be the impact should you or a family member need emergency care? Also, we recommend looking into homeowners insurance. What does it cover in times of emergency? (It should be noted that mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have both called for more flexibility with borrowers, reducing or suspending mortgage payments for up to 12 months.) For those with renters of additional properties, confirm if your tenants have renter’s insurance.
- Review your investment portfolio. Making emotional decisions can be costly, so instead we recommend reviewing your long-term objectives in light of these tumultuous times. Have your personal or financial goals changed at all? How are your investments matching your objectives today, and what should be done to keep you on track?
- Make sure your estate plans are up to date. As we have seen in these past few weeks and months, things can change very quickly. There has been a surge in DIY wills through online channels recently, and one trust firm in San Diego noted a 50% uptick in clients in the past few weeks alone. If you have an estate plan in place, now is a good time to review that plan to ensure it still reflects your wishes. If you don’t have one, rather than using online services, finding a reliable trust attorney can help you formalize all of your wishes and take care of your family.
- Create a circle of reliable resources. Who can you lean on for sound, unbiased advice during these times? We often say that emotion can cloud our decisions – whether they are related to finances or otherwise. It’s helpful to make a list of the professionals you can count on – your financial advisor, your accountant, perhaps an attorney – to get solid answers to your questions. Don’t let the internet make your decisions for you. The best “wisdom of the crowd” is to know that you are not the crowd, your circumstances are personal to you and your family.
- Meet as a family to review your finances. Once you’ve gathered information about your cash flow, expenses, and reviewed your insurance coverage, it’s important to share this with those closest to you. It’s a great reminder that you (and your spouse or partner) are not alone during this time. Empower your family members to help make decisions and prioritize what matters most, and plan for both the short and long term.
- Explore your options for emergency funds. Our advisors often advise our clients on keeping an emergency fund – that is, a separate savings account for times just like this one to help us feel protected and in control of our finances. There are a number of strategies to make emergency fund accounts work for you, and we would be happy to share them with you.
While we are all unique in our experiences during these times, we believe that focusing on what we can control – and not the unknown – may help us better get through this together. Please feel free to contact one of our advisors with any questions, and we encourage you to share this with your friends and family.
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION
Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Private Ocean, LLC [“Private Ocean”]), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this blog will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this blog serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Private Ocean. Please remember that if you are a Private Ocean client, it remains your responsibility to advise Private Ocean, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/ evaluating/ revising our previous recommendations and/or services, or if you would like to impose, add, or to modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment advisory services. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. Private Ocean is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the blog content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Private Ocean’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon requestor at www.privateocean.com. Please note: Private Ocean does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to Private Ocean’s web site or blog or incorporated herein, and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please also note: If you are a Private Ocean client, please advise us if you have not been receiving account statements (at least quarterly) from the account custodian.