As the “new normal” takes hold, it’s wild to look back and reflect on how much has changed in each of our lives in just six weeks. The response to Covid-19 has changed day-to-day life in so many ways, and it’s an unprecedented, frightening time across the globe. In times like these we realize how important health is to us all. We hope you and yours are staying safe, healthy and happy.
In addition to the daily job we are doing to be conscientious, more and more worries are piling up: Job losses are mounting across the country, the stock market has taken a substantial hit, and many of us are now homeschooling our kids at home – even Kate Middleton is doing it.
I have been busy fielding calls from many of you who are doing your best to be smart about money, planning and spending in these turbulent times as possible. Here are some things to keep in mind about your money.
Examine your spending and reduce expenses where you can
For any one of us, employed or not, it’s important to first consider day-to-day expenses — and what could be cut back. It’s a good time to have a lot of cash in the bank given that we don’t know how long this crisis will last or what the long-term ramifications will be.
Many retailers, restaurants and businesses are closed, so you might have already noticed your monthly spending has dropped considerably. But it’s worth taking a look at what you’ve spent in the past few months to identify where all of your cash is going and whether those expenses are worth keeping in your budget going forward.
Make sure some of these usual suspects are on hold if you are no longer using them: auto-pay deductions for transit passes, gym memberships and meal plans.
Don’t know where to start? Let your cash flow guide the way
If you’ve worked with me, you know I believe that a monthly spending plan gives you control over where your money goes. The predictability of cash flow allows you to see the impact of both large, one-time expenses and small, recurring fees on your finances. Once defined, expenses become easier to evaluate, and, if necessary, avoid. Check out our financial planning tool, RightCapital, to get a peek into your own spending habits. You might be surprised to see where your money goes.
If you find yourself with excess cash flow, save it. Put it in your savings account and let it gain some interest. These are the times we talk about, but not all of us are properly prepared for it.
Try to reduce regular payments
If you’ve been laid off, or your salary has been reduced, some financial institutions are offering aid. Many mortgage-holding companies are offering help to those affected by the coronavirus response.
And if you hold credit card balances, many issuers are giving customers assistance by waiving late fees or interest charges and issuing payment deferrals.
Oh yeah: When should you file your taxes?
The traditional April 15 tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020. Should you wait to file yours? Well, that depends …
Typically I suggest getting your taxes done and off your plate. If you’re expecting a refund, there’s really no reason to put it off. Get the money you’re expecting and put it toward necessary expenses, or right into your emergency fund. But if you’re waiting to make an IRA contribution or sort out your small business K-1, now you’ve got a little more time to work it out.
Don’t go it alone
A personal financial plan can help you with making your money work harder for you, especially in uncertain times. Kelly Luethje is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Willow Planning Group, LLC. She provides financial education and guidance to help you live life on your terms. Kelly can usually be found on a mountain, or by a lake, working virtually with clients across the country.