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What does the coronavirus mean for your money?

Thoughtful

The current COVID-19 pandemic and associated headlines are scary. But if you focus on what you can do and take action, you can emerge stronger from this period. Here are 7 ways that you can turn the current panic into a good news story for your finances. 

 

When we were making our goals for 2020 and envisioning what this year would look like, we could not have predicted what was in store.
I would not have predicted that I’d be struggling to buy mince for my burgers or unable to buy flour to bake things. That there would be early morning queues for the supermarket in search of something as basic as toilet roll.

Consumer behaviour isn’t always predictable. And with headlines designed to create panic, things can feel unstable. However, I am of the firm belief that there are things you can do right now to create stability for yourself and for others. This includes following the government guidance on social distancing to avoid additional risk to the most vulnerable in our community and choosing to not panic buy.

When it comes to your money, I want you to remember when you’re at the supermarket buying groceries, there is enough for everyone if we only buy what we need. So please, calm your farm and choose to only buy only what you need. If we all make that choice as consumers, we will change the current perceived shortages and change the headlines. You can also still use this time to get better with money. Choosing to see posivity, focusing on what you can do and taking action means that we will emerge stronger from this period. 

 

Here are the 7 ways you can turn the current panic into a good news story for your finances:

1. Start investing

Right now, everything is on sale. Imagine when you go to the shops after Christmas and see your Christmas gifts at 50% off. That’s pretty much the stock market right now. Despite the professionals trying, there is still no full proof way to time or “beat” the stock market and you should only ever invest what you can afford to lose, particularly if you don’t have an emergency fund of cash (more on this later).

If you’re keen to learn more, here’s how you can start investing now.

 

2. Get an emergency fund

With many people not able to go out and work right now, it underscores the fact that you can’t control everything that happens to you in life. None of us could have seen the coronavirus coming a few months ago. What makes the difference is whether you have emergency cash to draw on from your emergency fund. It means have at least $1,000 available to draw on anything you need it.

Want the peace of mind that comes with not having to worry about money? Here’s how to start up an emergency fund.

 

3. Start donating

Many people are doing it tough, including hospitality workers who can’t go into work with restaurants being shut down. Major corporations including airlines have shut down operations and sent staff home. Elderly people and those vulnerable in our community, including those in temporary accommodation are needing support more than ever. There is something you can do about it.

If you’ve been wondering how you can support, a great way to do so is by donating. There are several ways you can start donating, including:

  • Providing regular monetary donations to a charity you care about
  • Clearing out your good quality household items and giving them to someone in need
  • Donating blood or plasma, particularly if you have a rare blood type
  • Choosing to give your time and skills such as providing pro bono services or volunteering with a local charity

Donating comes with two major benefits: you get a dose of happiness from helping others and you improve the lives of others in our community, making us all more resilient.

 

4. Keep calm and carry on with your good financial habits

If you look at the headlines today, you’re provided with multiple reasons to panic. The way to beat this is to keep calm and carry on. If you’re following good financial habits including knowing where your pay cheque goes with a budget and saving money, keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t get spooked by people shouting at you to buy or sell – stick to good financial habits to see you through an unstable time.

Markets correct themselves over time so trust in the good financial habits which have served you well. If you’re keen to build up better financial habits, here’s how you can build a budget in 10 minutes.

 

5. Don’t check your retirement fund every 5 minutes

The coronavirus pandemic has created a downturn in the markets, which has sent retirement funds in the same direction: down. I logged in to my super fund each week as the coronavirus unfolded and noticed a continual downward trend as my contributions were wiped out weekly.

Then I realised something. Checking my retirement fund every 5 minutes was only making me unhappy, pessimistic about my retirement saving efforts and wondering why I bothered at all. I had the good sense to reflect on how my behaviours were making me feel and then choosing to alter my behaviour. I check my retirement fund once a month to ensure it is being paid correctly and I have learned to accept the fact that my retirement fund is going to be a bad news story for the next few months at least.

Instead, I’ve switched my mindset and appreciated the fact that my retirement fund will improve over time as the market always goes up over time. I’d picked my retirement fund carefully based on historical returns and fees charged on the account. Those careful choices will be in my favour when the market picks up. For Australians wanting to take more of an interest in their retirement, here’s how you can sort out your superannuation in 15 minutes (actually).

 

6. Consider the benefits of low interest rates

Interest rates are at record lows in many countries as they try and avoid a recession. What that means for you is that you can use this time to pay down debt or buy a house in an environment where interest rates are low.
Millennials are the generation that got screwed over in terms of property prices but buying your own home is not an impossible dream.

Friends of mine have just bought a house this week at a price they can afford and which they’ll live in for at least the next 10 years so they make a return on it. It’s not in a swanky location but it’s a home that’s within their price range and it’s their home to make their own.

If you’re in a similar position, consider whether the current low interest rates could be in your favour and how much you would need to save if owning your own home is a goal that resonates for you.

 

7. Talk to your partner about money

Most people don’t talk about money. It can awkward to talk about with friends, we’re not taught about money in school consistently so can be hesitant to ask questions about it for fear of looking stupid and some people consider talking about money rude.

There is one person who you really do need to talk about money with: your partner. If you marry or live with them, you might have to give them a settlement when you separate and you’re also liable for their financial habits on anything co-signed like credit cards.

Invest in your partner now by asking them about their attitudes to money and risk, particularly on how they’re feeling about money in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re unsure of how to get started with this conversation, here’s how to talk to your partner about money.

 

Yes, the headlines right now are scary. Yes, it is OK to feel overwhelmed. But remember that positive things can come out of dark times.

There have been viral tweets, reminding us that during different plagues, Isaac Newton made discoveries about gravity and Shakespeare wrote King Lear when their day-to-day life was disrupted. If you choose to see possibilities and action rather than fear, you can turn the current panic into a good news story for your finances.

 

Read more: Why Australians are panic buying toilet roll

Kate Crowhurst

Written by Kate Crowhurst

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