It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to check in. To say that this Spring has been among the strangest, and one of the most unexpected time in our lives, would be an understatement.
It’s been about eight years since I started this blog; just a few years after being forced to adjust my life to a new normal. Like so many people who are dealing with that today, the recession of 12 years sent the economy tanking, the housing market tumbling, small businesses closing, and corporations downsizing. Massive layoffs, unemployment, company bankruptcies, house foreclosures, and lots of uncertainty. And even as we slowly came out of it, thousands of people remained underemployed for years after; having to learn how to live with their new career and smaller salaries.
Millennials graduated into a shaky economy, where they struggled to find jobs, or accepted ones far less than the salary they expected their college degrees to help secure. Some of their Baby Boomer parents never found new employment (ageism), while many Generation Xers had to transition into positions far less than their expertise, prior experience, and career positions had previously demanded. We were all in this together; trying to figure things out, move forward, stabilize the economy, and get back to as close to normal as possible.
And we did. We succeeded.
It was painful, and a lot of what was, would never be again. But the economy came back. Jobs came back. New small businesses emerged. Entrepreneurship grew. We survived.
But here we are again. This time dealing with something much bigger than the loss of a job or home. We’re being thrust into a new normal where we must deal with that and the ever increasing, globally impacted, loss of life in this pandemic they call COVID-19.
There is an old saying that Handsight’s 20/20. But I think Foresight can be as well; especially when you start to see familiar signs; warning bells.
One of the things my four years in the last recession taught me was the importance of planning and preparation.
Planning is creating a type of road map that outlines what you will do in an emergency, or when you see a catastrophe (natural or financial) heading your way. It’s what children learn in school from the fire department when they ask every to create a fire escape plan at home. In Public Relations, we call them crisis management plans which outlines what a company or organization should do in the event of a crisis. If they follow the plan, it usually helps them get through the crisis without stumbling and causing more harm.
Preparation is putting into action your plan, and collecting the resources needed. If the forecast is for a foot of snow in a place that barely receives an inch, then ask yourself, what do you need to do if you end up being “snowed in,” schools out, and you know you will be unable to get to work due to road conditions? A prepared person would probably grab the folders and files they need from their office so they can work from home; encourage their kids to bring their books home from school that day; and by all means, stop at the grocery store to pick up any items they have on the monthly shopping list, that they weren’t planning to do for another week. At home, someone preparing for a major snow storm might also take the time to check the batteries in their flashlights, pull out their candles or secondary light sources, and make sure all of the important devices are fully charged.
It’s too late to check for batteries once your power goes out. Or to realize your pantry is mostly empty, after the roads have closed. And yes, if you only have one pack of toilet paper in a house of four people, you should probably be mindful to pick up another one “just in case.”
About 10 million people applied for unemployment benefits, in the wake of the Coronavirus related layoffs, business closings, cancelled public events, and a volatile stock market. While a number of companies have instituted pay cuts to keep their employees. Rent, mortgages, groceries, medicines, utilities, and other bills are coming due, with many people lacking the funds to cover them.
According to Bankrate’s Financial Security Index, nearly three in 10 (28 percent) U.S. adults have no emergency savings. One in four have a rainy day fund, but not enough money to cover three months’ worth of living expenses.
Sadly, there are a lot of Americans, literally working paycheck to paycheck, with no room in the month for emergencies or unexpected hits to their finances. This is a particularly difficult time for millions of people. But for many others; especially those who have always had a steady income, your habits, your lifestyle, and planning, or lack of planning, does still matter. What you have today doesn’t guarantee your tomorrow.
I’ve watched an industry I thought was invincible, screech to a grinding halt. And related companies institute pay cuts across the company.
So what can you do now if you’re one of the people whose rainy day funds are not sufficient to cover you in the event you’re next to lose your job?
- Stop spending frivolously.
- Start saving immediately.
- If you’re not already a coupon user, start shopping with them now.
- Utilize rewards programs for groceries and gas to get extra savings.
- If you don’t need it, don’t buy it!
- Even as you desire to support local restaurants, limit how often you’re eating out.
- Go through your bank statements searching for automatic withdraws, and stop the ones you don’t need/use. If your gym is closed right now, are they still charging you a monthly fee?
- Get rid of duplicate services (do you really need both Hulu and Amazon movies; Spotify and Apple Music?).
If you do not have a personal financial crisis plan, consider developing one now.
If the last recession taught us anything, it’s that what may have taken only months to get in to, took the majority of people and various industries years to climb back out. How are you preparing yourself now for the long-term?