Save for a house. Save for college. Save for retirement. Save for emergencies. Save for a pandemic? Not what most of us had on our radar, but COVID-19 has in effect become our “rainy day.” Maybe our “rainy year.” It’s been an eye-opening reminder that “expecting the unexpected” is a pretty good idea.
Americans were experiencing the longest economic expansion on record, but in a matter of days, millions of people were laid off and businesses closed. The result is a recession and an economic turnaround is uncertain.
But the emotional effects of COVID-19 are much greater than the financial pain. The loss of lives, and the families who are left behind has been a tragic, permanent and life-altering reality. Many families have been crippled by not only the loss of their loved one, but also the loss of their main provider. If they weren’t financially ready for this pandemic, they’re likely facing significant hardship.
Recovery from the extraordinary shift in our lifestyle and circumstances will be long and labored and if we learn nothing else, our recovery plans should include the foresight to be prepared for the next wave.
So how do you move forward? According to many experts begin by evaluating your current finances and creating a plan. If you’re still working and don’t have an emergency savings plan, it’s time to aggressively start one. If you have one, it’s time to bolster it. And if you’re out of work, it’s time to create an emergency budget.
Emergency funds are crucial at all times but particularly important with high unemployment and economic ambiguity. Experts agree that a fund with enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses should be your goal.
To get there, you’re going to need to make sacrifices. Begin with reducing the cost of your essential expenses. Call service providers and see what discounts they’re offering. Cancel nonessential expenses such as premium television channels or apps. While it’s important to support local restaurants by ordering takeout, it’s also important to reduce expenses by cooking meals at home.
An excellent place for impartial advice on preparing for emergency situations is www.ready.gov. Under “make a plan” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers tips for financial preparedness. Among the suggestions are to safeguard critical documents. You should be sure that all financial, personal, household and medical information are all scanned and saved. In addition to your crisis savings account they suggest including a small amount of cash kept at home in a safe place.
The DHS also strongly recommends that you obtain life insurance if you don’t already have it. While most of us recognize the gravity of living without health or homeowners insurance, many people go without life insurance. It’s a critically important addition to the financial well-being of your family if something should happen to you.
The bottom line is that if there is a practical lesson from COVID-19, it’s to be prepared for times of crisis. Plan and save, for yourself and your family.