2020 will certainly be a year for the history books! If someone had told me a year ago that I would be working from home full time with two young kids at home during a global pandemic, I would never have believed them. I am not certain my brain would have even been able to comprehend how this would be possible. While it might be easier to move forward as though this never happened, I believe this is an opportunity for all of us to learn from the struggles.
Lesson #1: Maintain a healthy rainy-day fund
I know I have mentioned the importance of a rainy-day fund in previous posts. Hopefully, repeating this time and again reveals how truly important maintaining this savings is for all individuals and families. Before this pandemic began, a Career Builder report found that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Over the past 12 years of my career, I have realized this has very little correlation to income. I have met families earning $40,000/year with no savings and families earning $300,000/year with no savings. The families that appreciate their emergency fund during hard times the most are the ones that have also experienced hard times without one.
Lesson #2: Know how you are invested
Whether you are working with a financial professional or not, it is always important to remain educated on your portfolio. As this pandemic has taken a toll on the world economy and the stock market, I have seen many people discover their portfolio is not what they thought it was originally.
In the wise words of Warren Buffett, “only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.” During extended bull markets, every investor starts to look like a market genius. It is times like these that people are faced with the consequences of what they own in their portfolios.
Lesson #3: Build a retirement plan that anticipates market crashes
We all know that every fall hurricane season rolls around. What we do not necessarily know is whether we will be experiencing Category 1 hurricanes or Category 5 hurricanes. People living in Florida all their lives know to prepare for hurricane season and are never surprised when it come around again.
Stock market corrections are very similar. While they do not come around every single year, they occur on average every 7.1 years. If we know they regularly occur, why do most Americans still seem so surprised when they happen? Knowing this will not be the last bear market, I would encourage you to build a retirement plan that anticipates future bear markets.
Lesson #4: Build a life where your money works for you
We all reach a point in life that we find ourselves in one of two categories.
Category #1 – You have built a lifestyle dependent on your current income. If you ever experience a drop in your income, you suddenly don’t have the means to pay for your lifestyle. This creates a strong feeling that you are constantly working for your money.
Category #2 – You have built a lifestyle that doesn’t stretch your cash flow to its limits. While you would prefer not to experience a drop in your income, you do not feel the immediate panic when tough times come around. You have been successful in building a lifestyle where your money is working for you.
If you are reading this and instantly know you are in Category #1, I would encourage you to take a closer look into making the changes necessary to get you on a track to achieving Category #2.
While all these financial lessons are important, the most impactful lesson I have learned this year is the importance of surrounding ourselves with family and friends. My daughter is 5 months old at the time I am writing this post, and I still have close family members that have not had the opportunity of holding her. I encourage everyone to find opportunities to be grateful daily and spend more time with the people they care about the most.
Career Builder. (2017, August 24). Living Paycheck to Paycheck is a Way of Life for Majority of U.S. Workers, According to New CareerBuilder Survey [Press release]. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from http://press.careerbuilder.com/2017-08-24-Living-Paycheck-to-Paycheck-is-a-Way-of-Life-for-Majority-of-U-S-Workers-According-to-New-CareerBuilder-Survey
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