We are in the middle of summer and many of you might be back to work in your traditional setting. I am still working from home, and it could be some time before I return to the traditional office setting.
The last time I wrote for the bizTimes.biz, the May 2020 issue, we were at the beginning of the first wave of COVID-19 in the United States and the U.S. Stock Market was searching for a bottom. After a very sharp and swift decline, the S&P 500 Index reported a recent intraday low of 2,191 on March 23, 2020. The S&P 500 Index has recovered to close at 3,185 on July 10, 2020.
The U.S. Stock Market, by almost any measure, has made a remarkable recovery. Our lives have returned to not quite normal, but something resembling normalcy. In the last article, I recommended taking some immediate actions. I also raised some questions to ask yourself.
I hope that this helped you assess your situation to determine what, if any, changes you needed to make. This is another time to ask yourself questions. Has your life changed again? If so, do you need to recalibrate?
Now is another great time to take inventory. Please take out those checking account and credit card statements again. Do you notice any significant changes in your expenses? Are these changes permanent or are they temporary?
As an example, my expenses have changed in a few ways, most of which I believe are temporary. I drive my car much less than I used to. This means I fill up with fuel a lot less and my fuel bills are down dramatically. I no longer pay for parking, as I did when I was driving to the office every day.
However, my energy usage at home has increased significantly. I bet most of us can say that we have experienced changes that we did not expect.
Taking inventory also includes evaluating your income. How have you fared from a personal finance perspective? Has your job or business changed? Are you receiving unemployment benefits? Will Congress extend the $600 payment attached to unemployment benefits? If not, or if it is reduced, how will it affect your budget? If you are a business owner, should you reapply for the Paycheck Protection Program?
There are resources available online and there are professional services firms that can help you answer these questions.
Finally, reanalyze your savings and investments. Do you have an appropriate mix of risk-taking and risk-reducing investments? Do you have an appropriate level of cash or safe, short-term investments? If not, is this an appropriate time to rebalance and rebuild your personal safety net?
Do you have the ability to rebalance with minimal tax consequences? If you have rebalanced this year, will that have an income tax impact? Will that give you more or less flexibility to rebalance again? Thoughtful and process-driven consideration will lead to better long-term results than emotional and rash decisions. A trusted adviser can be a valuable resource in times like these.
I am hopeful you have weathered this crisis well, from both a health and personal financial perspective. I am hopeful that you were able to take thoughtful and prudent action a few months ago, and because of that action, you are in a much stronger financial position today.
Today is a good time to perform another personal financial checkup. Examine your financial affairs, consider how they have changed, and take thoughtful action to keep yourself financially strong.
RSM US Wealth Management LLC is a limited liability company that provides investment advisory, aggregated reporting, financial planning, retirement plan advisory and other wealth management services to individuals and businesses. RSM US Wealth Management LLC is an SEC-registered investment adviser. This article does not constitute financial, investment, legal, tax or insurance advice, consult a qualified professional before taking action.