In urgent times it can be easy to lose sight of the value of planning, and yet it is then, more than ever, that planning matters. By most measures, the economy is headed for a recession to rival the Great Depression. Jobless numbers have spiked in a way never before seen. The stock market is far from recovered after plummeting historically in March. These things are all bad. Very bad. But they are also out of your control. Planning, on the other hand, is not.
Take Stock of Your Finances
It hard to think of a time when building a holistic view of your finances has mattered more. After all, in order to adjust your spending habits in response the volatility of the present requires that you first understand them. Taking stock of your finances means accounting for cash flow in an out of all accounts. Only with this information can you re-toggle habits and ensure you’re on track toward meeting economic goals—even if they are as simple as ensuring you have enough to pay rent at the end of the month.
Build a Budget (And Stick to It!)
Budgeting isn’t fun but then neither is going broke in the middle of a financial crisis. Begin by adding up how much money flows in and out of your accounts each month. Itemize your expenditures according to type—i.e. food, housing, indulgences, and so on—and determine whether you’re in the red or the black. Upon this basis, adjust your debt payments, investment contributions and other allocations to ensure you’re solvent. If you need to shift spending habits, invoke your inner Marie Kondo and do so based on those things that spark (lasting) joy.
Re-Evaluate Your Income Outlook
The Covid-19 pandemic has provoked unprecedented numbers of layoffs, furloughs, and wage cuts. Even those that remain employed need to re-evaluate their short- and long-term earning prospects. This means considering not only the likelihood of that raise you’d counted on but taking broader stock of the viability of your industry. Could the after-effects of the pandemic put your profession at risk? Will demand for your business wane in the coming months or years? While your answers will be uncertain, implementing contingency plans now may save you strife later. And even if all works out OK, knowing you’ve prepared will ease the present toll on your mental health.
Review Your Emergency Fund
Just as planning for changes to your earning potential will relieve anxiety, so too will knowing that you have an emergency fund to protect again unforeseen circumstances. Ideally, this means having cash set aside to cover three to six months of expenses. Key word: ideally. If you don’t have half a year’s spending needs stashed away, don’t worry, few do. But if you can, there’s never been a better time to shuffle a small amount of income toward emergency planning. Think of it as a mental-health relief account. Just knowing it’s there and growing will help put your mind at ease.
Implement an Estate Plan
Having done the heavy lifting of taking stock of you finances and setting financial goals, you’re already well on your way to implementing an estate plan. While most people in the U.S. have not yet done so, there is no better way to protect your assets and ensure the financial security of your family. Gather up all those documents you’ve compiled attending to the above and call up an experienced estate-planning attorney. Together, you’ll build a plan that shields your assets from avoidable losses both tomorrow and in ten years from now.
Already Have an Estate Plan? Now’s the Time to Update!
Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), the perfect vehicle for passing asset appreciation on to beneficiaries, are hot. The current market dip has driven the March 7520 rate of 1.8% down to 0.8% in May, meaning GRATs have rarely been cheaper. Likewise, interest rates have been slashed on intrafamily loans, suggesting it may be time to make amendments to pre-existing plans.
An experienced estate planning attorney can help you work through these and the many other opportunities arising in response to the present moment. Contact us for a free consultation. We’d be happy to chat about your options and ensure that you’re in control of all you can be at a time when uncertainty is rife around the globe.