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How to Recover From Serious Financial Loss According to Investors Who Have Done It

By Kailey Hagen - Jun 22, 2020 at 9:05AM

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Just because you're struggling now doesn't mean things can't get better.

Losing your job or watching your investment portfolio plummet is frustrating, discouraging, and frankly, stressful. But most investors face these types of losses or something similar at least once in their lives. Roughly three in four investors surveyed by Ameriprise Financial reported having at least one major financial setback, with over half of them saying this setback cost them at least $50,000 and a third saying it cost them over $100,000.

It took the average investor between three and five years to recover from that loss, but the good news is, nearly half of them recovered completely, and almost all of them made at least a partial comeback. Here's a closer look at some of the steps they took to get there.

Man lying face down on table in front of a falling stock chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

They changed their financial behaviors

Half of those surveyed reported altering their spending behaviors following the loss. This makes sense because, with fewer expenses, you need less income to cover all of your bills. Reducing spending can also free up more cash to go toward saving or investing to help get your finances back on track. 

About 37% of the surveyed investors also said they changed their saving behavior. The survey doesn't provide any insights into what these changes were, but recovering from a serious financial loss likely means saving more than you were previously until you're back on track, especially if you used up a lot of your emergency savings.

Sometimes losses mean you're not able to save as much as you'd like to. For example, losing your job might put saving for your other financial goals on hold temporarily. But you can make up for it later on by saving more each month once you return to work.

They worked more or longer

About a quarter of the investors said they made up for their financial losses by working more or longer than they'd planned to. This is a sound strategy, especially for those who are worried about coming up short in retirement. Remaining in the workforce longer gives you more time to save for your future while also reducing the overall cost of your retirement.

For those out of a job right now, a side hustle is a solid option. It can provide you some income until you're able to return to your regular job, and if you like it enough, you can even continue it after you return to work. Some side hustles can turn into full-time jobs themselves, and they don't all require a lot of effort on your part. Renting out a spare property or creating an online course might take a little effort upfront, but after that, you can just sit back and let the money roll in.

They relied upon their existing savings

When they needed some quick cash, the surveyed investors were more likely to draw upon their existing savings, like an emergency fund or their retirement account, than to borrow money from a bank or family members. This enabled them to avoid debt, which could've potentially slowed their recovery.

If you suffer a serious financial setback, use your emergency fund first. That's what it's for, after all. When that's not enough, turning to your retirement account is better than falling into debt, especially now since the government has waived early withdrawal penalties due to COVID-19 and enabled individuals who take COVID-19 withdrawals to spread the tax liability out over three years.

But it's not without consequence. You're slowing the growth of your retirement savings, if nothing else, and this will force you to save even more money per month in the future to remain on track for your scheduled retirement date. Or you'll have to delay retirement to give yourself additional time to save.

They learned not to be as trusting as they once were

About 17% of those surveyed said their financial loss taught them to be a little less trusting. That may not sound like a good thing, but it could be if it means they'll think through their future financial decisions a little more carefully. Doing your research and thinking through all possible scenarios before you invest your money or hand over your financial information can help reduce your risk of future financial losses.

Every financial loss has its own path to recovery. The above steps can get you started, but don't get too discouraged if you're not seeing the results you want right away. It may take a few years to fully recover from the loss, but most people eventually do, and many of the surveyed investors said they felt it made them stronger and more confident about their ability to handle whatever life throws their way.

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