The coronavirus has necessitated major changes in the United States. For many people, some of those changes have to do with their money management. In fact, Northwestern Mutual reports as many as one in five Americans had to revisit financial plans and make "significant adjustments" due to the coronavirus, according to a study earlier this year.
If you've lost your job, had your work hours cut, or had to cut back on working to help your kids with virtual schooling, chances are good you're one of them. But even those who are in good shape may want to consider a few key steps to shore up their situation as the public health crisis continues. Here are four of them.
1. Make sure you have the right asset allocation
When the coronavirus first hit the U.S. hard in mid-March, the stock market crash wiped out billions of dollars in wealth. In the rally that followed, most people who sustained losses got their money back quickly. But while recoveries always happen after crashes, this one occurred with lightning speed, and that won't always be the case.
To make sure you don't suffer outsize losses in another crash, take a close look at your portfolio to confirm you have the right asset allocation. If you're overinvested in stocks, rebalance your portfolio now so you're exposed to an appropriate level of risk given your age and investing timeline.
2. Consider increasing the amount you invest
The stock market has experienced unprecedented volatility in recent months. If it crashes again as COVID-19 cases continue spiking, you'll be looking at an ideal opportunity to buy stocks at bargain prices. But you'll need to have money available in your retirement or brokerage accounts.
Increasing the amount you're contributing to your investment accounts will leave you well prepared to take advantage of any buying opportunities that come your way. If you suffered losses during the last crash that you didn't fully recover from, adding to your investments can also help you to get back on track.
3. Review your investment strategy
You need a sound strategy to profit on stocks even in the best of times. And since the country is currently facing unprecedented chaos, these definitely aren't the best of times.
During periods of economic and political turbulence, it's more important than ever to ensure you're knowledgeable about the investments you're making and are confident in them so you aren't prompted to panic-sell during market corrections.
4. Bulk up your emergency fund
While you'll want to have money ready to invest when buying opportunities arise, you also need some money accessible to you that isn't invested. Specifically, it's a good idea to have an emergency fund large enough to cover living expenses for at least six months. Or if you're a retiree, you'll likely want to have cash to cover two to five years of expenses without having to sell stock.
An emergency fund can save you from ending up in debt if you experience an unexpected illness, other surprise expenses, or a cut to your income. It can also help you to avoid being forced to sell investments at a loss during a downturn because you need the cash.
If you adjust your financial plans to invest more and make smart investments, you'll be set up to build real wealth. The last thing you want is for your efforts to go awry because you end up forced to sell at the wrong time just to free up cash.