As we looked ahead to a new decade a few months ago, no one could have predicted what was to come. We were ripe for the continuing evolution of the workplace with workers prioritizing flexibility and autonomy, and employers utilizing artificial intelligence and other tools to increase productivity.
The reality, however, is vastly different than what we expected.
Once March hit, millions of Americans were ordered across the country to shelter in place as COVID-19 spread like wildfire across the globe. As of April 16, 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and as jobless claims continue to soar, we will undoubtedly see things get worse before they get better.
With the passing of the CARES Act, the IRS recently started issuing $290 million in direct payments to Americans in the form of stimulus checks aimed at reducing the financial burden this pandemic has caused individuals, families, and retirees. I run a retirement technology company, Kindur, and I have already seen an influx of questions from clients around how this could impact retirement, future plans, and finances in general. As it relates to the stimulus money, the number-one question I’m hearing is: What should I do with this money?
Everyone has a different financial situation and should ultimately decide what makes the most sense for individual circumstances, but here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your payment.
Prioritize essential spending
My advice for many Americans who receive the stimulus check is to immediately drop the money into their bank accounts. From there, the best way to maximize this resource is to review essential expenses (prescriptions, mortgage payments, utility bills, etc.) and match the given funds to these expenses.
This stimulus check can provide you with another option to cover these costs instead of dipping into your retirement funds. And that brings me to another point. While it might be appealing to take money out of your retirement accounts, I recommend using this as a last resort, if you can.
Make a plan for the rest of the funds
After you prioritize funds from the check to cover essential expenses, I recommend making a plan for the rest of it. I tell everyone that I work with how crucial it is to plan for your future so you can achieve your goals, whether that’s buying a house, traveling, or setting a foundation for future generations of your family.
If you have no clue where to start when it comes to having a financial plan, there are some really valuable resources out there to help. One of these resources is Silvur, the new app we launched recently for baby boomers, and online financial calculators, which are budget-friendly options to make the most out of your accounts.
Often during periods of strife, it can be difficult to make decisions with a clear and objective view. Another helpful option is finding a professional to discuss your financial planning. They can help ensure you’re not making decisions when you’re emotional and minimize any potential negative consequences.
Reconsider what the future looks like–for now
One thing this crisis put at the forefront in my mind is the importance of being flexible and learning how to adapt to whatever life throws at us. So although it’s important to have a plan in place, it is equally important to be able to adjust that plan if needed.
During times of uncertainty, I advise my clients that while their future might need to be altered to face a current reality, it doesn’t mean their goals will lose any value. I am an advocate for delaying retirement or social security in order to insulate funds. This is especially smart in an unstable market, as you can continue to collect your salary while bulking up your retirement plan for the future. A few years will pass in the blink of an eye, but these funds will last you longer than you think.
Part-time work is also an option that most people can utilize to expand their income to cover costs right now. We’ve seen an increase in openings in flexible work such as remote teaching positions as schools move to remote learning. There are other opportunities around medical hotlines, bookkeeping, consulting, and more.
Ultimately, these funds are a chance to help you feel secure during a time when our realities are changing a mile a minute. While this crisis won’t last forever, being strategic about your money during this time is a crucial step in setting yourself up for the brightest financial future possible.
Rhian Horgan is the CEO of financial technology company Kindur. They recently launched the retirement planning app Silvur. They are dedicated to helping baby boomers retire fearlessly.