It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has left a mark on personal finances, and for many households, this impact will continue for quite a while. According to a recent survey, 70 percent of Americans will be financially stressed in 2023, and more than 50 percent will live from paycheck to paycheck. Those financial insecurities are punctuated by a volatile market, high inflation rates, bank collapses, and other economic challenges on both a national and global scale.
So how have these past few years’ disruptions and fluctuations changed the financial industry? And moreover, how do you navigate this season of uncertainty without feeling anxious all the time? Here’s what to know about the pandemic’s long-term financial impact—and which steps you can take right now to maintain a level head.
Financial Planning Is About More than Retirement Goals
Traditionally, investors had one main goal in mind for their portfolios: to accrue enough assets to eventually retire. But in this economic climate, fewer Americans have confidence that retirement will be possible for them, so they’re focused on saving for other milestones. So rather than discussing the amount of wealth it will take to retire comfortably, financial advisors are now fielding more questions like, “How do I plan for a large purchase or launching a startup?” “Can I afford to become a parent, move out of state, or continue my education?” “What is the quickest strategy to eliminate all my debt?” This doesn’t mean Americans no longer value retirement—it’s just not as central to financial planning as it used to be.
Working or Housing Priorities Influence Wealth Building
Before the pandemic, it was a given that many Americans would choose a nine-to-five career at a stable corporation and accrue wealth through the equity of home ownership. But three years later, it’s become increasingly common to re-evaluate those priorities—due to a personal choice or an external circumstance. Around 46 million Americans left their jobs in 2022, and 79 percent think now isn’t the right time to purchase a house. This shift away from a conventional approach to wealth-building offers new, creative opportunities to earn an income, generate assets and save money. For example: starting your own business, working as a freelancer, renting out your space on Airbnb, or downsizing to an RV or tiny home.
The Need for an Emergency Fund Cannot Be Overstated
For millions of Americans, the medical bills, job layoffs, and inflation spikes of COVID-19 brought the harsh reality of financial emergencies into sharp relief. Many found themselves in debt just to cover an unforeseen expense. Still, as hard as those setbacks were to navigate, they also increased motivation to save for potential emergencies. In fact, a recent poll from New York Life reveals that 41 percent of Americans plan to create an emergency fund in 2023, and over 1 in 5 Americans will seek the guidance of a financial professional to bolster their savings in this area. Planning ahead has never felt more urgent, whether it’s an illness or accident, a natural disaster, unemployment, or another crisis situation.
COVID Has Become a Wake-Up Call for Estate Planning
It’s not a comfortable topic of discussion, but this pandemic has also opened Americans’ eyes to the need for estate planning. As millions watched their loved ones succumb to the virus—or had to be hospitalized themselves—it suddenly became crucial to ask the hard questions about end-of-life financial decisions or instructions. Even though many Americans are still hesitant about estate planning, 1 in 5 see the importance of it. This is especially true for young adults, who are 63 percent more likely to have an estate plan now than they were in 2020. Granted, less than 35 percent of Americans currently have a will, but the boost in awareness and openness to discuss estate planning is a necessary step in the right direction.
Practical Action Steps to Navigate Financial Uncertainty
Just because the global pandemic has impacted the financial industry doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. This economy will rebound over time, the market fluctuations will stabilize, and inflation rates will decline. But until then, here are a few actionable ideas from the experts at Concorde Investment Services to help manage your finances and protect your mental health—no matter what these next couple of years might have in store:
- Remind yourself this unstable financial landscape will not last forever.
- Prioritize the essentials such as food, housing, utilities, and healthcare.
- Start an emergency fund as soon as possible and contribute to it monthly.
- Cut back on entertainment, new clothes, or dining-out purchases.
- Opt for bargain items like end-of-season sales or off-brand groceries.
- Invest in the local community—helping others builds emotional resilience.