How to Shift Your Financial Goals During a Pandemic

Many financial experts say the key is in small, calculated changes and a shift in mindset. Here's how to rethink your strategy.

Dragon Images / Shutterstock
Dragon Images / Shutterstock

It’s safe to say no one could have predicted how the first half of 2020 would pan out. After all, pandemics are not only difficult to navigate in the present, but they provide a significant hurdle when planning for the future. Mainly if you had financial goals for yourself, your business, or your retirement, that now seems completely unattainable.

While adjustments will likely need to be made and new calculations and projections created, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. Many financial experts say the key is in small, calculated changes and a shift in mindset. Here’s how to rethink your strategy and tame your anxiety:

Try not to worry too much about long-term financial goals.

If you were going to hang up your corporate badge next year, finally, unfortunately, there’s a chance that your retirement could be delayed. However, if you’re still five or more years away from this milestone, financial expert from The Balance, Lauren Silbert says try not to stress too much about financial goals just yet. After all, as she puts in, First, long-term goals are long-term for a reason. They’re meant to be ebb and flow as the market does. “Continue to contribute to your retirement accounts, and don’t take money out unless you have to since taxes still apply even if penalties are reduced,” she recommends. “If you’ve set up diverse portfolios that include investments like ETFs and mutual funds, remember you’re playing the long game, and allow the market to rebound.” The same goes for setting up a college fund for your kids or saving to buy a house. Silbert says while you may have to adjust expectations around timing, you shouldn’t move away from these goals entirely. 

Take advantage of your vacation fund

Were you planning on doing a two-week adventure through Europe? Or did you have your sights set on a Caribbean expedition? Since travel restrictions are expected to stay in place through summer, those wanderlust aspirations are likely impossible. But that money can still be put to good use, according to women’s wealth advocate Merel Kriegsman. She suggests moving your vacation fund to support the most expensive parts of your ‘new’ lifestyle. Say, for instance, that grocery bill receipt that is nearly as tall as you are these days. 

“Use that money to learn about growing your own food. What does that lifestyle look like if you were less dependent on what appears on the grocery store shelf?” she continues. “Use the money to take a course on gardening or cooking. Maybe you can use the money to purchase high-quality foods to cook at home since you aren’t eating out as often.”

Create other income streams

If you’ve always thought about starting a side hustle, but you’ve been afraid to leap, now is the time to jump, according to entrepreneur and business coach Jessica Glazer. Simply put, she says, we all can create money out of thin air. “Income is simply a reflection of impact. So, if you can figure out exactly what you have to offer and how it can help others, you can create income,” she explains. 

To figure out your best runway for the opportunity, she suggests honing in on your niche, determining the market demand and competition, and then figuring out what problem you can solve for others. “What is your ideal client looking for, how can you help, and what can you create for them? Remember, it’s about them, not you,” she adds. 

Then add in the financial goals so you can hold yourself accountable. She suggests taking a reverse-engineering approach by setting your monetary aspiration, dividing it by the price of your new product or service. From here, you can quickly note how many clients or purchases you’ll need to get there. “Unapologetically sell! Remember that even during this unprecedented time, you still have value to offer and can still offer solutions to problems other people are struggling with,” she notes.

Take the time to get truly clear on what you want

Part of shifting your financial goals is getting yourself in the right mental headspace. As the founder of Cubicle to CEO Ellen Yin explains, this starts by thinking of money as the vehicle or tool to create the life and impact you want rather than the end-all-be-all goal. Though it may be stressful to see your Income take a hit, try your best to think of it is an opportunity to get super clear on what you want out of life and why. “ Most people never take the time to articulate either of these things truly,” Yin adds.

One way to begin this process is to take back control of your investing. Or, at the very least, gain a better understanding. “So often we want to pass off our financial future to a third party instead of raising our own financial IQ,” she continues. “Instead, I would take this time to think about how you can invest in two things that may be intangible in terms of immediate monetary value. But, they will pay dividends—financially and otherwise—for the rest of your life: your mind and your network.” In fact, Yin says every time she has invested in learning a new skill, growing as a person, or building relationships with people, she has always made back at least 10X my original investment. 

Revisit your budget and spending habits

Sadly, none of us are sure when things will go back to ‘normal,’ so planning for the immediate future is your best bet. Silbert says. But rather than shifting all of your financial mile markers, she says to start with adjusting how your income has changed in the past two to three months. Then, be honest about your spending habits by figuring out exactly where those hard-earned buckaroos are going. Begin with your fixed or necessary costs. These may have changed since reliable and robust at-home internet access is a new must-have. You may notice a higher electricity or water bill too, with more hours spent under your roof. “Then, continue with the rest of your budget to see what you have to adjust to cover your expenses, and if that leaves room for savings and supplementary short term goals,” Silbert says. “If you were planning a large purchase but didn’t want to risk liquidity when your future income is uncertain, take this time to maintain your credit by paying off debt, setting yourself up for when you’re ready to spend a bit more.”

Focus on quality over quantity.

Though this advice is always sage, Kriegsman says now; it’s an even more excellent opportunity to take a step back and be more mindful about your purchases. Instead of saving up for a new car or a new bike, could you find a refurbished (but just fine) version instead? What about investing in a few quality wardrobe staples, rather than buying new items every season. “This time has been a beautiful invitation not just to go out and buy things because we have an emptiness we are trying to fill. This is what is bankrupting our planet; this is what is putting the focus on the wrong thing,” she continues. “It is about not always buying just because you feel the need and rather, take better care of the items you already own.”

Talk it out

With your friends. With your spouse. With your children, if they’re old enough to understand. With your colleagues and boss, or co-founder. Whatever money worries you’re battling, it’s always better to face them alongside someone else. As CPA Paul Miller advises, you may not have much control over many of the circumstances that impact your finances, but you can take action on your mental health. You can’t do this if you aren’t candid with your psychological and physical hurdles. “Talk openly and honestly with your family and business associates about your finances. Strategize with your financial planner about available options,” he recommends. “It’s normal for your commitment to reworking your financial goals to wane during the process. Achieving a balance by shifting your goals more than pays off in renewed energy, reduced fear, and a firm foundation on which to build.”

Originally published on Ladders.

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