How to survive and thrive financially in a post Covid world

Ben Brett 14 April 2020

In a world where social distancing, flattening the curve and different pyjamas for daytime and night time are the new norm, the rules of how to deal with your finances are changing almost daily.

Not a single person on earth has been unaffected by the coronavirus as we all shelter down and try to reduce the strain on our health systems.

But what should you be doing with your finances now that everything has changed? Well this depends on your situation. There are two very different situations which are coming out of this pandemic:

  1. Those who have lost their jobs or are experiencing reduced income affecting them financially
  2. Those who remain in their jobs or who have large safety nets they have been building in anticipation of a negative event.

In this blog, I’m going to break down my thoughts on how you can survive this period for those in the first category and where I think the opportunities are for those in the second category.

Category 1: How to Survive

I think it’s fair to say that nobody saw this coming. Even the best financial plans that have large safety nets anticipating someone in the household losing a job or getting sick probably didn’t anticipate everyone being out of work so suddenly.

Whilst it’s important to remember this feeling, particularly if you didn’t build the safety net you should have, there is no point dwelling on the past. Now is the time to take action.

There are three main things we need to do to survive this period:

  1. Maximise income
  2. Reduce outgoings
  3. Protect what you have

Maximise income

Obviously, the first step if you have lost your job or have experienced a downturn in business is to identify what government benefits you are entitled to.

Check out the Centrelink website and get your ‘My Gov’ account up to date so you register for benefits.

Now may be the time to also get creative with income. Do you have flybuys points or credit card travel points saved up? Now may be the time to cash them in for grocery vouchers.

Do you have any annual leave or long service leave saved up? Maybe enquire with your employer if you can take this. Be aware that this may affect your Centrelink entitlements.

Finally, the Australian Government has agreed you may access $10,000 from your superannuation. Whilst this is going to have a huge affect on your long-term retirement savings, if it’s your only choice, then this may be an option for you.

Whatever you do, now is the time to get creative. Maybe offer to clean a friend’s house if they are still working or do ironing for them? Anything you can do to maximise income until this is over could really make a big difference.

Reduce Outgoings

Have a look at your bank statements and list everything that you are spending money on. Put this in order from largest outgoing to smallest and start making a plan.

For your mortgage, contact your bank or mortgage broker and find out what options they have for a repayment holiday or to move to interest only.

If you are renting, be proactive with your landlord and find out what they can do to alleviate some of your pressures.

Now is a great time to review your insurances, electricity, any outgoings that can be easily compared and switched up.

Cut any extra expenses that you don’t need. Whilst I understand keeping Netflix may make some sense (particularly if you have kids), cut all the others you are subscribed to.

There is a lot of pressure right now to support small business and continue to order take-away, coffees etc. As a small business ourselves, we strongly support this…if you can afford it. If you’ve lost your job, don’t be afraid to put your family first. You can support these businesses once you are back on your feet.

Basically anything you can do to reduce expenses right now will be worth it, regardless of how small. If you can come out of this without going into debt or further debt, you are going to be able to rebound a lot quicker.

Protect what you have

We are all experiencing a feeling of powerlessness at the hands of this virus and the temptation is to try and make big decisions to get your life back on track. But now is not the time to course correct your life, now is the time to hunker down and protect what you have.

Be proactive on your mortgage or your rental, we are all in this together and whilst your landlord or bank will be trying to preserve their own interests, they also have a motivation to keep you in your place as this will end hopefully soon.

Avoid touching your super except as an absolute last resort. The sharemarket has taken a huge hit in the last couple of months and that $10,000 you take now may be the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement.

Don’t use the opportunity to buy a new car, new clothes or anything else that comes up on special. Focus on what you have and trying to make it last as long as possible. Whilst its tempting to pick up a bargain, if it means you have to go into debt, it’s not worth it.

Category 2: How to thrive

It is usually in times of chaos that the most opportunity arises. This is particularly true in the financial world.

The sudden drop in the sharemarket has created some of the best investing conditions we have seen in over a decade and for anyone in a strong position to take advantage of them, there is a lot of opportunity.

But the opportunity doesn’t only exist on the sharemarket. Already we are seeing property reduce in price rapidly as more and more buyers become spooked, put off buying a house or have their finance rejected by the bank due to a change in their employment situation.

This seems to be spreading out to lots of areas and I’ve already seen reductions in prices of lots of items from cars to electronics.

Investment

For a lot of our clients, a strategy we employ for them is dedicating part of their surplus income to paying down their house and part of it to investment. How much we dedicate to each depends on their own individual circumstances and prevailing market conditions.

As interest rates are reducing to near zero and the opportunity to invest is looking far more tempting, we are recommending clients increase the amount they have going to their investment instead of their home loan.

This strategy only works if they have been working towards a positive cashflow position for a long time and have built up enough savings in your home loan that this won’t affect you. But for those who have been diligently executing on this strategy for some time, the opportunities are substantial.

Homes

When it comes to buying homes, the strongest position you can be in is to have the biggest deposit you can save. Too often, the conversation is on how to improve your credit rating or get a guarantor when the focus should be on boosting your deposit.

For those of our clients who have been saving hard in preparation to buy a house, now is potentially a great opportunity to pick up a house at a bargain.

Whilst a lot of potential home sellers are pulling their homes from the market, there are a lot of times when a home has to sell regardless of market conditions. This may be due to a divorce, a deceased estate or any number of reasons.

For those who have a good deposit and can count on their loan still being approved, now is the time to start reaching out to real estate agents or buyers’ agents. A lot of homes right now may be selling ‘off market’ or the prices they are listing don’t reflect what they will actually take for it. It is going to potentially take a bit more work but now may be the time to pick up a home which has to be sold but for which there is little demand.

Other purchases

Now is not the time to make big purchases if you weren’t already planning to do so. But if you had been saving the money, now may be the right time to negotiate a great deal on a car, boat or other large item you’ve been diligently saving for.

So there you have it, some tips on how to survive and thrive in a post-Covid 19 world. This world is moving quickly so make sure you subscribe to our Instagram where we share regular updates as they come available. As always if you have any questions, please reach out.

This post is from our resident Financial Planner Ben Brett, check out his details in the About Us section.

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Posted in: Ben BrettInvestments

About the author: Ben Brett

Ben Brett owns and operates Bounce Financial with his wife, Cara. Having started his career as a Corporate Lawyer, Ben has always had a passion for helping make the complex things simple. Follow Ben on Instagram @bouncefinancial or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/ben-brett/