Make no mistake, the global COVID-19 pandemic is calling into question a lot of the things we have long taken for granted. It is no longer simple just to walk outside, go to the grocery store, or go out to eat with family and friends. Instead, we are protecting ourselves at home and analyzing our every move to limit and avoid as much potential risk as possible.
This is especially true for those who are in a higher risk category. Those over the age of 65 or who are immunocompromised have to be particularly careful about protecting themselves from accidental exposure. In some cases, this can mean avoiding grocery stores and other social outings altogether until it is safe to be out and about again.
For many older folks, not only are the challenges of being home alone with little social interaction greater, but they are also more at risk if an economic downfall occurs. That isn’t to downplay the serious issues that many are currently facing, but to point out that for many close to retirement, long years of savings could be on the line if the right precautions are not taken.
Here are some ways to take steps to stay healthy and remain financially stable during quarantine.
For most people, the best way to remain financially stable is to keep working and to maintain a steady income. In order to blunt the curve, however, many states have implemented stay-at-home orders. Many people have been fortunate enough to be able to work from home or on a more limited basis, but some people are still out providing essential services and risking exposure on a daily basis. In addition, some have been laid off and have no idea where their next paycheck will come from or when it will arrive.
Regardless of your work situation, if you are considered to be high-risk when it comes to Covid-19, whether or not you work could be a matter of life and death. There are many things that could put one into a high-risk category:
- Being over the age of 65
- Respiratory conditions including asthma
- Having been exposed to chemicals that cause respiratory issues such as asbestos
- A heart condition
- Being severely obese
- Any other immuno-compromisation that impacts your body’s ability to fight infection
If you are in a high-risk category, one of the best things you can do is to look after your physical and emotional well-being, which may mean staying home. Many of us stuck at home are starting to feel cooped up and isolated, however. Stay active by going on walks around the neighborhood (taking safety precautions while doing so), eating well by preparing well-balanced meals, and finding social outlets such as catching up with friends and family on the phone, utilizing a virtual meeting platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts, or by talking to neighbors from a safe distance.
Safeguarding Retirement Funds
If you are able to meet your basic physical and emotional needs while being stuck in quarantine, the next major thing to think about is safeguarding your finances. Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the economy. Many markets are fluctuating greatly, which can make anyone with a retirement account nervous.
Now is a great time to take a hard look at your risk tolerance when it comes to your investments. Some people feel as though now is the time to take some risks because they could win big as the market recovers, and they also have time to make up for any major losses should they occur. Many of these folks are younger and still have jobs as well as years of earnings to help them recover.
If you are closer to retirement, however, you may not have the same attitude. Instead, you might be looking for ways to minimize the risk to your accounts since you won’t have a lot of time to make up for losses in your retirement funds. After all, that is what you’re living on for the rest of your life. Now is a good time to start seriously budgeting and planning for an uncertain financial future.
Budgeting and Getting Assistance
If things are starting to look bleak in your household, it might be time to investigate government programs and stimulus initiatives that are designed to help many Americans get by. Many government leaders are creating tools to help those struggling by helping them pay and deal with certain types of debts and in certain situations. If you’re having any of the following hardships, the government might be able to help:
- The inability to pay a mortgage or rent payment
- Issues making credit card payments
- Difficulty paying auto loans
- Working with banks and credit unions
- Dealing with a loss of income
Numerous people are also filing for unemployment benefits, and many will qualify for stimulus checks that will hopefully help some get by.
There are also lots of ways to improve your budgeting skills to help you save money. One way to possibly save money by refinancing your home. Interest rates are at an all-time low. Also, if you are making enough money to still make payments on bills, don’t fall behind. Bills and late payments can add up, making things more expensive than ever.
COVID-19 is putting a lot of people into the lurch. Aside from dealing with the many struggles of being in the high-risk category and trying to take care of yourself, there are a number of financial considerations to take into account. If you are worried about losing retirement money, now may be the time to assess your risk tolerance and move money into more stable accounts. It is also a good time to work on budgeting skills and, if necessary, look into government programs and assistance to help you get by.
Dan Matthews is a freelance writer with a penchant for financial wisdom and solid research. You can find him on Twitter @danielmatthews0 and LinkedIn.