By Mikel Van Cleve, CFP®
When California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a strict stay-at-home mandate to the state’s 40 million residents, he was the first governor to impose a statewide lockdown to this degree, and now several other states have followed suit.
For most residents who had already entered a new reality of working remotely, at-home schooling, and general social distancing — leaving their homes only to buy essential food and medicine — the stricter mandate may have been a common-sense measure.
Ultimately the goal is to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
As you hunker down over the coming weeks, consider these tips to stay healthy — emotionally, financially and physically.
Focus on the essentials.
Ensure you have adequate food and supplies for your family. Nutritionists recommend keeping food staples such as beans and legumes, canned fish, nut butters, oats, canned or frozen vegetables, and coffee, as supplies allow/are available.
Maintain perspective when you order online or make a quick grocery-store run. First consider the food your family will actually consume for two to three weeks. There’s no reason to believe food retailers will not be able to meet consumers’ demands, so hoarding is not necessary; it’s irresponsible. Your neighbors need food and supplies, too, and if we all buy what we need, there’s plenty to go around.
Plan for financial necessities.
If the lockdown has impacted your employment, take some time to ensure you can cover your basic needs. Contact your monthly creditors and service providers to discuss your situation and potential payment solutions. USAA has special programs in place to assist members, which you can learn more about here.
With the government passing legislation to issue stimulus checks and if you’re eligible, try to stretch that income as far as possible. You may also leverage other available resources such as those found at Benefits.gov, which includes information on unemployment and healthcare assistance.
Looking for temporary work? Depending on the industry, you may be in luck. According to data from the recruiting site Glassdoor, the top five roles with the most COVID-19-related openings include registered nurses, communications associates, social workers, project managers and technicians.
While you’re quarantined, you may find that some areas of your budget are doing better than before, such as entertainment, gas, or dining-out. If you’re fortunate enough to be working, be thoughtful about how you spend — or save — any budget surplus. Learn more in our article, 5 Ways to Protect Your Financial Wellness During the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Don’t make a run at the bank.
In times of crisis, it’s natural to feel antsy about your money. But don’t worry; it’s safe in the bank — and you’re best off leaving it there.
The situation we’re currently in may feel a lot like 2008; however, it is fundamentally different. First, it is not rooted in the financial industry or the economy itself. It’s more akin to a natural disaster. While the full economic impact of this crisis is still unknown, know that your money is safe.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best in his inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s especially true now, and when it comes to your finances, fear and panic are the biggest threats. Instead of making changes to your accounts, revisit your financial plan, which was originally designed to provide stability. For example, if your retirement is years away, your plan likely accounts for market fluctuations.
If you don’t already have one, use this time to establish your first financial plan. More than anything, this recent market volatility drives home the importance of aligning where you put your money with the time horizon for when you’ll need it.
Take a walk.
Remember that your fitness, health, and finances are intertwined. We’re living through stressful times, and when stress gets out of control, people experience real consequences, including high blood pressure and heart disease. These health complications are expensive — and debt only brings on more stress.
The World Health Organization offers these tips for safeguarding your physical and mental health during a quarantine:
Do the best you can.
Think about the things you’ve been wanting to do around the house but never have the time. Now’s your chance to clean out the garage! Teach your youngest how to ride her bike, take a family nature walk, start a new book or listen to a podcast.
Find meaningful ways to occupy your time and make a difference within your home and community.
If anything, these past few weeks have been a wake-up call to us all. While we don’t know how long this will last, use this time to focus on what’s really important in life.