Is It Time to Revise Your Financial Goals For the Post-COVID Economy?

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With life slowly returning to normal as COVID-19 restrictions ease and more people get vaccinated, many Americans are taking a long, hard look at their financial goals, and deciding how or even whether to revise and recalibrate them.

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Your own revisions will largely depend on how the pandemic affected you financially. As Money magazine noted last month, some people were financially devastated by the pandemic, while others actually watched their savings grow.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the personal savings rate in March was 27.6%, with savings pushing above $6 trillion. More than 80% of people entered 2021 with extra funds, according to Money’s own survey results, mainly because lockdowns and restrictions prevented people from spending money on travel, dining out and entertainment.

Many of those with additional savings will likely start splurging again in a post-COVID economy. But most people are expected to become more conservative in terms of spending and long-term financial goals.

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On Monday, CNBC reported that the pandemic forced many Americans to put off financial milestones like buying a house or car. Others were forced to tap into emergency savings or even take on additional debt. People who took a hit during the pandemic will put a greater emphasis on simply becoming financially whole again.

“If they were hammered by 2020, they may have to push out retirement for a couple of years (and) that’s OK,” Tania Brown, a Certified Financial Planner and coach at SaverLife, told CNBC. “They may have to get some of those financial fundamentals taken care of first.”

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Even as the economy recovers, many people will have to adjust their financial expectations to fit the new normal.

“What worked in 2019 or even 2020 may not work now,” Brown said.

Lauren Anastasio, a CFP with SoFi, told Money that many people will put a greater emphasis on saving extra money because of the security it brings, and out of “fear of reverting back to a place where money is a scarce resource.”

In some cases, people have already changed their financial habits because of the pandemic – whether it’s spending less freely or revising their savings goals to build a bigger rainy-day fund. For those who developed new habits during the pandemic, there’s no reason to end them even as life returns to normal.

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“A lot of people have this expectation that there’s going to be this magical date when this pandemic is over and we’re going to revert back to life in 2019,” Anastasio said. “That doesn’t have to be the case.”

Craig Hawley, head of Nationwide’s Annuity Distribution, wrote in an April column for Financial Advisor that many people will establish more conservative financial and investing goals in a postpandemic world. For these people, he offers the following suggestions:

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  • Balance growth and protection by investing in a diverse range of annuities. These might include Registered Index-Linked Annuities (RILAs) for moderate to aggressive clients, or fixed-index annuities (FIAs) for conservative to moderate clients
  • Hold off on dipping into retirement funds until there is less economic and interest-rate volatility. According to Hawley, nearly three-fourths of investors (72%) said the pandemic has had a negative impact on how long they could live off their retirement savings. More than one quarter (26%) said they would probably have to delay taking retirement income for the next 12 months, and a similar percentage said they would need to reduce the amount of their retirement income withdrawals over the next year.
  • Devote part of your portfolio to annuities that can help protect against outliving your retirement savings. These kinds of annuities provide predictable income sources in a volatile, postpandemic economy, helping protect against longevity risk while also freeing up assets that can be invested for growth and inflation protection.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte MagazineStreet & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, will be published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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