It's Your Money  

Financial survival tips

The world has changed significantly during the past few weeks as we deal with the health and financial implications of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Businesses of all sizes are struggling to cope and many (most?) employees and business owners are understandably concerned about their ability to make it through these challenging times.

While you may not be able to control your income earning potential right now, there are many things that are still under your control.

For this week’s column, I wanted to provide tips to help get through this crisis as best you can:

Stop consumer spending

As much as possible, you should cut down on any discretionary spending at this time. While bored at home in isolation, it may be tempting to cruise the web for online shopping deals, but this is the absolute last thing you should be doing right now. Any discretionary income should be directed toward debt reduction and building up an emergency fund. 

Review your debt from all sources

Now, is a great time to consolidate higher interest debts to a lower rate and make sure you’re paying as little interest as possible.

Much like debt, do a thorough review of all recurring monthly payments that you make

Are there any that can be suspended or cancelled? Are you still paying for that monthly gym membership that you haven’t used in over a year?

Do you really need to pay for Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ at the same time? Anything you can do to cut down your monthly carrying costs should be done right away.

If you are or are expecting to have trouble making ends meet, reach out to all of your creditors and request temporary relief

Most if not all mortgage providers in Canada are offering payment deferral and other such relief measures to those that need them. Make this call now instead of waiting until things are really bad.

Consider setting up a line of credit type product if you don’t have enough set aside in your emergency funds

This would likely be far better than leaving a balance on your credit card or withdrawing (taxable) money from your RRSP account. Having said that, each person’s situation is different and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional should be consulted to determine what source of funds makes the most sense for you.

Be extra vigilant for fraud or phishing schemes

It’s sad to say but there are many scammers out there working to take advantage of this situation. Watch your credit card and bank statements extra close over these next few months and report anything unusual right away.

If additional funds are available, consider investing more into the markets while they are down

While not an option for everyone, catching the inevitable rebound of the market is important. For those that are already invested and thinking of cashing out, remember that your losses are only realized if you decide to sell while the markets are down.

When possible, help out your neighbours

Check in to see if they need help picking up groceries or with any other daily living activities. We are all in this together and it is times like this when the goodness of humanity can shine.  

Finally, try not to panic

Blaming doesn’t help and dwelling on poor past decisions won’t either. Focus on what you can control and try to stay positive. Do what you can to help flatten the curve and keep your family safe and healthy.

Oh, yeah, wash your hands.


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About the Author

Brett, designated as a chartered investment manager and certified financial planner, is the regional director (Okanagan) for IG Wealth Management.

In addition to his “day job," Brett was appointed to the board of directors of FP Canada (formerly FPSC) in 2014, named as the board’s vice-chair in 2017 and took over as board chairman in 2019. 

Brett has been writing a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy to understand explanations of the complex financial challenges that they face in every stage of life.

Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority of Brett’s and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer and on the regulatory side through the FP Canada board focus on this initiative.   

Please let Brett know if you have any topics that you’d like him to cover in future columns by emailing him at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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