Taking Care of Ourselves and Others During a Crisis
Part of what makes the coronavirus pandemic so stressful is how dramatically it has upended our sense of overall well-being. The most serious global health crisis in more than a century is also causing widespread economic trauma as businesses shut down, millions of workers go unemployed, and financial markets reel.
Despite COVID-19’s unprecedented impact on multiple aspects of day-to-day life, we don’t have to let it stop us from taking care of ourselves and others. Many of the same basic ways that we manage our physical, mental, and emotional health during stressful times can also help us keep a healthy outlook on our finances.
When current events start knocking your wellness out of balance, you can use these techniques to regain control of both your physical and financial health:
- Break the cycle of worry. Stress can weaken your body’s immune system and your ability to think rationally. Identify what’s causing you to worry and ask yourself: Can I do something to change this for the better? Then let go of worrying about what you can’t control. In your financial realm, that includes how the stock market performed today and whatever the Fed might do tomorrow.
- Manage your news intake. If regular updates on the coronavirus impact help you process what’s happening and make more confident decisions, then stay plugged in. But also take note of any times when a news report, social-media post, or conversation makes your anxiety spike. Also, it’s okay to be worried about opening your portfolio statements, but also know down markets provide opportunities that previously may not have been available to you. When you read or hear about market volatility, remember that such ups and downs inevitably occur—and the major financial indexes have stayed on an upward curve for decades.
- Stay active. Try not to let the precautions imposed under COVID-19 prevent you from exercising, even if your gym is closed or your yoga group can’t meet in person. The mental and emotional payoffs of taking a long walk or going for a run are as crucial as the physical benefits, especially during stressful times. At the same time, it’s important to continue to fund your retirement account and make charitable contributions. Consider donating what you can to support hospitals, medical workers, food banks, homeless shelters, emergency responders, and other organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Even though social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions have made grocery shopping a challenge, your body and mind rely on good nutrition to function well during this crisis. The same principle also applies to how you’re feeding your financial strategy. Don’t veer away from the good habits—like diversification, regular rebalancing, risk tolerance, and disciplined focus on long-term goals—habits that your advisor employs for you and that have served you well up to now.
- Try something different. A forced break in your normal routine can be refreshing if we steer that reserve of time and energy in new directions. Tackle a household project that’s been on the back burner for months. Dust off some favorite recipes and experiment with a new one. Maybe even enroll in an online class. You can make similarly beneficial moves in the current financial environment. Talk with an advisor about the potential advantages of tax-loss harvesting, converting retirement funds to a Roth IRA, or investing in a company whose stock might have looked overvalued a month ago.
We’ve built Mercer Advisors on a foundation of empowering people to manage their financial well-being and achieve Economic FreedomTM. In every season, we start by helping clients establish a written, long-term financial plan that can withstand market volatility and other unexpected setbacks like those brought on by COVID-19.
During this crisis, we want our clients to have reliable guidance on staying physically and financially safe. Find updates on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting financial markets and our recommendations here.
Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis: An Advisor’s Perspective
“It’s been important for me to stay active,” says Dane Sauer, a Mercer Advisors financial planner based in Dallas, Texas. “With all the gyms shut down, I’ve had to get creative—whether it’s doing something inside my home or going for a run outside.”
Dane adds, “I’ve always believed in the value that we as financial advisors provide to our clients, but I think it’s multiplied in times of crisis. This experience has really validated why I got into the profession: to help other people and put their interests ahead of my own.”
“I have been so impressed by how people are working hard to take care of each other. When I hear stories from clients about how they are giving to charitable organizations or their personal efforts, or my own neighborhood group helping elderly neighbors during this time, it is very inspiring,” says Kara Duckworth, an advisor at Mercer Advisors based in Newport Beach, CA.
Kara adds, “As advisors, we are digesting the newest market, stimulus, financial planning, tax and estate planning information that is rapidly changing from day to day and working to apply this to client’s long-term plans. It has helped me, at the end of each workday to step away from my computer screen and take a few minutes to be grateful.”
“My four year-old loves to point out all the rainbows painted in our neighbors’ windows when we get out for fresh air in the evenings. We talk about hope and gratitude and what he is thankful for,” says Jessica Caruso, branch manager for the San Francisco Mercer Advisors office.
Jessica adds, “In the midst of so much stress and uncertainty, I am thankful for extra time with my family, our health, and a career that I love.”
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