April 2020 Update
Has it only been a month since our last update? It feels like several decades have passed. The sheer volume of information we’ve received and amount of change that has occurred since the beginning of March 2020 has easily outstripped what we would have experienced in a year, let alone just a month or two.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we don’t blame you. If you’ve reduced the number of times per day you’re checking your phone for updates, we think that’s a pretty good idea. If you’ve started baking, we want to see pictures.
If the volatility in the markets, the government’s response to the pandemic, the closing of local stores and restaurants, the loss or delay of your job or your business, and the weirdness of empty store shelves is making you anxious… well, that’s not only normal, it’s reasonable.
If you’re grieving lost time with family and friends, if you’re grieving the loss of family and friends, if you’re wondering whether or not you should worry or if the bag of worry that you’re holding is big enough to even talk about given the size of other people’s bags of worry… hey, let’s not add shame to the dogpile of emotions you’re feeling.
The global pandemic that you are experiencing, that we are all experiencing together, is traumatic. We don’t need to open up our bags of worry to compare our trauma to anyone else’s. Yes, some definitely have more than others. Some definitely have less. But everyone has some – literally no one has zero.
If you’re concerned about money, we hear you. We’re concerned about money all the time – you might say it’s our primary concern. Just like you, we have been chatting amongst ourselves and asking:
- How does this change the planning work we do?
- How does this change the advice we give?
- Is the planning work we’ve done and advice we’ve given now useless?
Through discussions with you, the people who are at the centre of these questions, and with each other (have we mentioned how much we like being on a team?), we have learned this:
The advice we’ve given and continue to give is useful and valuable, now more than ever. The planning work we’ve done and continue to do stands up, in the face of all of this, because we know clearly what we can and cannot control.
What We Cannot Control
The things we cannot control, which are a lot, are the same things we’ve never been able to control.
We’ve never been able to control the trajectory of the stock, real estate, bond, or farmers’ markets. Markets are markets – they’ll sell their wares for as much as people are willing to pay and put things up for sale when that willingness depletes. No one has ever been able to consistently, correctly forecast exactly where any kind of market is going to land in the future. There are ways to estimate and guess, based on facts, figures, and past behaviours in similar situations, but no one has ever really known. That’s part of the reason why it’s such hard work to participate in any kind of market.
We’ve never been able to control the world economy, the national economy, or even our local economies. These, like markets, behave in particular ways due to the input of all the stakeholders. We can sometimes make decent guesses, but no one actually knows for certain what will happen before it happens.
The short story is that we simply cannot control other people, whether they are in large groups like nations, smaller groups like communities and families, or even just our next-door neighbours who keep making that weird noise at odd hours that you kind of want to ask them about but are afraid of the answer. We have never had that control, and knowing that is actually… kind of freeing.
What We Can Control
The things we can control are the same things we’ve always been able to control.
We can control our own behaviour, our own decisions, and our own actions. We might not like having to make the decisions we have to make, because it would be a lot nicer if things just worked out and we could spend all of our time with people we like doing things we enjoy, but… we absolutely have the right and responsibility to take control in our own lives.
When it comes to money and money-related decisions, we are often not in a position to control exactly how much money comes into our hands. We are not in control of the total price of the things we need to purchase to live our lives. But we can decide what we are going to do with the money that does come into our hands, and whether or not we will purchase certain items, now or later. We can use design thinking (our 2019 theme!) to ensure that the decisions we make are aligned with our values and that the results of those decisions allow us to live our lives the way we want.
We can use this time to look at our investments again, and ask ourselves those same questions we asked in May 2019. Some of our answers may be different today than they were a year ago, because nothing tests our actual risk tolerance like living in risky times. Many of our answers will be the same, however, because your goals to save for your children’s education, your retirement, and a future that may or may not include boats (retirement commercials always have boats, we’re not entirely sure why) remain the same.
A lot of the answers remain the same too, COVID-19 or no COVID-19:
Darryl still thinks that diversification is your only free lunch.
Kathryn still thinks setting aside money for your annual expenses in a separate account makes life easier.
Karen still thinks that an emergency fund, while boring, is your first step towards financial security.
Sandi still thinks that you can learn to switch to an essentials-only budget on a dime, if you need to.
Julia still thinks that a well thought out Will is one of the nicest things you can do for the people you love.
Planning is always important, and even more so during times of uncertainty. A financial, cash flow, and portfolio plan won’t make the world less uncertain, but it will make it easier for you to make great decisions so that can create your life, well spent.
Even More Answers
You may have specific questions about all the stimulus packages that are being released (and changed, and updated) by our various government agencies. We are doing our best to stay on top of them and have created a COVID-19 Resources page with lots of information that we are updating as soon as new data comes out. Swing on by, and keep coming back.
Karen and Kathryn held a Cash Flow Clinic on April 3rd, to help people who are dealing with immediate changes to their cash flow. Please note that many things have changed around CERB (Canada Emergency Relief Benefit) since that date, so please do head back to the resources page for up-to-date information.
Sandi’s got an outstanding round up of Great Reads this month, which includes permission to stop reading if you need to, and a few links to things you can do instead.
We’ve also got another case study for you. As we mentioned, last year was all about Design Thinking, and this year’s case studies are real-life demonstrations of that type of thinking in action. Since we are wildly protective of privacy, we’ve cleverly changed some names, so you would never recognize Baby and Johnny, who are in a cash flow corner (see what we did there?)… with line of credit debt.
Wishing you safety, health, and all the socialization you can possibly get while still being safe and healthy!
The Spring virtual offices will be closed on Monday, May 18th, in honour of Victoria Day. Kathryn will be taking a few days off between May 21 and May 26 to make up for the fact that she cut her March holidays short when the pandemic hit.
“Free” Fridays remain booked permanently in our calendars (even though Sandi’s are on Wednesdays!). These days are free to us at Spring in the sense that they are our opportunity to work on becoming better planners, whether through collaboration and discussion, education, research, or even a little down time. It’s been a regular practice since the summer of 2017, and we will continue to set aside the time to become better versions of ourselves every week. Even 1% better is solidly worth it, because we know that will be reflected in the work we do for you.
Spring In the News:
We are proud to announce that Julia is a Finalist for the Female Trailblazer of the Year in the 2020 Wealth Professional Awards! Winners will be announced in September – we will keep you posted.
Got a question about your cash flow or financial plan? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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