Best Health

Q: How should I re­think my fi­nan­cial strat­egy dur­ing these un­cer­tain times?

- by DIANA DUONG with ex­pert NECHELLE BARTLEY Nechelle Bartley is a cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner and a Pro­ject Man­age­ment Pro­fes­sional with Money Ba­sics.

AS THE REVERBERAT­IONS from COVID-19 con­tinue to spread, it’s be­come clear how im­por­tant our fi­nan­cial health is in ad­di­tion to our phys­i­cal health. Most of us didn’t bud­get for a pan­demic, but it’s time to plan our money for the long term. We spoke with Nechelle Bartley, a Toronto-based fi­nan­cial strate­gist, about how to man­age your fi­nances, whether you’ve burned through your sav­ings, you’re in deep debt or you’re wor­ried about job se­cu­rity.

Still work­ing

Even if you are com­fort­able with the amount of money you’re cur­rently mak­ing, your stan­dard sav­ings prob­a­bly aren’t enough. If there’s any­thing this pan­demic has taught us, says Bartley, it’s the im­por­tance of in­creas­ing your con­tin­gency funds.

“Now is not the time to play small with your money,” she says. Whether you’re an em­ployee or your own boss, you should re­al­ize your skills are valu­able, and ne­go­ti­ate and ask for more. Don’t get too com­fort­able with the sta­tus quo, be­cause that se­cu­rity could be taken away at any point.

Bartley says the pan­demic of­fers a chance to look at whether you’re un­der­earn­ing and not charg­ing enough. If there’s a pro­mo­tion you could be pur­su­ing or bet­ter em­ploy­ment else­where, go af­ter it.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity to re­assess ev­ery­thing, not from the per­spec­tive of be­ing fear­ful, but from re­al­iz­ing, ‘How do I want to move for­ward now?’ and think­ing about whether you’re leav­ing money on the ta­ble when it comes to the value you pro­vide.”

While times may be un­cer­tain, some industries are do­ing well. If your com­pany doesn’t have the bud­get to pay you more, they may have bud­get al­lo­cated to al­low you to take cour­ses and train­ing that will make you more in the long term.

De­plet­ing sav­ings, mak­ing less

If this is your po­si­tion, then your first step is mak­ing sure you’re able to take care of the essen­tials. The key is to deal with your cur­rent sit­u­a­tion so you’re able to think about the fu­ture.

Fo­cus­ing only on the de­ple­tion can be­come de­press­ing and over­whelm­ing. It’s im­por­tant to have an open mind­set so you can be pre­pared to pivot, says Bartley. She rec­om­mends think­ing about your next move. In­creas­ing your skill set may re­quire a mon­e­tary in­vest­ment, while other op­tions might be free. “Don’t be re­sis­tant to the op­tion of debt if nec­es­sary,” she says.

“If you’re a busi­ness owner, you may need to rescale or get more money to in­vest in some­thing new. There are still peo­ple mak­ing a lot of money, even in a mar­ket like this.”

No sav­ings, drown­ing in debt

In this sit­u­a­tion, your pri­or­ity is to make the min­i­mum pay­ments on your debt. This might mean elim­i­nat­ing any­thing you don’t need dur­ing the COVID-19 pe­riod — re­mem­ber, you can al­ways come back to it later. Your pri­or­i­ties are food, shel­ter and util­i­ties. Child care? Cloth­ing? Ca­ble TV? If you don’t use it or need it, stop pay­ing for it.

If you can’t make the min­i­mum pay­ments, it’s time to speak with your cred­i­tors. Cred­i­tors are will­ing to help, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the amount of back­ing the gov­ern­ments have been giv­ing banks, says Bartley. They can lower in­ter­est rates or pay­ments for you, but you must be proac­tive about it.

Peo­ple have a lot of guilt and shame around debt, and those feel­ings can lead you to in­ac­tiv­ity. “But this isn’t the time to run and hide,” she says. “Do your part to show re­spon­si­bil­ity in con­tin­u­ing to pay it.”

Whether you feel you’re not mak­ing the amount you want or you’re not able to spend your money on what you want, ev­ery­thing can be ad­justed — and noth­ing is per­ma­nent. “Not every­body has all the an­swers, and you’re not sup­posed to. This is where you have op­por­tu­ni­ties to ask for help and get guid­ance. There’s ab­so­lutely no shame in that.”

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