As economies around the world start to cautiously emerge from their various states of lockdown, people are also stepping back into the light, albeit gingerly and carefully. Some shops and services are open for business again, others have a while to wait still. Some activities that involve mass gatherings such as sports events and concerts face a quite uncertain future for some time to come.
The last few months have been a time of great uncertainty for all of us. Apart from the threat to our health, most people’s work lives have undergone significant changes. For some, this has been a very difficult period with businesses closed and jobs gone for a while, or in some cases for good. Others have experienced reduced income as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions. Some lucky people have not really been hit in the pocket; they have just had to adjust to a different way of working.
We’ve all had quite a bit of time to think, both about the present and also what the future might hold as the pandemic runs its course.
My own world of work has changed hugely in these times. Apart from getting used to working remotely, my core role of meeting the needs of our clients has changed a lot too. I’ve been unable to carry out our usual face-to-face meetings and have adapted as quickly as we could to using the full range of other means of communicating with you, clients – by telephone, email, online meetings, messages etc. The silver lining on this cloud has been the ability to have some really insightful conversations with many of you.
A theme has emerged from these conversations – a re-evaluation of the importance of money in the big scheme of things today.
Now I am are not for one moment suggesting that money is unimportant or that your personal finances don’t need to be carefully planned. Money is always important, it’s just not the “be all and end all”. What the lockdown has taught us is the importance of everything else. When it comes to your money, you need to have a plan and then let it go and do its work, refining it as your circumstances and goals change.
However what I’ve observed in these different times is that many clients are no longer sweating the small stuff. I’ve really seen this in the different conversations I’ve had with you in recent weeks. Previously, short-term volatility in investment markets might have resulted in lots of worried conversations, sometimes panicked decisions that more often than not damage your long-term wealth. I have seen so little of this lately, even though markets have been volatile. Most clients have rightly viewed the recent market turbulence as a temporary blip in a long-term plan.
Instead the conversations have been about the more important challenges in life today, with these then naturally veering towards the financial impacts caused by these changes.
In every single conversation with you, the starting point has always been an enquiry about our health and that of our families. This has been so heartening and has shown the importance of trusted relationships and community spirit. Conversations have typically then moved quite seamlessly on to how we’re all dealing with the restrictions, and the impact they are having on family lives.
Yes, Covid-19 has caused challenges. Health concerns, work, childcare, schooling and social restrictions appear to be topping the list. But I’ve seen people wherever possible viewing recent times with a “glass half full” attitude. Many clients have spoken about the importance of health and how thankful they are that their families have stayed well. You have spoken about the challenge, but also the benefits of working at home – no-one has mentioned that they miss commuting and working long hours away from your families. Many of us have rediscovered the benefits of a bit more time on our hands and the flexibility gained from working at home. The importance of getting out for a regular walk with the kids has featured in many conversations, also having a laugh and finding new ways to socialise as a family. Simple pleasures that cost very little.
There has been a sense that we’ve all simply been more present with our families. This is what will live long in the memory as the situation eventually fades. Money can never replace this.
Not having enough money certainly causes worry. However for many of you, your mindset has changed significantly, your view of how much is enough is now different. That shiny new car or expensive holiday is a bit less important to many, instead “enough” is now more focused on experiences, health and togetherness. I’ve seen a greater focus on planning for the long-term, ensuring you’ve enough to really support your families and live your life, as opposed to material possessions.
If you have been impacted financially by the restrictions, structured financial planning will help you deal with the situation, as you can consider different potential scenarios in the future. Having a robust roadmap will give you increased confidence that you will emerge from your short-term challenges.
Have a financial plan and manage your money wisely. The money is not important in itself, instead view it as a means to free your mind and to let you enjoy the things you love doing.