For almost two years, we’ve had much to contend with. While many would be happy to leave the memories in our rearview mirror, personal finance expert and bestselling author Melissa Leong says that when it comes to our money, we have a lot to learn — and gain — from our pandemic experience. Through reflecting on and harnessing a few lessons, Melissa says we can all emerge from this period financially stronger, happier, and ready for whatever comes our way. Here’s how:
Lesson #1: Protect your happiness.
My husband and I are self-employed and in the weeks after our province-mandated lockdowns, we were cut off from our sources of income. But life is made up of sun and storm — and I’ve sailed through my share of storms. We were among the 64% of Canadians who had an emergency fund and we did not have unmanageable non-mortgage debt. An emergency fund is like a life raft. And being free of bad debt is like traveling in a boat without leaks. We’ve learned about the importance of savings and now, we can act on this lesson moving forward to prepare ourselves financially for whatever may come.
Lesson #2: Check yourself before you wreck your wealth.
Money is emotional. And many of us may have found ourselves behaving strangely with our money during the pandemic. Even though I know the behavioural science behind it, I found myself spending needlessly to reward myself, to treat my kids, to regain a sense of control and normalcy. We often use money to alleviate pain, stress, boredom, and insecurities. This, plus the added stress we’ve endured during the pandemic, interferes with our financial decision-making. From retail therapy to so-called YOLO spending out of excitement and deprivation, take a pause and evaluate your financial behaviours and how they are contributing to or inhibiting your overall goals.
Lesson #3: Spend on what really matters.
The pandemic has shown many of us what we truly value. Align your spending with your values, whether that be family, health, etc. If you truly want happiness, according to science, devote more of your hard-earned bucks to experiences and time savers.
Lesson #4: Keep your eye on the future.
When we’re stressed, we tend to overvalue immediate rewards and the now at the expense of long-term goals and the future. So, we have to consciously address our myopia. The future isn’t tomorrow or next week. The future, if we’re lucky, is years and decades from now. To plan for it, we need to take stock of our situation, outline our short-term, mid-term, and long-term priorities, and set up some savings strategies to meet these milestones. This ensures that when life, and the markets, bring sun and storm, you’re focused on the big picture.
Melissa Leong is one of Canada’s best-loved authorities on personal finance. Currently the resident money expert on CTV’s The Social, Melissa is a sought-after speaker, national media personality, bestselling author, and award-winning writer. She delivers high-energy, informative, and practical talks about behavioural economics, positive psychology, and personal finance.
Interested in learning more about Melissa and what she can bring to your next event as a keynote speaker? Email us at [email protected].