Retirement in the Time of Coronavirus: 18 Tips for How to Plan Your Future Amid this Health Crisis

Retirement in the Time of Coronavirus: 18 Tips for How to Plan Your Future Amid this Health Crisis

I don’t think you need me to tell you. Life is different today than it was a few weeks ago.

Now is not the time to be complacent nor is it time to panic. Now IS a good time to be calm and plan, prepare and strategize — for what might happen in the next few months and for the rest of your life.

retirement planning coronavirus

Here are 18 tips for planning your future amid this health crisis:

1. Stay Home and Save Lives

The San Francisco Bay Area was the first area in the United States to impose social isolation and data this week suggests that it is working to “flatten the curve” — slow the transmission of Coronavirus from person to person.

And, last week, a group of economists from the Federal Reserve and MIT published a paper on the 20th century’s most murderous flu, the 1918 outbreak. They discovered that the cities and counties that did early and aggressive interventions both saved lives and triggered a faster economic rebound in several measures, such as job growth and banking assets.

If you are anyone, stay home.

If you are over the age of 60 or have compromised health, then it is even more important for you to self isolate and take every precaution possible.

2. Acknowledge Everyday Losses

Social distancing means that everyone is experiencing tremendous losses of every day activities. The resulting sense of sadness and isolation can be mitigated by remembering that everything you are sacrificing is saving actual lives.

My high school sophomore is finishing up a section on World War I. He has written quite a few essays on the topic of “the cost of war.” One line has been running through my head this week, “War is humans doing inhumane things.” The sentence stands in stark opposition to what all of us are doing this week. We are making adjustments to our lives to try to slow the pandemic.

It is the opposite of the inhumanity of war. We are making big sacrifices in order to save lives. We are doing very human — pro society things.

Dr. Maggie Mulqueen, a psychologist told NPR, “We live in an individualistic culture verses a collectivist culture. This moment in time really asks us to think differently. To think about caring for other people and to understand our inter-connectedness.”

Staying home and practicing good hygiene saves lives. Pat yourself on the back (don’t let anyone else do it 🙂 ) for every little sacrifice you are making!

3. Assess the Financial Impact in the Short Term

The financial uncertainty can feel overwhelming in the near term.

Have you lost your job?  Here are 9 tips for navigating this uncertain time.

Do you need access to cash or income? Assess the best (and worst) sources of emergency money and income for funding your life during the Coronavirus crisis.

4. Understand How the CARES Act Can Help You

Your Rebate: Individuals with a Social Security Number (SSN) and who are not dependents may receive $1,200 (single filers and heads of household) or $2,400 (joint filers), with an additional rebate of $500 per qualifying child, if you have adjusted gross income under $75,000 (single), $150,000 (joint), or $112,500 (heads of household) using 2019 tax return information.

Use a rebate calculator to figure out how much you will receive.

How to Qualify for and Receive the Rebate: Most people do not need to do anything.

  • Current tax returns will be used, in most cases, to determine the rebate. They are recommending you file as soon as possible.
  • If you are receiving Social Security and did not file taxes, you will still receive the rebate.
  • If you e-filed your tax returns or are receiving Social Security with direct deposit banking, the money will be put into your account automatically.
  • Everyone else will receive a check although the treasuring may be providing a web site for individuals to enter banking information.

Small Business Provisions: There are a variety of loans and other assistance being provided to small businesses. Here is a summary of opportunities.

Unemployment: The government has opened up unemployment to a broader group of people and are supplementing payments.  Learn more: Laid Off Due to Coronavirus? Here are 9 tips for navigating this uncertain time

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) NOT Required: In order to provide relief to people who do not want to sell investments at a loss in order to take their RMDs, RMDs are NOT required in 2020.

It Is Also Easier to Make Withdrawals from Tax Advantaged Accounts: The CARES Act has made it easier to make withdrawals from your tax advantaged accounts if you have suffered COVID-19 related harm. If you are affected by the disease, you can make withdrawals without incurring the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

Learn about other sources of emergency money.

Tax Deadlines: While filing as soon as possible is probably a good idea, the tax deadline has been extended till July 15.

5. Make Adjustments to Your Retirement Plan for Long Term Financial Health

Don’t just worry about what is going to happen to your finances, go ahead and run some scenarios and find out. You will probably find that things will be okay, eventually.

A few things to try in the NewRetirement Planner:

Play with Account Balances: It may sound scary, but facing fears is one of the best ways to deal with them.

Be brave and enter your account balances as they stand today.

  • Then, imagine where they might be in two months  (maybe down even more) and six months from now (perhaps on the road to recovery).  Just remember that anything and everything can change.
  • See what happens if the recovery is slower. Can you sustain losses for the next two or three years?
  • Do you have cash? What happens if you were to buy securities today? Or, is it better to reserve that cash for the current emergency since it will be of an unknown duration?

Try Optimistic and Pessimistic Scenarios: No one really knows what is going to happen. In the NewRetirement Planner, PlannerPlus users can set both optimistic and pessimistic values for inflation, rates of return, medical inflation and more.

And, it is easy to toggle between the different assumptions to compare.

Roth Conversions: Consider if you can afford a Roth conversion while your portfolio is down. NewRetirement PlannerPlus users can model this scenario and analyze the costs and benefits.

Re Evaluate Work: Unprecedented numbers of Americans are out of work because of Coronavirus.  If this is you, you may want to adjust your work income as part of your retirement plan.

Refinance Debt: Keep an eye on interest rates and see if you are able to refinance into a lower rate. Think about your mortgage and other debt (credit cards, car loans, medical and any student loan obligations) you are carrying.  You can model a lower interest rate in the NewRetirement Planner to see the impact on your finances.

6. Re-Strategize if Your Retirement Plans Are Upended by the Disruption

Okay, lets say that this situation has upended your finances and you have retired or plan to retire too soon considering how your financial situation appears now.

Make Adjustments: You certainly have options for tweaking your retirement plans. A few popular retirement plan adjustments include:

Log in to the NewRetirement Planner to easily try any of these opportunities to see if it improves your financial future.

7. Get Stop Gap Help

In addition to all of the resources listed here: Assess the best (and worst) sources of emergency money and income for funding your life during the Coronavirus crisis., consider the following:

Housing: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a nationwide eviction and foreclosure moratorium.

Defer Consumer Loan Payments: Many banks are stepping up to help borrowers get through this situation. You can look up your lenders on this list from the banking trade association to see what concessions are being offered.

Utilities: Most utilities (gas, electric, internet and water) are offering special programs during this crisis. Call your providers.

Unemployment: Follow this guide with 9 tips for navigating a lay off in this uncertain time.

8. Not Yet Retired? Keep Up Your Skills and Engagement

If You Have a Job: If you are not yet retired, it may feel like you are if you are not able to work during the pandemic.  It is important to create a plan for staying engaged with your job in some way. Keep up contact with colleagues or create a list of clients and communicate a plan for dealing with the back log when this is over.

Maybe skill up with video tutorials, online classes or distance networking.

Self Employed: If you are self employed, hopefully the CARES Act, the government stimulus package, includes programs that help you. The bill offers:

  • Emergency grants of up to $10,000 to cover operating costs.
  • Forgivable loans of up to $10 million.
  • Relief of up to six months for payments on Small Business Administration loans

Ready for Something New?: Maybe it is time for a new job when this all ends. Here are some ideas:

9. Be Very Cautious with Any Big Financial Moves

For the vast majority of investors, especially those who have a long term investment strategy, doing NOTHING when stock markets go down is the BEST policy.

The stock market goes up and down in the short term. Over the long haul, it has historically done nothing but go up. Even a worst case year- or two-year contraction of the economy will likely eventually rebound.

So, most of the time, it is important to remain calm, don’t let emotions or stress take over and just do nothing. Ignore it.

If you are considering any moves, you may want to consult with a Certified Financial Planner. Did you know that NewRetirement offers flat fee advisory services? You can collaborate with an advisor who has taken a fiduciary oath and specializes in retirement to:

  • Evaluate your situation
  • Help you upgrade your stock portfolio
  • Develop an Investment Policy Statement, defining your investment goals and strategies for achieving those objectives
  • Reassure you

Here are more tips for what to do when the stock market goes down.

10. Try Distance Socializing

Once you have social distancing down, move on to distance socializing. Here are some ideas for staying connected in these challenging times:

Join Nextdoor: This is a neighborhood based web site that lets you virtually connect and keep up with news on your block.

Host a FaceTime Cocktail Hour: Don’t gather in your living room, try logging into to Zoom (easy to use high quality video calls), Skype or FaceTime for a virtual video get together.

Text or Call Friends: Call up those closest to you and someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Use this as an opportunity to connect!

Get Outside: Go for walks. Go for walks with friends, just keep your distance. Remember, six feet is about the length of a twin sized bed.

Smile at Strangers: If you are able  to go out, say hello and smile at everyone who crosses your path.

Virtual Netflix and Chill: The Chrome browser has an extension you can add called “Netflix Party.” It allows you to simultaneously stream Netflix with friends and it has a chat window and play/pauses for everyone in the group so you stay synced. (Maybe try one of these movies about retirement and aging.)

11. See Your Doctors Online

Cancel non essential doctor appointments. Or, meet with them over the phone or a video call.

Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to respond to COVID-19.

Medicare beneficiaries can temporarily use telehealth services for common office visits, mental health counseling and preventive health screenings. This will help ensure Medicare beneficiaries are able to visit with their doctor from their home, without having to go to a doctor’s office or hospital, which puts themselves and others at risk.

Not yet part of Medicare? Ask your health providers about their telephone and other distance options.

12. Eat Well and Exercise

Here are a few resources for keeping your basic health in tact:

13. Keep Your Immune System Strong

According to the New York Times, there are scientifically sound ways to keep your immune system strong, besides a healthy diet and exercise. Their recommendations:

Manage Stress: Research from Ohio State University found that your body does a better job fighting off illness when it’s not under stress.

Get Good Sleep: Do what you can to get at least six or seven hours each night.

Insure Adequate Vitamin D: Research  indicates that adequate vitamin D can help protect you from respiratory infection. The New York Times suggests that: “Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon, and in milk or foods fortified with vitamin D. In general, our vitamin D levels tend to be influenced by sun exposure, skin tone and latitude.

Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption: A glass of wine is fine, but studies show that too much alcohol will break down your body’s immune defenses.

14. Find Hobbies and Purpose and Hunker Down for the Long Haul

Recent analysis is suggesting that we may be stuck at home for months not weeks. Here are a few ways to use your devices beyond the endless scroll of news:

Concerts: NPR is maintaining a list of virtual concerts.

Broadway Plays: BroadwayHD, a streaming service for theater fans, brings Broadway performances to people’s living rooms. The platform is offering a free seven-day trial, along with an $8.99 monthly plan.

Learn Something: Youtube has a how to video for almost anything you might want to know. Use this time to become a budding expert in something! Learn to Tango, research World War I slang, improve your golf swing, anything! Just set a goal and get going.

Visit a Museum: Many museums and cultural institutions around the world are inspiring people to stay curious and occupied by offering free virtual tours, exhibits, videos, and performances for people to enjoy from their homes. Here is a long list of museums and monuments (and Disney World) offering virtual tours.

And, Google Arts and Culture has a vast number of interesting links: tour the Taj Mahal, London’s Natural History Museum’s Tank Room full of creepy specimens or street art in Amsterdam.

Enjoy Retirement Stories and Ideas: Explore this exciting phase of life virtually:

15. Contact Your Elected Leaders

As it stands right now, the federal government has approved a relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits, free coronavirus testing, and food and medical aid to people impacted by the pandemic.

Another stimulus package is expected and it may send direct payments to taxpayers and loans to businesses.

More will probably be needed to bolster financial health. Additionally, we need local, state and federal government to get in front of the pandemic.

Write your leaders with your thoughts.

16. Take the Opportunity to Review and Update Your Estate Plan

You might be stuck at home, why not put the time to good use with a review of your estate plans?

Make sure all of your documents are up to date: your will, letters of instruction, financial power of attorney, living trust, medical power of attorney, living will and all beneficiary designations on accounts.

Explore: Estate Planning: 11 Documents You Need and How to Get Them Done During the Coronavirus Crisis.

17. Married? Nurture Your Relationship

Apparently, in China the divorce rate surged after quarantine ended.

Being is isolation with people, even people you love, can be taxing.  Here are a few tips taking care of your relationship:

  • Find your own space in quarantine. Quarantine yourself from your spouse on occasion. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder!
  • Find a shared quarantine hobby or joint purpose.
  • Practice empathy and don’t pretend that you  know what they are thinking or feeling, no matter how long you have been together.
  • Acknowledge the challenges.
  • Redevide the housework as appropriate for whatever your situation is now.
  • Express gratitude for each other.

18. Do What You Can to Control Worry, Anxiety and Stress

This is a tall order, but here are a few tips:

Limit Media Exposure: Being informed is critical. Curling up with your phone or laptop all day and endlessly scrolling is not healthy or useful.  Experts suggest you set a limit for how much time you spend consuming information each day and stick to it.

Practice Four Count Breathing: I used to think that breathing exercises were baloney until a doctor explained to me that you can trick your body into relaxing by mimicking the way a healthy body inhales and exhales when actually relaxed.  A good basic breathing exercise is to 1) inhale for four seconds, 2) hold breath for four seconds and then 3) exhale for four seconds. Repeat and feel your body relax.

Engage Online: Research shows that people who use social media actively — by sending messages, leaving comments or talking in group chats, for example — report being happier than those who simply scroll through their feeds, absorbing news stories and viral videos.

Set Daily Goals: Try to accomplish something each day. This will help you maintain a sense of control and accomplishment.

Practice Meditation: There are lots of online programs to help you learn.

Maintain a Schedule: There is a meme going around, a woman joking that she goes out to her driveway to sit in her car for 30 minutes not going anywhere. It is almost like being in her morning commute. Maybe you are not going to maintain the schedule you had last week, but do try to organize your day.

Write: Spend a couple of minutes everyday writing about what worries you. There is mounting evidence that keeping a journal provides a host of emotional and health benefits, including reducing anxiety.

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