Back to the Basics

April 26, 2020
5
min. read
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There has been good news across the globe the last week on the virus front despite dire economic headlines. European countries’ daily new infection rates are substantially lower and many of the hardest hit areas are now beginning to reopen.

Substantial progress is being made across the US as states begin to reopen. South Carolina moved first, letting retailers reopen at reduced capacity and opened beaches.

Georgia has allowed hair salons, barbers, fitness centers to open this past Friday, and theaters and restaurants tomorrow at reduced capacity.

Tennessee announced plans to allow most businesses to reopen on the first of May. Additionally, California, New York and other states are working through their plans to reopen.

Why Isn’t the Market Down Further?

Broad markets have rallied nearly 30% off their lows while nearly 26 million people are unemployed, and the economy is at a standstill.

What the heck is going on?

There are several important things to consider when you look at the news and don’t see the market in a tailspin. Fed liquidity and fiscal stimulus are going a long way. Also keep in mind that stocks fell 35% from their peak (a drastic drop). And lastly, it’s important to understand the S&P 500 is not representative of the broader economy.Let’s focus on the last point regarding the S&P 500.

We firmly believe market timing is not only impossible, but a fool’s errand.

This has shown to be detrimental over the course of history and the last few months are no exception. Anyone who gave into fear or acted on emotion since the start of this pandemic has likely caused themselves permanent financial harm, whereas the long-term, goal focused investor has stood firm and not only persevered, but actually profited if they put cash to work during this time (and many of our clients have done just that).

It’s important to understand that while the S&P 500 overall is holding up relatively well, many individual stocks are not. The painful effects of the virus and related lockdown is being felt across many industries including retail stores, hotels, entertainment, energy, home building, and more. If you’re looking at the S&P 500 and shaking your head, you’re not alone.

But you must remind yourself that the market is working. The winners are being separated from the losers. The good thing about owning the broad-based indexes we include in client portfolios is that you avoid the calamitous drops and high risk of owning individual stocks and let the market sort it all out for you.

Back to the basics

At the Gleason Group, we want to help you make the most of the extra time at home to get your financial life organized. This down time provides the perfect opportunity to not only organize and declutter your home, but also address those open action items in your financial life.

Being proactive and gaining a better understanding of your financial life not only reduces stress, but helps you make more informed, thoughtful decisions on the future. Below are a few ways to use this time wisely and bring clarity to your finances.

Store It or Shred It

Paperwork is a daunting task. But just think of how you’ll feel when it’s all done. Shredding old bank statements, pay stubs and anything that has your personal information on it from more than two months ago is a great place to start. This decreases the risk of identity theft, frees up extra space, and allows you to find important documents much faster.

We can store any valued items on the Raymond James secure Vault. We can shred your documents for you or help you find a place to take them. Paper documents related to investments, home improvements and taxes should be kept for seven years. Use the following link to find more details on what records to keep and for how long.

We suggest getting copies of your life, disability, and other insurance policies as well as your estate documents and beneficiary forms. We can review all these documents and store them on the vault.

Credit check

Did you know you can access your credit report for free?

You can get three free credit reports a year from AnnualCreditReport.com and a free TransUnion and Equifax report once a week from CreditKarma.com. Unlike some free credit reporting options, these are accurate records of your credit from three national credit bureaus. Whether you have great credit or you’re a little nervous to check your score, the important thing is that you are staying informed.

Doing all your banking, shopping, vacation bookings and investments online are great for convenience, but having that personal information transmitted through the internet means you’re more susceptible to cyberattacks and identity theft.

As a result, there is a higher chance that someone could obtain that information and start using your credit without you being aware of it. So even if you know the exact balance and interest rate from every creditor you pay, staying on top of your credit reports will alert you to any suspicious behavior before it’s too late.

Review Rates, Create a Budget

We’ve talked about refinancing your house in previous updates. However, the same goes for other debts you might have as well. If you have credit card debt, give your creditors a call to see if they can lower your credit card interest rates.

If that doesn’t work, consider consolidating to a 0% interest rate credit card and transfer the balance so you can pay off the debt faster. Also, look at refinancing any vehicle loan you must pay off the debt faster or decrease the minimum payment so you can put more toward your emergency fund.

If you haven’t used a budget before, a few easy-to-use budgeting apps to choose from are Mint, PocketGaurd, GoodBudget (multiple users can access the same account) and YNAB (You Need a Budget) or EveryDollar for zero-based budgeting.

Some of these are free or have options to upgrade to a version that enables your banking to be automatically synced with the app. This way your expenses are imported into the app, allowing you to quickly assign expenses to all your budget categories without manually importing anything.

Finish Your Cleanup

Now that you’re completely aware of your finances and where things are when you need them, you’ll experience added peace of mind — at the perfect time. You’ll also be better prepared to make decisions about your financial future.

Now’s the time to be proactive.

Financial peace of mind is a process, not a state of being.

It’s a direction not a destination.

Let’s do something today your future self will thank you for.

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