mental health lockdown

Maintaining Mental Health during Lockdown

COVID-19 has resulted in millions of families living under lockdown conditions in that they may only leave their homes to purchase groceries and medical supplies, or to seek medical attention in case of emergency. With so many businesses being forced to close during this time, several families are left without any form of income – resulting in soaring stress levels all round. Below are some tips that can help ensure that your mental health is not too badly affected.

  1. Keep a Routine wherever Possible

For the first time in many years, more individuals than ever are working from home – or simply having to stay home because their employers have been forced to close during the pandemic. Parents have had to try and educate their children while also working from home, which has placed a tremendous amount of stress on many families. 

Creating a routine, such as early morning exercise, mid morning homeschooling, lunchtime, afternoon chores and free time in the evenings will go a long way in helping to retain a sense of normalcy during these uncertain times. 

  1. Restrict Access to Social Media and News Sites

Two of the biggest sources of stress that can contribute to a decline of your mental health during lockdown are social media and news sites. 

Experts recommend that you avoid social media channels that share speculative information, while also limiting your access to reputable news sites as much as possible. Try to set specific times of day for checking your social media accounts and news sites, as constant access can leave you feeling more overwhelmed than ever before. 

  1. Spend Some Time Outdoors 

Several research studies have indicated that being able to spend time outdoors in nature provides a positive boost to mental as well as physical health. 

Exposing your body to natural light will also increase serotonin and melatonin levels – both of which have positive effects on mental and physical health. Even going for a short walk around a few city blocks will help you feel better than if you stay cooped up indoors throughout the pandemic. 

  1. Consider De-cluttering your Home

Although you may be stuck at home indefinitely, this actually provides you and your family with an ideal opportunity to engage in a major de-cluttering and deep cleaning project. 

Start by working on one room at a time and remove items that are no longer wanted or needed, and perform a deep clean on windows, walls and floors at the same time. Items that cannot be repaired should also be tossed at this time. After a week or two, you and your family will be able to enjoy spending time in a home that is not only clean, but properly organized as well. 

Partaking in the above mentioned activities might not seem like the most exciting option while so many families are living under lockdown and not able to leave their homes, but they could help make the coping process a lot easier and less stressful for everyone concerned. 

Continue reading
retirement healthy

Keep your Body and Mind Healthy after Retirement

Although retirement sounds like a dream come true for several individuals, the end of what has often been a lifelong career path is usually accompanied by a sudden decline in mental stimulation – which can result in the development of many different health issues. As such, it’s essential that you keep your mind and body as active as possible once you’ve stopped working and the tips below can help you achieve this. 

  1. Learn a New Hobby or Skill

Do you have interests that you simply didn’t have time for while you were working? If so, now may be the ideal time to pick up on them. Don’t be afraid to sign up for those ballroom dancing classes, art classes, or even sewing classes. Now could even be the right time to learn how to play a musical instrument.

Studies have revealed that seniors who actively engage in one or more creative activities on a regular basis were at a far lower risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s as they aged. 

  1. Remain Physically Active

Regardless of whether you enjoy tacking challenging hiking trails, taking a slow bicycle ride through your neighborhood or playing in the yard with your grandchildren, you will be stimulating your body and mind simultaneously. 

Engaging in physical activity on at least three days per week will help keep bones strong, reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure and/or heart disease and even lower cholesterol levels over time. If you haven’t been overly active until now, it’s recommended that you schedule a physical exam with your healthcare provider before rushing into any form of exercise. 

  1. Calm your Mind

Many individuals think that their stress will miraculously disappear once they’ve stopped working. However, daily family life and even financial concerns can negatively affect your mental clarity. 

Some of the best ways to keep your mind clear and sharp are to become involved with yoga or meditation and to avoid unnecessary stressful situations wherever possible. It’s also a good idea to severely limit the amount of time you spend with people who are constantly exuding negativity. 

  1. Eat a Balanced Diet

Although no one is expected to live only on healthy foods day in and day out, you should do everything possible to ensure that the bulk of your food choices are as healthy as possible. 

A balanced diet is one that should include a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, a selection of nuts, meat, fish and chicken (if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan) and a variety of healthy fats. In some cases, you may need to supplement your diet with fish oil capsules and a good multivitamin. 

Retiring from the workforce certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll have to give up everything else as well. The more active you keep your mind and body after you have stopped working, the healthier you will be. Making your mental and physical health a priority during retirement will ensure that you’ll be able to feel fit and healthy for as long as possible. 

Continue reading
covid 19

How COVID-19 Could Affect your Retirement Savings

COVID-19 has not only affected the way in which millions of individuals live and work each day; economists have noted that it could have disastrous effects on retirement savings as well – with some even being wiped out completely. Below are a few ways in which the current pandemic could have a negative effect on your retirement funding and plans.

  1. Retirement Savings worth Trillions of Dollars could Vanish

During 2008, the Russell 3000 index that reflects the performance of the whole US stock market lost almost 40% in value. This resulted in the value of several US retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and numerous private retirement accounts falling by approximately 25% – effectively erasing as much as $2 trillion in retirement savings. 

So far in 2020, the Russell 3000 Index fell by 25%, and this has decimated as much as $3.8 trillion in retirement savings funds and accounts.

  1. Some Employers may Cut matching Contributions for 401(k) Accounts

More than 10 million employees have filed claims for unemployment benefits in the past few weeks, and those that have been laid off are also no longer able to contribute to their 401(k) plans. 

Virtually all employers that provide 401(k) plans for employees offer to match contributions up to predetermined amounts, and these matches usually average up to 5% of an employee’s earnings. However, as the economy takes a nosedive, several employers are cutting costs wherever possible – with these matching contributions often being the first in line to be reduced or even eliminated. 

  1. Employees may have to Dip into Retirement Accounts

When financial emergencies arise – such as having income eliminated during the current pandemic – several individuals have no other option but to dip into their retirement accounts just to put food on the table or avoid being evicted from their homes. 

If the funds withdrawn from these retirement accounts are not repaid, this will result in many employees not having sufficient capital to see them through retirement. 

  1. Some Employees may have to Retire Earlier than Planned

Many older employees who have been laid off as a result of the pandemic may be forced to take early retirement if their places of work don’t reopen or staff numbers are reduced upon opening. In many cases, older employees are among the first to be laid off when companies have to cut expenses. 

Although Social Security provides a financial lifeline to unemployed individuals who are over the age of 62, beneficiaries who start collecting as soon as they reach 62 will receive up to 30% less funding than if they had been able to hold out until reaching age 66 and 8 months.

It’s clear that the pandemic will have a negative effect on the value of retirement accounts for the foreseeable future. However, this doesn’t mean that all is lost where your savings are concerned. If you would like to find out how you can get your retirement savings back on track or you’d like to start planning safor this time of your life, contact our advisers today.

Continue reading
pandemic savings

Dealing with Financial Uncertainty during a Pandemic

Coronavirus has significantly impacted the daily lives of millions of individuals all over the world, with several countries implementing stringent lockdown procedures to curb the spread. Not only has this affected the way people live in general; many businesses have had to close as well, leaving scores of individuals with any way to earn an income. If you’re currently struggling with financial uncertainty, the tips below can help you through this challenging time. 

  1. Put Large Purchases on Hold

The last thing you want to do when your finances are severely limited or worse, non-existent is commit to making any large purchases – especially if they will require monthly repayment. For instance, you may have been planning on replacing your vehicle or doing home upgrades while your finances were more stable, but now is certainly not the time to spend any money unnecessarily. Hold off until such time as your income is more stable.

  1. Cut General Expenses wherever Possible

At a time when your next paycheck is not a certainty, you’ll also want to keep your general spending to an absolute minimum. This is the ideal time to go through each line item in your budget and determine whether it’s a genuine necessity or not. Items such as Netflix or other monthly subscription services may be nice to have but should be eliminated until such time as you’re more financially stable. 

When planning your grocery list, snack items may sometimes need to be reduced or even eliminated to cut costs. Sugary cereals can be replaced with oatmeal for example, which will provide far more value for money over time. Although it may initially be difficult to eliminate fancier foods, it’s important to remember that maintaining financial stability is far more important over time than a bag of crisps.

  1. Don’t be too Proud to Apply for Assistance

Although many individuals think that applying for and obtaining government assistance is only for ‘poor folk.’ However, various stimulus packages and other forms of financial assistance have been made available in each state to specifically address shortfalls that members of the public are experiencing as a result of not being able to work at the moment. 

While it may seem like there’s a tedious amount of paperwork to fill in when applying for this assistance, it will certainly go a long way in helping you to put food on the table or even pay your rent while you aren’t able to earn an income as usual. Most recipients who have applied for assistance have received direct deposits into their bank accounts within a few days at the most. 

The most important aspect to remember when dealing with any form of financial uncertainty is to limit spending wherever possible – and until such time as you’re able to work again. If you’re unsure of how to compile a realistic budget or you need assistance with regards to seeing where some of your expenses can be trimmed or even eliminated, get in touch with our financial team today. We will be more than willing to assist you. 

Continue reading

Practical Uses for your Tax Refund

Upon receiving their tax return money, many individuals make the mistake of using these funds for frivolous purposes such as shopping sprees. While that new home gym or closet full of clothing might be fun to acquire, there are better ways that you can put these funds to use. Here are a few ways in which you can put your tax refund to the best possible use.

 

Pay Down Debt

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is to reduce or even eliminate the amount of consumer debt you carry. Use your tax refund to fully repay one or more of your consumer debts. Not only will this help ease your budget each month; over time, you’ll also save a significant amount of money in interest charges over time. 

When only making minimum payments on a credit card, you could end up paying three to four times more for that item you simply had to have a few months ago. As such, it’s strongly recommended to get these repaid as quickly as possible – and your tax refund can provide the ideal opportunity to do so. 

 

Establish an Emergency Fund

It’s strongly recommended that you have an emergency fund available that includes anywhere between three and six months’ worth of expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries and transport costs. This will go a long way in helping to alleviate any stress in the event of being unexpectedly laid off or not being able to work due to illness or injury. 

These funds can also come in handy if vehicle repairs or emergency home repairs are needed. Using your tax refund to set up an emergency fund will go a long way in providing you with peace of mind in times like these. 

 

Start Saving for Retirement

If you haven’t got a savings plan in place for your retirement, now is the time to get started – regardless of how young you may be. The sooner you start saving for this item of your life, the less you’ll need to set aside each month, as you grow older. 

Your tax refund can be used to set up an IRA or a 401(k) savings plan, which will go a long way towards ensuring a financially sound retirement

 

Consider Furthering your Career

Another way you can put your tax refund to good use is to invest in training courses that will help further your career over time. 

A few options in this regard can include enrolling in a master’s degree program or even to cover the cost of costly tests you may need to write in order to obtain a certification for the work you’re already doing. If you have children though, these funds could even be used to save towards their future educational needs. 

When receiving your tax refund, it can be tempting to spend it all at once. However, your budget will thank you over the long term if you choose to save a large portion, while treating yourself to something small instead. 

Continue reading

How to Encourage Kids to Save

If you have kids, chances are that they spend any money that is given to them without a thought for saving towards their future. However, the earlier good savings habits are taught to them, the better their futures will be with regards to finances. Below are some tips to help encourage your kids to save a portion of any money they receive.

 

Teach them to Set Goals

These days, there are costly items and tech gadgets that most kids would love to own. If this is the case, this could provide you with the ideal opportunity to get your children interested in saving some of their money. 

For instance, if your child is keen to get the latest phone or gaming console, you can sit down with them and calculate how much money they will need to save and how long it will take them to obtain the desired amount of cash. 

 

Offer Incentives for Achieving Savings Goals

Although many parents may view this as a form of bribery, providing incentives is one of the easiest ways to encourage kids to save more of their money. An example would be to offer your child a monetary reward that can be put towards what they are already saving. If you cannot afford to match dollar for dollar, you can provide them with an amount that will not destroy your budget in the process. 

 

Establish an Allowance System

When kids don’t receive money regularly, they aren’t provided with much of an opportunity to save anything. As such, it’s a good idea to implement an allowance system in your home that suits your budget and is age-appropriate for your kids. 

When introducing your allowance system, it’s essential to reinforce the fact that your child will need to earn his or her money. This can be done by providing them with various chores to complete that are over and above those that they usually do. 

 

Help them Open a Savings Account

Although it’s possible to open a savings account for kids of all ages, those who are eight years and older will probably benefit the most from them. 

It’s a good idea to have your child accompany you to the bank when their account is being opened. This will not only allow them to see how the process works; you may find that they’ll be more enthusiastic than ever to put some of their earnings into their very own savings account. Some banks offer a range of incentives for kids who save beyond a specified amount of money as well. 

Children who are taught the importance of saving money from a young age tend to be more financially responsible after becoming adults. This is why it’s crucial to teach them about the benefits of saving money as early as possible in life. If you would like to obtain advice regarding teaching your children to save a portion of the money they receive, contact our team today. 

Continue reading

Keeping a Good Credit Score during Retirement

Keeping a good credit score requires a lot of effort and commitment, especially as your time to retire draws closer. While it may not be wise to make large purchases after retiring, keeping a good credit score will ensure that you’ll still qualify to use your accounts if the need arises. Below are a few tips that will help you keep your credit score as high as possible throughout retirement.

 

Use or Risk Losing Old Accounts

It’s not enough to simply keep old accounts open; they need to be used from time to time to prevent the creditor from closing them without warning. If you’re fortunate enough to be debt-free, it’s even more important for you to use your older accounts every so often – otherwise credit bureaus will not have any information to base your credit score on. Several older folk have been taken by surprise after being denied loans because they had been debt-free for a number of years. 

It’s not necessary to incur large amounts of debt to ensure that your credit score remains active. Even making a single, smaller purchase occasionally and paying for it the following month will normally work well.

 

Don’t Close Accounts you’ve had for Many Years

Several individuals don’t know that keeping a good credit score on an account over many years will have a positive impact on their credit ratings. 

If you’re going to retire soon, you might have various accounts that you opened many years ago that you’re tempted to close off. However, closing all of these will unfortunately have a negative effect on your credit history. 

Another way in which your credit rating can be affected is if you decrease the amount of credit that is available for you to use. Quite a large part of an individual’s credit score depends on the amount of credit that has been granted to them versus the amount of credit that they are using. As such, reducing your amount of available credit can have a negative effect on your overall score. 

 

Don’t Co-sign for any Loans

If you have children that have left home, it can be tempting to lend a helping hand by co-signing on a student loan or car note for them. However, this is not recommended because it will significantly increase the amount of debt that is reflecting on your credit history. Although this might not always have an effect on your credit rating, it could affect your ability to qualify for a loan if your debt-credit ratio is overly high.

 

Take your Debt into Consideration before Retiring

Another aspect that affects your credit score is your ability to repay debt installments on time each month. This could be problematic if you’re going to be living on less income after you retire or if you experience unexpected medical bills that eliminate your savings. It’s normally recommended that you eliminate as much consumer debt as possible before retiring. 

After retiring, unexpected expenses can arise that will require you to apply for a loan. Protecting your credit score now will help ensure that you’ll be prepared to do so with ease in the future.

Continue reading

Being Smart with your Savings and Retirement Funds during this Difficult Time

At present, large parts of the world are on lockdown status due to the rapid spread of Coronavirus. While it may be little more than an inconvenience for some individuals in that they cannot leave their homes as often as they like at the moment, for others, it spells financial disaster because of the fact that a number of them are unable to go to work to earn a living. 

As such, it has become more crucial now than ever before to ensure that you work as wisely as possible with any money you may have available to you at the moment. Below are a few ways in which you can stretch each dollar as much as possible.

 

Consider Filing for Unemployment

Although the rules to qualify for receiving unemployment benefits tend to vary from one state to another, many have become somewhat more lenient with regards to providing financial assistance to families where breadwinners have been laid off or had their hours cut substantially as a result of Coronavirus. 

In many cases, applications to file for unemployment can now be completed online, which can save a lot of time and effort. 

 

Avoid Dipping into Retirement Accounts

When times get tough, many individuals turn to their retirement accounts as a convenient way of borrowing money. However, this is not recommended because you will be penalized in two ways. Firstly, you will lose out on any interest that would have accumulated on the amount of money you’ve borrowed, and secondly, you will highly likely be taxed on the amount of money that has been borrowed from a retirement fund as well. 

In fact, many financial experts only recommend dipping into your retirement funds if you are facing immediate foreclosure on your primary residence. 

 

Only Purchase Essentials

When funds are as tight as they are because of shortened working hours or layoffs, it’s not the time to consider purchasing a new flat screen TV or another pair of fashion shoes. Instead, restrict all purchases at this time to genuine essential items such as food, rent or mortgage, transport and utility bills.

In situations where you’ve been granted a reprieve for paying any of the above-mentioned bills, keep in mind that once the lockdown period has ended, all outstanding amounts may become due with immediate effect. As such, it’s strongly recommended that you continue paying as much as you possibly can on rent, mortgage, utilities and car notes. 

With regards to groceries, you can save up to 30% on your bill if you’re willing to opt for store brand items, plan weekly meals around sale items and reduce the amount of non-essentials that you put in your cart such as crisps, soda and other luxury items. 

Although the next few months may be extremely tight financially for several families, keeping the above-mentioned tips in mind can go a long way to help get the most out of every dollar wherever possible. 

Continue reading

Various Stages of Retirement to Consider

While you’re formally employed, there would have been various steps of the career ladder that you navigated along the way. Your retirement years will work in much the say way, with various stages to take into consideration. Below is a simple breakdown of what you could expect to encounter during each of them with regards to finances.

 

Stage One – the Beginning of Retirement

Otherwise known as the honeymoon phase, this is when a lot of retirees tend to be the most active. The initial excitement of now being able to engage in activities that they couldn’t partake in before due to time constraints is experienced during this time. In addition, younger retirees are usually in better health, meaning that they will want to do as much as possible during this time. 

As a result of being more active during these first few years, you could find yourself spending more money – especially if you’re traveling more than you did before. However, it’s crucial that your retirement funds be carefully managed during this time. Failure to do so could result in you struggling to make ends meet later on.

 

Stage Two – Slowing Down

This stage starts taking place approximately ten years after you’ve retired, and you find that you’ve grown tired of traveling and any other leisure-related activities that you were enjoying at first. You may find that you’re also ‘starting to feel your age’ at this point, causing you to slow down a bit. 

Age-related health conditions may also start making their appearance during this time, resulting in you having to spend a bit more money on medication and other required treatments. During this time, you could notice an increase of between 3% and 5% on your cost of living each year. 

 

Stage Three – Nearing the End of your Life

This stage of retirement takes place when you’re reaching the end of your life. Although it’s difficult to determine exactly when this stage will arrive, it normally tends to be when individuals become frail and more inactive. During this stage, you might find that you’re no longer interested in activities that you once enjoyed and you may even find yourself staying home a lot more than before.

During this final stage of your retirement years, you will most likely also see a decrease in your regular monthly expenses. However, increasing healthcare expenses or even the cost of relocating into an assisted living facility could cause your living expenses to skyrocket. As a result, you can expect an average cost of living increase of as much as 5% per year if you intend keeping up with your current lifestyle. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the information above is merely a basic guideline because no one ever knows how your living conditions or circumstances could change after retiring. As such, now is the right time to start putting a retirement plan into place. If you would like to learn more about compiling an effective financial plan for retirement, speak to our team today. 

Continue reading

How much does that Second Job really Pay?

Many families are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet each day, which has resulted in a number of individuals taking on second (or even third) jobs to ensure that they can keep meeting their monthly obligations. While it can seem like a good idea to have more than one job at a time, there are some aspects to consider beforehand.

 

Increased Mental and Physical Fatigue

Taking on a second job could result in you wearing yourself down mentally, emotionally and physically – far quicker than if you were only working at one job. While it may sometimes be possible to overcome these feelings after a while, it’s essential to evaluate your position every few months to determine whether the additional fatigue is worth what you’re being paid at the second job or not. 

 

Less Focus on your Main JobMain

Another issues you may encounter when taking on a second job is that you won’t be able to give as much focus to your main job as you did before. Over time, this could become problematic, especially if the lack of focus prevents you from being able to perform, as you should.

 

Less Family Time

When taking on a second job, it not only means that you’ll be spending more hours working; you will unfortunately also be spending less valuable time with your family. While this may not seem important initially, young children can often become upset when they aren’t able to spend as much time with a parent as they did previously. 

 

Take Additional Expenses into Consideration

Many individuals only see the initial amount of money they’ll be earning after taking on a second job. However, it’s essential to take additional expenses that will be incurred into consideration. 

For instance, your gas bill will more than likely increase as a result of driving to and from your second job. You may be required to purchase uniform or other items that can only be used while working or even cover the cost of additional meals out while on the job. 

Another expense that many parents forget to take into consideration when looking at taking on an additional job is that of childcare – especially if the second position is going to require night shift hours. Many sitters will charge higher than average rates for taking care of children during evening hours. 

Before agreeing to take on that additional job, it’s essential to calculate how much of your extra earnings will be going towards job-related expenses. If you’re only going to be netting a dollar or two per hour after deductions, it will probably not be worth your while to take the position.

Another point to consider before taking on additional employment is taxes on the earnings from it. As such, it may be a good idea to chat to a professional financial advisor beforehand. They may be able to help you trim your existing budget in such a way that you won’t need to take on additional employment in order to make ends meet. 

Continue reading