Jayne W. Di Vincenzo AIF ®, CEP ® , Founder, Wealth Advisor, Lions Bridge Financial Advisors, Inc.
I state the obvious when I say we are living in unprecedented times, and with that comes uncertainty. I remember thinking that many times in the past. First there was the Savings & Loan crisis, when my employer, the 150-year-old Perpetual Savings Bank, lost its perpetual status. Then there was Y2K, a “crisis” that caused one of my co-workers at PaineWebber to stock his basement with food, gold and guns. Since then, the markets have been shaken by SARS, Ebola and, of course, 9/11, a day that is forever seared in our minds.
As a relatively young financial advisor in 2001, I knew that would be a difficult time for investors. We had no idea if there would be further attacks, how investors would respond or what the future held.
After 9/11, financial markets were closed for four days while we chewed our finger nails and anticipated a sell-off. Financial markets were closed after other firsts, for example, after Hurricane Katrina in 2012 and after the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Trading was halted more times than many realize, including after the assassination of President Lincoln (one week), during a railroad bond crisis in 1873 (10 days), during World War I (four months), on Black Monday 1987 (one day), in 2008 (halted several times due to sell offs), and in July 2015 (due to a technical glitch). (Source: TheStreet.com).
I know this time is different for different reasons, but I believe we will recover from this.
I equate the urge to sell your investments now to seeing all of your neighbors put for-sale signs in their front yards -- even if they planned to live there another 25 years (think retirement) -- just because everyone else is doing it. The last time I would sell my house is when everyone else is selling theirs because I’ll get a lot less for it (think stocks). Where will they move —a less expensive house they don’t like (think cash and bonds)? Will they be happier there and live the life they wanted in this new home (think lower returns over the long term)? I know, I know, this time is different. But is it really if you can see five or more years out?
I find myself asking this of those who are selling in a down market. Stocks inherently have risk—that’s why we make returns on them. If they had no risk, there would be no gain above cash or the lowest risk bonds. For investments designated to help keep up with inflation and sustain us for a lifetime, does it make sense to sell and move out? Doing so means you completely miss the eventual recovery. I know, you may be saying to yourself, what if there isn’t a recovery? I don’t believe that, nor do any of my peers and investors I’ve spoken to. There will be a recovery. We just don’t know when.
In the meantime, we need to be smart with our money. (Please consult your financial advisor before implementing any of my ideas, as everyone has a unique situation and different resources and income.) Here are 10 tips to help you financially during this pandemic:
1) Stop making extra mortgage payments. Many of us want to pay off debt early, but right now it doesn’t make sense to use cash to pay off an illiquid asset that we plan to keep/stay in.
2) Borrow from life insurance policies with cash value if you need money for tuition or bills.
3) Discontinue taking distributions from your portfolio if you have plenty of cash in your checking or savings accounts.
4) Convert traditional IRA assets to ROTH IRAs if that makes sense for your tax situation.
5) Defer paying any taxes until the July 15th extension.
6) Refinance your mortgage or other expensive debt while rates are low. (A good gauge: Only refinance your home if you plan to stay there at least five years and can reduce your mortgage rate by at least 1 percent).
7) Reduce your down payment on large purchases. If you’re buying appliances, a car or a home, save cash by putting less down while interest rates are low.
8) Activate annuity income streams rather than liquidating stocks. This may be the perfect time to turn on lifetime income benefits from annuities and use those income streams while the rest of your portfolio recovers.
9) Reach out to college financial aid offices at your child’s college to see what payment plans they offer rather than paying the full tuition payment.
10) If you are struggling to make a payment, call the lender and discuss options. Many lenders are likely going to be more flexible now. Ignoring the debt could ruin your credit.
We will get through this challenging time. We are resilient and have overcome many crises. We’re also wise enough to know that someday there will be another crisis.
Please consult with your tax, legal and financial advisors regarding your specific situation as these recommendations are not specific to your situation and would not be appropriate for all investors.
Jayne Di Vincenzo has been in financial services for over 22 years and founded Lions Bridge Financial Advisors, Inc. 11 years ago. Lions Bridge Financial Advisors recently merged with Colonial River Wealth Advisors, LLC to serve clients in 25 states and throughout Virginia from offices in Newport News, Williamsburg and Midlothian, Virginia. Jayne can be reached at Jayne@LionsBridgeFA.com or at 757-599-9111.
Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Colonial River Investments LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor. Lions Bridge Financial Advisors and Colonial River Investments LLC are separate entities from LPL Financial.