Managing Financial Stress during a Pandemic

COVID-19 and Your Finances

Woman working on papers and laptop at coffee table

Mark P. Bernier, CFA |
Posted on Jan 14, 2021

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious about finances right now, you’re not alone. From unstable employment to hard-hit investments to fears about the global economy, very few are immune to the precarious financial reality we are facing as a result of the pandemic.

A new year is stressful enough without adding the nuances and related impacts of a world health crisis. Furthermore, according to numerous reports, the number of people displaying signs of anxiety and depression has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic.

Below are six helpful tips offering some practical advice for those struggling with added financial stress this year.

  1. Be willing to talk about finances. No one likes to talk about their money problems, and many find it uncomfortable to talk about their financial woes. But, a willingness to push through the discomfort and have an open conversation about your financial health is the first step to improving it. Similarly, opening up to someone you trust about the mental toll of your financial stress can help you better process your thoughts and emotions. And, in the current financial climate, there’s a good chance the person you’re talking to will be able to relate.
  2. Review your household budget. It can be daunting to examine your personal spending, but building or revising a realistic household budget now will only help reduce financial stress later. Take an honest look at where your money is going and decide how to shift those allocations to fit your current and anticipated future income. In addition to preventing the added stress caused by spending beyond your means, budgeting can help provide a sense of control.
  3. Take advantage of free resources. Currently, there are a variety of online courses and articles available at no cost through local, regional and national mental health associations and other organizations. Whatever the topic, accessing these resources is a great way to nurture your mental and physical wellness, provide a healthy distraction, as well as provide a conversation starter at the dinner table. Topics range from caring for the elderly during a pandemic to tips on managing your wellness to assisting children with at-home learning.
  4. Avoid obsessive monitoring of investments. The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new financial reality for many, bringing with it financial worries for today and tomorrow. However, obsessively monitoring investment gains and losses may bring added stress or anxiety and make focusing elsewhere more difficult. Once you have assessed the situation and taken measures to soften the financial impact on your bottom line, try to disengage. Consider setting boundaries for yourself and establish how often you need to check the status of your investments---for example, once per week may be enough. This may also be an ideal time to consult a wealth or financial advisor to review your specific situation.
  5. Give yourself and others permission to grieve losses. For many, COVID-19 has led to a reduced income, depleted savings, and even the loss of a job. If your financial situation has been upended, give yourself time to grieve what you have lost and to process the change. If someone around you has lost their job or taken a significant financial hit, you can support them by acknowledging their feelings of anger, frustration, and fear for the future.
  6. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t let feelings of embarrassment or shame prevent you from seeking guidance or looking to a local community organization for assistance. Be sure to speak with your creditors if you are experiencing cash flow challenges and cannot pay your obligations. There may be payment relief for a period of time to help you through the pandemic.

Undoubtedly, this year is and will be different. Another way to reduce your stress and anxiety is to focus on helping others. Whether family or friends, connecting with others---even at a distance or via phone---is a gift for both them and you.

Mark P. Bernier, CFA
Senior Vice President/Wealth Management Officer