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Published July 7th, 2021
The beat goes on! How to get back on track with your post-pandemic financial planning
Lynn Ballou CFPr is a Senior Vice President and Partner with EP Wealth Advisors. Information used in the writing of this column is believed to be factual and up-to-date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subject(s) discussed. All information is derived from sources deemed to be reliable. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of publication and are subject to change.

It's perhaps premature and too optimistic to say we are in a true post-pandemic phase now, however, it appears that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel. Which means it is absolutely time to shake out the dust and brush off the cobwebs to clearly review and perhaps even reset our financial goals. Some of us find that our attitudes about life have changed. Others have had circumstances change unexpectedly. However you arrived where you find yourselves today, here are five areas for your consideration as you emerge from the darkness to the light of regaining control over your daily life.
1) Where does your money go? Whether you use something formal such as an expense tracking program or sheer intuition, take a look at where your money went the past 15 months. If you find that you made shifts that involved living on less, is that sustainable? Will spending less going forward allow you to be financially independent sooner by investing more now and keeping your living costs lower? Or perhaps staying lean on your base spending could allow you to deploy discretionary spending on what you previously considered indulgences. This is your opportunity to make lasting purposeful change in your planning.
2) Are you on your right professional path? Resetting might involve a career change. There's a massive labor shift underway as dormant parts of the economy restart. More employers are open to having team members work from home. And we've seen the importance that technology plays in our lives as it continues to evolve. If you are dissatisfied with your current path, consider a new one and determine what skills you need that would enable you to shift. Investing in yourself could be the most rewarding investment you could possibly make. You have a rare opportunity to hit the reset button. Research your areas of interest, set up informational interviews to learn what's required to succeed, review the costs/rewards timeline. If feasible, set your professional course in a new direction.
3) Insurance: It really does matter! I'm just as fabulous at procrastinating as everyone else and like so many readers, I do struggle with annually reviewing my property, casualty and umbrella insurance policies and keeping up with what I have and why. What keeps me sane and confident are my trusted insurance agents. Every year we set up a live review. Not only are we examining deductibles and possible gaps, but we are also discussing changes and trends in insurance. It helps me stay prepared and reminds me that insurance is a partnership. And I always ask my agents the same questions each year: What would you do differently if you were me? What coverages should I have that I don't? I suggest you expand the same review format and ideas to your other insurance coverages such as disability, life, health and long-term care insurance. Some reviews you have set through work where an annual review format is in place. The rest require you to take the initiative to review but better before a claims event than after. This is where the adage about the barn door and the horse and the road comes into play!
4) Congress: What are they up to now and what should you do? Financial planning is challenging when the backdrop is a never ending merry-go-round of changing income and estate tax laws. Because no matter how carefully you plan, the government can insert a trip wire into the laws that might impact our plans at any time. The latest excitement revolves around possible increases to income and capital gain taxes and more surprising, increasing estate taxes by undoing long-standing rules of how we can pass our assets to future generations. I will focus future columns on specifics as they become clear. Your job today? Stay informed - but don't panic! - and reach out to your trusted advisors now so you have plans in place to make revisions if appropriate as changes occur.
5) Disaster proof your plan: It seems obvious that one of the most important aspects of planning should involve testing our plans for the unexpected. We have just experienced the most dramatic real life global enactment of surviving the unexpected in generations. Now is a great time to look back at your plan before the pandemic, and then overlay your former situation with the reality of where you are financially today. Based on your findings, you and your financial advisor may note areas that need work. This might include rebuilding emergency reserves, changing your living situation, reconstructing your budget for post pandemic life, rebalancing your investment portfolio, and many other possibilities. Make a timeline and then plan to implement those changes thoughtfully.
The final take away? Planning should always be done with a critical "what can go wrong and if it does will I still be okay" point of view. We just survived a real life lab on crisis survival. Let's not waste this opportunity to learn, review our finances, revise our planning appropriately, and move forward with care. Please reach out if I can be of help!

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