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How to budget during COVID
Debt accumulates very quickly and can easily become an overwhelming burden, if you are in trouble we can help.
Early retirement is off the table

The early retirement movement was born out of a 10-year bull market. At a time when index fund investing practically guaranteed healthy returns, it was easy to see the path to early retirement. You saved, you invested, and you accumulated enough wealth to support you indefinitely.

That indefinite timeline works when you can live off the portfolio's earnings alone. But when the market dives 20% in five short weeks and investment gains dry up, withdrawals for living expenses dip into your already depleted principal. That reduces your portfolio's earnings power going forward and locks in investment losses. If the trend continues for too long, only a new source of income -- like a job -- or a major lifestyle downgrade can right the ship.

If you've been working toward early retirement, it's wise to rethink what your budget looks like after retirement. You could whittle your expenses down to the bare minimum as a cushion against market volatility. But you could also diversify your retirement income beyond your portfolio. That could involve other types of investments, like rental property. The most conservative approach, though, is to find a way to keep your paycheck, while getting rid of the aspects of work you don't like. Perhaps you could turn a profit from your favorite hobby, or transition into a career that's more satisfying than what you're doing today.
Your definition of what's necessary has evolved

Three months ago, you might have been reluctant to cut the weekly date night out of your budget. Or you might have argued that the annual beach vacation was a necessary improvement to your quality of life. And you wouldn't be wrong -- budgeted indulgences can support your overall well-being.

After a few weeks on lockdown, though, your priorities may have changed. Now, you might crave casual dinners at home with friends or a stroll through a nearby museum. If you can hold on to that deeper appreciation for the simpler things, you stand to free up a lot of cash in your budget going forward.

Try keeping a journal on your changing priorities. Reflect on what's truly necessary in your life and how that affects your spending decisions.
    Gas and food spending has changed

    Some analysts predict that the remote working trend prompted by COVID-19 will continue even after the disease has been contained. And that, too, has sweeping implications for household budgets.

    At a minimum, you'll spend less on gas and public transportation. And how about those weekday lunches? They won't be showing up on your credit card statement anymore, either. You might also spend less on child care and even clothes.

    If you're already experiencing some of these savings, quantify how much. Set that money aside in your emergency fund for now. And later this year, when we've conquered this pandemic, consider increasing your retirement plan contributions by that amount.

    To recap

    When there's no other bright spot to focus on, embrace the strange but positive ways the coronavirus outbreak has affected your outlook on what's really necessary and what it means to prepare for the future. Right now, in response to a crisis, you may be motivated to build a back-up plan into your retirement budget, put more focus on your emergency fund savings, and be more disciplined about identifying funds to send to your retirement account. But hold on to those budgeting lessons learned today, because they'll benefit you for years to come.


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