Preparing for the Next Crisis
I once had a long argument with a close friend about how best to support a mutual friend through a crisis. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember that I was advocating for providing immediate support while he was lecturing them on how they could have avoided the situation in the first place.
I finally lost my cool and declared –
“The fireman doesn’t stand on your lawn lecturing about safety while your house burns down, grab an [expletive] hose!”
Right now, many of you are dealing with a financial house on fire. The Employment Insurance department of the Canadian government usually processes about 27,000 cases a week, last week they received almost 1 million new applications. If you haven’t lost your job, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that your world has been significantly altered in some way. If you are a business owner who has been forced to close your situation is even more dire and complicated.
So far, the government has done a fairly decent job of providing us all with a firehose. The emergency aid package is not without complications and many people are still experiencing significant stress but it’s better than nothing and as they work out the bugs in the system, I’m sure it will get better.
Like rebuilding after a fire, in the coming weeks we will all have to deal with the fall out from this crisis and there a few things that I can help you start to do now to help you be better prepared for the next time. Think about it like fire insurance for your life.
1 – Develop an Emergency Fund
Experts tell us that we should all have between 3 and 6 months of expenses saved for emergencies. Sudden job loss, uninsured damage to property, uninsured health complications, they all have the potential to burn your financial house down. I encourage everyone, regardless of your financial situation to at least set aside $1000 in a Tax-Free Savings Account. As you are able, most people are okay to build that up to 3 months of fixed expenses, 6 months is only necessary if you are self-employed or working on contract.
Canada Life offers a broad range of investment options that are suitable to be held as an emergency fund TFSA. Once this crisis is over and as soon as you are able, let’s get that done.
2 – Eliminate High Interest Debt
If you are carrying a balance on credit cards or any other forms of high interest debt, you should plan to pay that off as soon as possible. After you’ve set aside the minimum $1000 in the emergency fund but before you worry about the full 3 months of expenses, get your debt dealt with.
As a result of the financial crunch this crisis is causing, we have already seen a significant decrease in mortgage rates across Canada. If you own your home now is the perfect time to refinance and consolidate it with as much of your other debt as possible. Canada Life offers a very competitive mortgage program with posted rates among the lowest in the country, along with a home equity line of credit, that could save you thousands and set you on a track to debt freedom years sooner.
Even without a lot of high interest debt, this may be a good option for you. If you own your home and would like to see how this kind of refinancing can provide an extra layer of security for the next crisis, I’d be happy to show you how.
3 – Review your Living Benefits
The term Living Benefits is a fancy way of saying disability insurance. In contrast to life insurance, living benefits are all the kinds of insurance tied to your health and wellbeing that pay out while you are still alive.
One thing this crisis has taught us is that we cannot take our health and wellbeing for granted. While most employed individuals have some insurance through a company health plan should they become sick and unable to work, most people don’t know what it covers or for how long. Many people are surprised to learn that their policy has a long wait period or provides only a fraction of what is required to maintain their standard of living. Canada Life offers a number of living benefits programs that could provide that added level of support at a critical time and be the difference between a smooth and relaxed recovery or a drawn out and stressful one.
As I said at the outset, if your financial house is on fire, now is not be the time to drop everything and buy into any of these programs. But if you are able, we are open for business and ready to help. This crisis will pass, and I want to be there for you when it does. Let’s stay in touch and when you are ready let’s make sure you are prepared for the next crisis before it hits.
Stay healthy and safe everyone. We’re all in this together.