COVID 19 Lockdown and Personal Finances

In this time of economic slowdown, there is a need to look at new ways of managing our finances in line with the current economic realities. Many small business owners have their revenues compromised, and the incomes of the self-employed have been particularly decimated by this lockdown.

There is therefore a need to revisit our personal spending budgets. Budgets are derived from income, so if income has changed then the budgets must change. We may not be able to reduce the expenses on essentials; in fact, these may actually increase because of the need to stockpile supplies. However, our costs of feeding may reduce because we cook all our meals at home and have eliminated expensive restaurant/ takeaway foods. Entertainment costs for movies, partying and clubbing would reduce since we cannot go out. However, these would be replaced by the cost of WIFI in order to keep the family occupied as they stay indoors. As we stay at home, let us ensure we have adequate (not too much) cash for small purchases in the local markets and neighborhood kiosks that do not have POS machines.

We would need to rework our financial goals if our incomes have reduced or our short-term priorities have changed. Our mid-to-long term goals should remain the same, but the target dates of achievement may need to be extended.

This lockdown is presenting novel ways of generating income. Let us come up with creative ideas. Some people are holding online seminars aka webinars and charging a token fee. If you are a respected guru in your field, charging the bored and idle populace a meagre N5,000 to share your wisdom would be seen as an extremely generous offer. Payments are made upfront directly into your bank account and access to the webinar is granted only after payment. Each access is unique to each payment using a unique QR Code. If 100 people register for the webinar, you and your banker would be smiling. Other service providers like interior decorators, life coaches, Maths teachers etc. are selling their services online in unique ways. Some people are doing so well that they may not go back to their regular 9-to-5 jobs after the lockdown.

A few of us have loan repayment obligations which we may no longer be able to meet due to our reduced income. Do not ignore them and assume your creditor knows “what is going on in the country”. Be proactive. Engage your creditor and negotiate favorable loan rescheduling terms. The Federal Government and the Central Bank are already championing this, so rescheduling should be easier now than at other times.

How about our personal health and medical care? This pandemic brings to the fore the need to have adequate health insurance for the whole family. We may also need to buy other types of insurance. For instance, the self-employed could consider taking life insurance policies that pay them a salary when they are unable to work and earn an income. Please speak to an insurance broker on the various types of policies and the benefits of each type, so you would know the ones that suit your peculiar situation.

As we rework our budgets, revisit our financial goals or reschedule our loans, we must do so based on empirical facts. Do not rush to making hasty decisions under pressure or out of fear. Take the time (within reason) you need to calmly review the pros and cons. But avoid analysis paralysis – which in itself, is being immobilized by fear and refusing to make any decision at all. Refuse to be pressurized by your creditor. Stand back and appraise your options. Ask for help from 3rd parties if needed.

Some of us are using Personal Finance Management (PFM) Apps to manage our finances. These would be very useful at this time when we want to redo our budgets, reschedule our financial goals or rearrange our loan payment plans. Once we input our new income figures, the app would suggest ways of achieving these. This way, we are immediately presented with several options and can choose the best ones faster.

Some of us may need financial help and cash support. Please take advantage of the numerous platforms that are providing material and financial help. Everybody falls into rough patches at different times. Rough times are temporary. If we take the help being offered by the federal /state governments or NGOs, we would be able to keep our heads above the rough waters and escape quicker. Helping hands make burdens lighter. Please ask for and receive help. Stay home. Stay Safe. Happy Investing!

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