COVID-19 and the almost a year-and-a-half of lockdowns that came with it, have triggered some serious soul-searching in all of us.

With less to occupy us than usual, there has been more time to ponder and relationships, jobs, health, fitness and wider family and social relationships have all come under more scrutiny than usual. And many people have decided to make some significant changes as a result, whether switching job, moving to the countryside or even moving country. 

As a major enabler of most things we do in our lives, of course financial matters naturally come into the frame, too.

With the momentous lifting of most restrictions in England likely to take place today, this is a particularly poignant time to reflect.

A study by Nationwide Building Society, in May, suggested that people are adopting a new ‘type of post-war austerity’ last seen in the late 1990s, with many reluctant to spend the £180billion of additional savings the Bank of England has revealed they put to one side during successive lockdowns.

According to Ben Page, chief executive of research provider Ipsos MORI, commissioned by the UK Consumer Insight Panel led by 

Nationwide, said: “Prudence on saving and spending prevails and hedonist tendencies are at a 20-year low.” 

More that 50 per cent of those questioned, said they are spending or considering spending less as a result of COVID-19, while more than four in 10 are saving more. 

Three-quarters of people taking part in the survey said they wanted to put more money aside in order to protect themselves against potential future risk, having learned some salutary lessons from the pandemic.

Commenting on the survey, Nationwide Chief Executive, Joe Garner, said of the findings: “Lockdown has had a reversing effect on how we see our money – from a means to spend to a means of protecting ourselves against uncertainty and focussing on what’s important.”

Meanwhile, 51 per cent of people said they thought ‘financial wellbeing’ was about having a financial safety net

And of course, ‘safety’ comes in various shapes and sizes. The coronavirus has made us all acutely aware of our own mortality, among other things, and the importance of making sure we live each day to the max. 

Amidst a general re-focussing on the importance of the simple things in life, we might have stopped to think about our monthly budgets, too, and how overstretched they are or aren’t, making the effort to make changes that bring more freedom and less stress on a day-to-day basis.

And, having experienced the improved work-life balance and increased time with loved ones the repeated lockdowns brought, a great many people might have decided that their current retirement horizon is just too far away, and be looking for steps to help them bring that forward, or at least a half-and-half mix that helps them work less and spend more time with their loved ones.

And the reality is that, although money certainly can’t buy us happiness, just as the saying goes, it is the key to accessing those things that do make us content.

“There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about the strangest few months in living memory – in fact, for today’s generations, it was really our wartime experience,” said Lairgate Financial Director Wayne.

“And, amidst that, everyone’s fortunes have been different. Some have faced personal challenges, others have unfortunately experienced financial ones, but really everyone we speak to has taken the time to step back and reflect on life that bit differently. 

“Many have tightened their belts, either because they’ve had to or because there just hasn’t been much to spend their money on, and they now have a surplus of cash that they’re wondering what to do with.

“One of the most common questions people are asking themselves, for example, is whether their pension is right for achieving their aspirations,” said Wayne. 

“Are they still happy to retire at, say, 67, or would they rather bring that forward and, to do that, how much more could you afford to pay in to make that happen? We can sit down with people, look at factors like their age and their level of financial resources now, and run financial models to give them the specific answers to questions like these, to help them make the right choices. 

“We can look at everything from enabling them to pay more into their pension – or adjusting their risk level to provide greater growth opportunities, depending on where they’re at in the run-up to retirement – to help them achieve their desired outcomes – because to accelerate growth you either have to pay more in or go up the risk curve.”

Taking a long, hard look

And all of this means there’s never been a better time to review your finances, according to Wayne. He shared these five questions that we believe everyone should be asking themselves, right now: 

  1. Stop and consider whether the past 18 months has changed your expectations of life. If so, in what way have your priorities changed? Do you feel confident that your finances are sufficiently in order to help you achieve them?
  2. Has the recent experience made you review your future life plans, such as when you would like to retire, and are you clear how your finances will need to adjust to take account of your new vision of the future?
  3. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who have got off lightly – continuing to earn a living despite the COVID-19 disruption, but it has left you concerned about whether you have sufficient ‘rainy day’ funds to cushion you against the unexpected should something happen in the future?
  4. Has the coronavirus pandemic made you question what would happen if you were no longer around, to those you care about? If so, do you have provisions in place to make sure they could manage financially without you? 
  5. Do you have any financial worries – for example too much debt or a level of monthly outgoings that have you stressed out much of the time, which mean you could benefit from a professional taking a look with a fresh perspective?

If any of the above questions chime with you, or indeed you have others of your own, you may be wise to arrange a financial review, where you can sit down with an experienced professional advisor who will be able to offer you the answers you seek.

“It’s really never too early to review your options,” added Wayne. “So, whatever age they are, we’d urge anyone who wants the additional peace of mind of knowing they’re in control of everything from how and when they retire, to how they would manage if the unforeseen were to happen, to seek professional help in forging a plan.

“That’s the main thing, having a plan. That plan may change but at least if there’s one in place, they have a better chance of achieving their financial goals, and it can always be changed in the future if needs be, along the way.

If you’re asking yourself questions like these and would like to arrange a free, no-obligation initial appointment to take a fresh look at your financial health, email us or call (01482) 860700.

This blog is intended to provide readers with viewpoints, opinions and inspiration regarding options they might want to consider. It is not intended to be taken as advice and we strongly recommend seeking professional financial advice before taking any action.