In this month’s Construction Magazine, Susan suggests a few steps that can be taken to protect personal finances during times of market volatility.

Having been inundated with articles on “How to survive a pandemic”, I wondered was there any such tips for surviving a likely recession. There were a few posts, but not as many as I thought there would be. However, one line in an article the ‘Forbes’ website caught my attention. In his final thoughts in an article entitled ‘Surviving the recession’, Jay Adkisson writes, Downturns really are just a season of our economy”. I liked that. It may be a cold winter, but spring will surely follow.

In looking at the markets over previous recessionary periods, research conducted by Irish Life notes that the duration of the bear market (negative market – so-called as the bear swipes down), was 17 months, resulting in a total decrease of 57%. This was followed by 129 months of a bull market and an increase of 378%. There are similar statistics on investment trends available from the 1973 oil crisis and the so-called, Black Monday. The market shock due to the Covid-19 pandemic is still developing. Markets were down by 32% by the end of March, and while there has been a significant rally, there is also significant volatility. The potential for another sharp drop has been predicted. However, spring will eventually bloom, and in the meantime, there a few things you can do to protect your finances.

REVIEW YOUR BUDGET

Most of us have some idea of our income versus our outgoings. We know our income, and our fixed expenditure, such as the mortgage. However, achieving a more realistic picture requires a little more effort. You will need to look at outgoings that only happen on a quarterly or less frequent basis. You will need to be realistic and account for costs that will fall under a “lifestyle” section if you regularly attend a sports fixture or the theatre; it all needs to go in the budget. All banks now have online facilities that provide statements going back a year or more. The frequency with which we use Visa and more recently, Revolut means that much of the data is readily available to help us analyse our spending habits. You may find you have a regular deficit. If so, this should be addressed immediately. Knowing your spending habits may help you to take a more practical approach to your finances.

BANK CHARGES

This may seem small, however, do you know what you currently pay to your bank in charges? Some of the more recent charges banks have introduced include fees per transactions, such as ATM withdrawals and chip and pin transactions. Establish what your charges are and if there are conditions to be met to avoid them. If you cannot meet the conditions, find another bank, with terms you can meet, or with lower charges.

REVIEW YOUR PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS AND COSTS

Where you are in your financial life cycle will help clarify what level and type of protection you need. If you have no family and no debt, if you were unable to work due to illness or injury. On the other hand, if you have a family and mortgage, you are likely to need a combination of life cover, income protection and serious illness cover. Balance is key, and you should speak to a financial adviser to ensure you are not over-covered in one area and under-covered in another.

RETIREMENT PLANNING

Staying the course in pension savings is important, irrespective of what stock markets are doing. If you are concerned about how your fund is invested, you should speak to your provider and ask them to outline your options; however, you do not need to take action simply for the sake of it. As with the seasons analogy above, markets recover as is their nature.

If you are close to retirement, it may be less about making contributions and more about planning which option suits you best when you retire. You should engage with this decision now and not leave it until the day you hit the golden age. We can’t predict the future, but there are steps we can take to ease the journey there.