How was 2020? It Depends.

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How was 2020? Well, I think the answer will be different depending on one’s situation. So it depends. Of all the years I have been alive (27 and counting), 2020 is the year of “It depends” to me.

How you feel about 2020 depends on one thing: Control. Coming into 2020 were you in control of your life, money, etc. Did you remain in control throughout 2020? Now, you may think, you have no control over a government mandated lock down or losing your job. You are absolutely right you don’t and it could happen any year to any of us. We can not stop these things from happening, even though many people try to predict them. The reality is we can control how they affect us. We may not know when the next recession will happen, or how long it will last. However, with each recession that happens, there are lessons we can learn and measures we can put in place to take control. In 2020, I realized that those who are prepared reap the rewards while those who are not prepared realize the risks. Let’s discuss a few examples.

Budgeting

Budget is a word that doesn’t always get a positive response but should. All feelings aside, a budget when done correctly is controlling where money goes and not controlling the people who spend it. Those who tracked a budget coming into and through 2020 had control of where their money went. So, when we couldn’t eat out or travel, they moved that money into categories that became more important. The takeaway here is that budgeting correctly includes adjusting the budget whenever things change and being flexible. This is how a successful budget works and is not a failure. You can control setting and tracking a budget.

Saving

So, you know how every financial advice says you should have 3-6 months worth of living expenses for emergencies? Well 2020, is the poster child for this advice. Those who had savings set aside could weather the storm better than those with nothing saved. I think we all learned from 2020 that we need to have money on standby ready to be dispatched when an emergency arises. We never know when emergencies will happen, but being prepared for them allows us to focus on the emergency rather than stress about money. Hopefully, 2020 has also shown us what true emergencies are (like a loss of income) and are not (like a car maintenance). You can control if you set money aside for emergencies.

Investing

As the stock market crashed in March 2020. Those who had money in the market they needed, which is an investing sin, panicked and sold realizing losses. The lesson here is that you should not invest money you are not willing to lose or need. I could go on and on about why you shouldn’t invest if you don’t have adequate savings, but I’ll save that for a later post. Recessions happen and the stock market crashes but riding the waves vastly outperforms abandoning ship. When the market dips, it’s like a flash sale on stocks. Those with cash don’t sell and are ready to buy great businesses on sale. You can control your emotions when the market crashes and educate yourself on your risk tolerance.

We spent a lot of time quarantined at home in 2020. During this time we picked up new hobbies, skills, or even shows to binge watch. I hope we also took the time to think and learn. If not, it’s not too late to do it now. Here’s how I applied what I learned this year:

Budgeting:

  • Lowered mortgage by $452 a month by downgrading house
  • Eliminated $505 of monthly expenses to increase cash flow
  • Started tracking my budget consistently with a budget app

Saving:

  • Added stimulus check to my emergency fund
  • Saved money from not eating out and cooking at home
  • Increased my HSA savings for 2021 

Investing:

  • Took an investing course to learn to trade stocks.
  • Subscribed to 2 stock picking services to learn how to pick stocks and invest in growth and dividends.
  • Reviewed my 401k and started making better investments

When we focus on what we can control and prepare for what we can’t control. We will be on the good side of it depends when the next recession, depression, pandemic, or whatever else can happen happens. Make a change in 2021 to get prepared and stay prepared. Take control!

Be WIZE with MONEY

TIP:

There is an opportunity to learn and grow in everything.

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