What should I do if I'm forced to suddenly retire because of COVID-19?
First, remind yourself that you are not at fault. As a partial, initial response, sit down and create a list of your secured and unsecured debts, bills, monthly expenses, assets, money that is owed to you, income streams, savings, CARES Act benefits, government benefits, employer benefits (if any), and investments. Immediately contact your creditors and seek interest-free delays for repayment, lower interest rates, a reduction in debt principal, and even outright dismissal of the debt. Compile a spreadsheet of how much money you have, how much money you owe, how much your monthly expenses are, how much money you have (or will have) coming in, and then determine if you can afford to retire.
A sudden, forced retirement is both a shocking and a terrible thing to have to endure. It means different things to different people. For some, it means applying for unemployment, disability or Social Security. For others, it means altering (or, as a last resort, liquidating) investments or rolling over retirement accounts. Others simple can’t afford to retire and will have to return to work in some capacity. At a moment when it’s normal to feel a sense of shock and want to take a step back to mentally and emotionally absorb what has happened, you instead need to spring into action. While you are not alone, it is not too dramatic a statement to say that what you do right now will probably impact you for the rest of your life.
What should I do with my investment portfolio?
Get a check-up. Because, unfortunately, the turbulence in the market isn’t taking a holiday. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to have your investment allocation precisely dialed in. You can do this by having your portfolio “stress tested” for proper diversification. “Stress testing” is a process in which your investment allocation is evaluated based on how it might respond to historical (or probable or possible) variations in the market. Stress testing could reveal “blind spots” or unseen threats to your investments, savings and retirement.
For those people whose primary savings vehicle is an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), or for anyone who has an IRA, now is a good time to assess the allocation in those retirement account(s), as well. A lot of our first-time appointments are with people who, even though they’ve been putting money away for years, haven’t updated the allocation of their investments in those vehicles since the day they first opened the account(s) a decade or more ago. Be certain you have the proper mix of investments to not only“ride out”this season, but also to maximally benefit when things return to normal. Try not to view your retirement account(s) as merely a savings vehicle. They are investment accounts and their proper allocation could make a big difference in the amount of money you have once you retire.