Does it feel like a full lifetime has passed instead of a mere 365 days?

Well, here we are.

It’s been just over a year since COVID-19 completely uprooted our sense of ‘normalcy’ here in the Tri-State; just over a year since many of you started working from home full-time (and perhaps still haven’t stepped foot in the office); just over a year since we all began stockpiling our pantries and refrigerators; and just over a year since finding a container of disinfecting wipes felt like winning the lottery.

Does it feel like a full lifetime has passed instead of a mere 365 days?

It certainty does for us.   

But the good news is that there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to vaccinations. And as we get closer to seeing this pandemic fade further and further into the rearview mirror, we would be remiss if we didn’t seize the opportunity to reflect on these unprecedented times. So, just as we did at the six-month mark, we want to share a few of our observations – and lessons learned – from over the last year.   

You’ve basically experienced a practice ‘retirement:’ Whether you realize it or not, the last year is an excellent case study into how you might fare during retirement. Just think about it: No commute; no co-workers to socialize with; a disruption to your regular routine;a lot of extra time with a partner or spouse (or,a lot of extra time with yourself). Sound familiar? This is essentially retirement in a nutshell. Granted, some activities that could fill your retirement have been off-limits – like travel – so it’s not a perfect comparison. But it’s still worthwhile to ask yourself how you’ve handled everything. Think about how you filled your days, especially during those first few months of lockdown. What drove you crazy? What did you enjoy? What did you learn about yourself? How did your spending change? Keep this in mind as you plan for the future.

Re-evaluate what you value: Similar to the above questions, take some time to reflect on what matters to you and your family. Basically, why do you want to save money? What do you want to use it for? Because how you save and spend is a reflection of what’s important to you. For instance, if you’ve discovered that you really miss going to concerts – if that’s what brings you joy – then that’s great! While concert-going is likely a ‘want’ for most people, it’s OK if that’s a ‘need’ for you. Pinpointing what you value (and don’t value) will allow you to give your paycheck, savings, and investments proper ‘job descriptions’ – and give you clearer goals to work toward.

Don’t take the bait about ‘top stocks’ and ‘market plays:’There always seems to be headlines in the financial media touting the next hot stocks or the moves to make if XYZ happens. (Remember all the recent GameStop stock craziness?) We know it’s tempting to want to feel like you’re getting ‘in’ on something or getting ‘ahead’ of something. But please resist. Because there’s no such thing as a silver bullet. The best way to accumulate wealth is to start investing early, invest consistently, and make sure your investment mix is aligned with your time horizon, risk tolerance, and needs. And don’t get fancy – investing in the broad economy (via, for example, an index that tracks the S&P 500) is perfectly acceptable.

Here’s The Simply Money Point: Six months ago, we closed our column hoping that by March of 2021 “there will be even more progress towards normalcy.” It’s nice to feel like that has come true, and we’re optimistic about what lies ahead as spring arrives and summer approaches. But don’t let the lessons learned over the past year be forgotten. Some might just pave the way for a better tomorrow for you and your family.