Financial Planning for an Uncertain Future

During uncertain times, like we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard to know how to plan your financial future. The key is to create a set of financial goals that you can work toward even during uncertain times, and which can help you build a strong foundation for your future financial wellness. Setting goals can be helpful not just for your financial future, but also for lowering your stress because you will be working from a predetermined plan.

Setting Short-Term Goals

When you start setting financial goals, your short-term goals should be focused on making sure that you can get through hardship that may come your way. Short-term goals may include such things as building up an emergency fund and paying down high interest loans or credit cards. Experts usually recommend an emergency fund of at least $1,000.

The key for short-term goals is that they should be achievable within a few months to a year. They should not be more significant or take longer; otherwise, they fall out of the range of short-term goals.

Setting Long-Term Goals

After setting your short-term goals, you should then set your long-term financial goals. Long-term goals should be steps you take to build a strong financial future for yourself in several years and even in a few decades. Long-term goals do not have to achieve anything immediately—they are more focused on benefits down the road. Long-term goals can include saving for retirement, paying off a house, and paying for your kids’ education.

When facing an uncertain future, it may not be possible to put as much toward your long-term goals as you might like. In particular, you need to make sure you can financially survive short-term hardship before prioritizing your long-term goals. There is no point in saving for retirement if you can’t pay your rent.

Understand How Different Scenarios Can Affect Your Goals

Once you have set some short-term and long-term financial goals, you should plan for a few different future scenarios and understand how those scenarios might affect your goals. For example, you could choose to predict what you think a good, neutral, and bad future could look like. Understanding what a bad scenario looks like is especially important when facing an uncertain future because you don’t know exactly what will happen, and you need to be prepared for the worst.

By having a general idea of these scenarios, you can then estimate what each would mean for your financial goals. You may need to adjust your goals depending on the scenario, and this adjustment may help you realize that you need to make some changes to your expectations of your lifestyle and/or your financial future.

One important thing to note: if in a bad future scenario you cannot meet your basic needs (food, rent, etc.), it may indicate that you need to start making changes today to protect your financial future. For example, you may need to try and increase your income or start building up an emergency fund.

Understand All Your Options

Finally, when facing an uncertain future, it is very important for you to understand all your options. This means looking at options that might be unique or temporary. In particular, when facing unprecedented situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, new financial options may be offered to those people affected. For example, relief has been offered on certain expenses like student loan or mortgage payments due to COVID-19.

So, to ensure you understand all your options when facing an uncertain future, you should do thorough research about your situation. This may mean checking online or calling your lenders to see what options they may be able to offer you. Even if your situation is not due to something as global as COVID-19, there still may be several options offered by your lender, which can help you achieve your financial goals and better prepare for the future.

Plan Carefully, but be Flexible

When creating financial goals for an uncertain future, careful planning can be enormously helpful for preparing for any scenario. If you have understood what may happen, you will be much better able to handle the future when it comes to pass.

However, it is also very important to remember that financial goals should change with your situation. The process of setting financial goals and assessing them in a variety of different scenarios is exactly that—a process. You are never really done with this process since as your situation changes, so will these potential future scenarios. Flexibility with your financial goals is key to your success at any time, but especially when your future is uncertain.

Source: Hannah Webb, Contributor to iGrad

COVID-19, Your Clearance, and Your Finance

The Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), William Evanina, released a statement advising agencies and directorates and reassuring security clearance holders and applicants that coronavirus related financial issues will not result in an adverse security clearance determination. While financial issues are an adjudicative criteria, security clearance denials have always been based on the ‘whole person’ concept – that means that a single issue (even a financial one), should not tank your chances of getting a security clearance. Financial issues beyond your control (like a global pandemic) are a mitigating factor in a final clearance determination.

Evanina stresses, “we are aware of the potential for economic hardship on security clearance holders.”

The Trusted Workforce 2.0 with the attendant Continuous Vetting (CV) highlights how one would normally see a negative adjudication decision for an individual who was found to be financial insolvent. Evanina emphasized how he has directed departments and agencies to consider as a mitigating factor financial hardship for those directly affected by COVID-19.

Given the number one adjudicative guideline resulting in security clearance denial for the Department of Defense is Security Executive Agent Directive 4 (SEAD 4) Guideline F; Financial Considerations,Evanina pointed to the exact portion of the guideline which discusses events beyond an individual’s control.

(b) the conditions that resulted in the financial problem were largely beyond the person’s control (e.g., loss of employment, a business downturn, unexpected medical emergency, a death, divorce or separation, clear victimization by predatory lending practices, or identity theft), and the individual acted responsibly under the circumstances.

The guidance from the NCSC doesn’t negate the weight of other factors which may tip the scales toward a negative adjudication. In 2019, well ahead of the arrival of COVID-19, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, saw 522 cases which resulted in denial of appeals associated with one’s personal financial responsibility.

All cleared individual must continue to notify their FSO when they encounter financial hardship, regardless of mitigating circumstances resulting in the downturn in a clearance holder’s fiscal situation in accordance with the continuous vetting process.

Source: Clearance Jobs website

Nature of Work and Skills Sought by Employers

Teleworking: Approximately 16% of workers are in alternative employment arrangements today. Freelancing, “gig economy,” contract work, each of these terms describes a trend which will be more prevalent in the future. The internet, smart phones, online file sharing, and new technologies have all made it possible for us to work anywhere and everywhere.

What are additional changes that will impact the future workplace?

  • There are three forces that will influence the world of work in the future; demographic trends, ongoing technological progress and economic globalization of the U.S. economy.
  • The labor force has become smaller except for age 55-plus workers.
  • Employees will have the opportunity to shape their own career paths rather than climbing a “corporate ladder.”
  • The number of manufacturing jobs has dropped while the number of service-related jobs has grown significantly.
  • There’s no such thing as total job security so it’s important to have a backup plan and to continuously improve and broaden your skills.
  • Many jobs being filled now did not exist 20 years ago and it’s expected that in 10 years’ time, 60% of jobs will be entirely new.

Some of the new technologies which are anticipated to affect the workplace:

  • Light peak technology which enables data transfers at up to 100 GB per second
  • Mainstream Artificial Intelligence in average electronic devices that will enable multitasking to rise to new levels
  • Web 3.0 will offer new web-browsing capabilities and experiences

Skills Sough by Employers

These are qualities that employers will seek in the modern employee:

  • Basic soft skills: Advanced cognitive skills, socio-behavioral skills and the ability to adept to changes in communication and new technologies.
  • Self-directed: Now the employees have the ability to work from anywhere at any time, being self-directed is crucial. You must be able to execute on your deliverables whether you are in an office or at home.
  • Focus: In today’s  work environment information bombards employees from every direction which means employees need to become adept at filtering out and focusing on what’s crucial.

Source: Shirley Rowe, owner of Front Rowe Consulting.

Coronavirus and Your Financial Health

Are you concerned about the effect of the Coronavirus on your personal finances, career, and/or education?

Please bear in mind, due to the volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic, details about the illness, public response, policy, and more, are subject to change. Please consult your state and local offices for the most accurate and up-to-date information about the COVID-19 pandemic in your area; and for global updates, consult the World Health Organization .

Create a Payment Triage Strategy:

Most experts recommend that you prioritize your bill payments according to what you need the most and what you have to lose if you don’t pay.

This means you should first consider paying for the assets and services you cannot do without. This often includes your home mortgage, heat, water, etc. because they can materially affect your health and well-being if they get cut off. For example, if you stop paying your mortgage, you might lose your home, which is definitely a risk to your health and safety.

Next, experts recommend that you pay any debts that are backed by assets1. You may want to consider these debts as your second priority because you can lose assets if you don’t pay the monthly bills. For example, if you don’t pay your car loan, you will eventually lose your car, which can then cause significant trouble in your life.

Lastly, you may consider your final priority of payments to be non-collateralized/unsecured debts. These are debts which are not connected to essential services or backed by any assets, so failing to make these payments does not put you in immediate hardship. Such debts can include credit cards, personal loans, and student loans. While such debts can definitely cause problems if not paid over the long run, they are the least likely to cause significant issues if not paid during a short-term crisis period.

Which Bills to Pay

If possible, experts strongly recommend that you pay all your minimum payments first before paying anything above your minimum payments. This allows you to avoid having missed payments on your record and is hugely helpful in maintaining good credit.

However, if you cannot pay all your minimum payments, you may then decide to mentally prioritize your debts—either using the prioritization efforts described above or using your own prioritization method. This can help you decide which payments to make and which ones you might have to delay.

It is important to keep in mind that if you cannot pay a minimum payment in full, a partial payment will still have a negative effect on your credit. Given that, you may want to prioritize making a lower number of full minimum payments over making a higher number of payments that are only partial.

Negotiate with Lenders

If you are encountering financial hardships due to a crisis, one option you may want to consider is negotiating with your lenders. While minimum payments can seem like hard rules, there are many instances where lenders will be flexible in consideration of a crisis—especially if that crisis is widespread. For example, many financial institutions have provided financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic by waiving fees and allowing customers to defer payments on debts. So, it can be of significant financial benefit for you to at least ask your lenders if other options are available.

When negotiating with your lenders, there are several compromises that may be available to help protect your credit. Like in the example above, you may be able to defer payments to avoid having a missed/late payment on your record. You may also ask about lowering your monthly payments in exchange for paying for a longer period of time. This means you are more easily able to make your payments, and the lender also doesn’t lose money on the arrangement. Other options may include lowering your APR so that future payments on any remaining debt will be lower.

For bills that are run by the government, such as utilities, you may be able to take advantage of hardship benefits. For example, Arlington, Virginia offers financial assistance for heating and cooling bills2. Such programs already exist for many local governments, and a major crisis can lead to even more programs being available to you.

Stay Calm and Protect Your Financial Future

By its very nature, a crisis is scary. It can be very easy to not think about your financial situation, and instead focus on just getting by or staying healthy in the case of a pandemic. But staying calm and developing a financial strategy is very important for you and your family. It can help you get through any crisis you may be going through in the short term, and protect your financial future in the long term.

Source: iGrad

Overcoming Generational Barriers in Workplace Communication

Having shared goals but different expectations about how to achieve them is a common theme of workplace disagreements. How does an employer bridge the gap and keep the focus on quality outcomes and high productivity while simultaneously ensuring all employees feel represented within the workplace? It is critical to identify differences between alternative perceptions.

It is important to keep these differences in mind, to promote peace and productivity. Employers should focus on commonalities with these cohorts. Although the order of priorities may change between the generations, most employees value work-life balance, want to be included in decisions and leadership, expect training and development opportunities, strive for work that is challenging and rewarding, are financially motivated.

Work Values

  • Boomer: Stick to the agenda, enjoy and value teamwork and individual accountability.
  • Generation X: Strive for balance, freedom, and flexibility and value process over product.
  • Millennial: Value continuing education, respond well to mentoring, and prefer flattened hierarchy and social opportunities.
  • Generation Z: Expect work to be a central part of their lives, value guidance and reassurance, income-driven, risk-adverse and emphasize safety.

Some effective strategies for managing diverse workplace populations include:

  • interdisciplinary teams that include cross-generational mentoring and allow for all to be represented in decision making
  • individual recognition and promotion based on performance rather than longevity and past experience with incentives that are meaningful to the employees current life stage
  • multi-level feedback and supervision
  • multimodal communication
  • avoid generational biases and ageism
  • present changes in a way that does not seem to favor one group or displace another

Consider the following workplace decision-making process, finalizing project:

  • Boomer: We need to finalize the details of the project. I will schedule a meeting in the conference room sometime this week. Please let me know open times on your schedule.
  • Generation X: What a waste of time! We are just wrapping up the details – can we have a quick conference call instead and can’t we use a Doodle Poll to figure out when we can all meet?
  • Millennial: Why don’t we use Zoom or FaceTime?
  • Generation Z: Can’t this be solved asynchronously, I have a family obligation today. Could we respond in the next 24 hours with a cloud-based survey??

In this conversation, the employees share the same goal. Their communication preferences and the way they manage their time varies. As the conversation evolves, each individual contributes a set of ideas unique to their cohort. Personality conflicts may arise; some may get frustrated, thinking their way is the better method and not understanding why the other do not agree and some way may feel they are not heard and valued when their preferences are unmet. Over time, these disagreements can overcome exaggerated and could be source of further disagreement, contributing to the mood of the overall work environment.

Source: Rebecca Merlenbach, graduate student at Lindenwood University and Dr. Sarah Patterson-Mills, LPC, Program Chair for School Counseling at Lindenwood University.