Here in New Zealand, we’ve come to the end of the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. We’re not fully free of it yet, but the initial phase is over. I hope lock down wasn’t too difficult for you. Even if it was easy, it was hard – everything changed: work; free time; exercise; childcare; socialising; shopping; personal safety – there was stress in almost every aspect of our lives.
There was also initially a lot of stress around money, but from what I’ve seen, New Zealand citizens mostly came through OK with a combination of the wage subsidy, mortgage deferrals, reasonable landlords, and less opportunity or need to spend.
Now that the immediate fears of getting ill, or having to navigate an overwhelmed health service have receded, we have the headspace for more abstract, longer-term concerns such as: how will my money situation change now that economy has changed? What will that mean for the way I live? How will I cope financially if we (please, no) have to go into lock down again?
There are times when fears like these dominate our thoughts, and then they recede, lurking in the background as day-to-day life takes over. The truth is, it’s hard to make ourselves deal with abstract, long-term fears, and even harder to deal with uncertainty. We crave certainty. Thoughts like “I might have to sell the house” stress us out. Our thoughts race round and round, trying to ferret out clues that will give a firm yes or no to that scenario.
We need as much concrete, certain information as we can find. If you’re fearful about your money situation, your first step is to gain clarity. Find your numbers. Spending, earning, debt, savings, money owed to you – get all the details and use whatever system works best for you to record them.
Some of these numbers will be imprecise and that’s OK. Estimate income on the low side, and expenses on the high side. When you can be exact, be exact. I understand why people avoid this task. It can be frustrating to find the numbers you need, tedious to record them, and then when you’ve got them all they may tell you something unpleasant. If in doubt, ask for help with the task and break it up into small pieces. Just keep going until you have clarity, because without clarity your brain will continue to race in circles, endlessly re-hashing ‘what-if’ scenarios and getting nowhere. Once you have clarity, no matter how bad your financial picture looks, your brain will start figuring out the things you can do to improve it, and you’re not alone in figuring that out.
I’ll be putting ideas and resources in my next few blog posts to help you with this process. As always, if you need more personalised help I am available for one on one sessions. Contact me to book.