Nontraditional retirement plans threatened by COVID-19? Here’s what to do now.
As market volatility continues to impact those in nontraditional work arrangements and super-early retiree — here’s what to do now to keep your plans on track:
For members of the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement looking to quit work in their 30s or 40s, and for gig workers without a 401(k) to fall back on, COVID-19 has brought an added dose of concern. Many have seen the value of their savings and investment portfolio plummet in the face of ongoing market volatility, putting their retirement aspirations in jeopardy.
Yet, if you are among the millions of Americans following a nontraditional retirement path, the good news is that there are things you can do now to navigate the current economic disruption and keep your plans on track.
Take stock of your finances
The COVID-19 crisis has forced all of us to adjust our lifestyle and spending patterns, meaning now is a good time to step back and evaluate your complete financial picture. This includes taking inventory of your cash reserves, assets and any outstanding debts.
Once you’ve done that, try to create a budget for yourself by separating essential living costs, such as accommodation, medicines and groceries from discretionary ones like entertainment and personal grooming. Be sure to build in enough liquidity for unexpected expenses too, such as a car or home repairs or health issues.
With your budget set, be ruthless with yourself about enforcing it, trimming your non-essential expenditure until the market volatility settles down. Any money you have left over can then be used to shore up your emergency fund or bolster your savings.
For example, many FIRE retirees follow the 4% rule: to withdraw no more than 4% of their investment portfolio every year. This means that when the market drops, like now, so should your withdrawal amount. Thus, if you were previously taking $40,000 a year from a $1 million investment portfolio that has now reduced to $750,000, you should aim to use only $30,000 until the value recovers.
Stay calm and prepare
Even if this is the first bear market you have experienced, the reality of an increasingly unpredictable world is that it will probably not be the last. Try not to panic if the value of your retirement savings or investment portfolio is shrinking right now and instead consider how you may be able to supplement your income during both the current crisis and any future ones.
For example, could you temporarily return to an earlier career through consulting work or a fixed-term contract? Is there a side-hustle you could get off the ground, such as blogging, property rental or a small business based on a personal passion like fitness coaching or sewing? While these may be unlikely to cover all your living expenses, they can provide a useful financial and emotional buffer when economic downturns arise.
Make some calls
Make sure you speak to any financial institutions with which you have outstanding loans, such as a mortgage. Given the current economic climate, many banks are offering the option to reduce or defer payments. Again, any money you save can then be used to build up your emergency reserves, boost your living expenses or pay down high interest debt.
Another call you could consider making is to a qualified financial advisor. They can help you develop a budget with sufficient flexibility to navigate market volatility and advise you on opportunities that are available.
Whether you are an existing or prospective retiree following a nontraditional path, rest assured that the current crisis does not mean you have to abandon your plans entirely. The ongoing impact of COVID-19 may require you to recalibrate your spending for a while or adjust the speed at which you quit work entirely, but with the right approach and the help of qualified advisors, you can keep your finances in good shape through this pandemic and ultimately achieve the retirement you want.