COVID-19 walks into the room and leaves many of us breathless, a terrible reality that we cannot simply wish away. One thing is clear, the pandemic has exposed the many cracks within the system and our lives that we believed were working well.
The phased stages of lockdown and the surge in infections that we are seeing are bringing us closer to realising that things will not return to normal any time soon. As we begin to look for ways to rebuild our economy and try to find ways to repair our finances, planning for the unknown future that awaits us has become pivotal.
Dealing with a moving target
The recent speech that was given by the finance minister Tito Mboweni revealed that we are in for a bumpy ride and we will all have to tighten our seatbelts. At the start of the fiscal year (February), Minister Tito Mboweni announced that they expected the economy to grow by 3.3% in 2020. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the global market is now expected to reverse its growth, contracting by 5.2% this year with South Africa expected to feel the pinch at 7.2%.
The unemployment rate has increased to 30.1% which has resulted in the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) providing R23 billion in COVID-19 relief to over 4.7 million workers that have been affected by the pandemic.
"As the Pandemic unfolds it introduces new variables that impact society in extremely interesting ways. As a result, we observe people at either end of the spectrum in terms of their particular feeling on lives vs livelihoods but whatever your stance is, families are currently faced with a tough balancing act of protecting their financial future while at the same time ensuring the health of their family. This, of course, means that many people are dealing with the anxiety of having to take on some personal risk just to ensure that they secure an income during this time," comments CEO of MiWayLife Craig Baker.
The pandemic has exposed our lack of preparedness to deal with the influx of patients in hospitals, but it also revealed how exposed many people and businesses were to the loss of one or two months of income. For many, the impact of the period will be catastrophic, however, this might not be a once-off event and we must adapt based on the lessons that Covid-19 has taught us.
Managing our debt to avoid derailing
The government has moved towards joining forces with the private sector to provide a COVID-19 relief fund within the billions and help keep the economy afloat. Banks have also helped ease the financial strain by providing payment holidays and loans to take care of various expenses.
While these are measures that have been created to ease the financial pinch that many South Africans are feeling, it can easily spiral into unmanageable debt, which is a recurring issue among us. "Being strategic with your finances can see you avoiding unnecessary debt. Much like our country’s budget, many of us spend large portions of our disposable income on settling debt.
You may have access to lower interest rates, payment holidays and loans to help with various expenses, but it is crucial to consider the financial implications this will have. You must carefully consider what you take on under these conditions and whether you be able to meet the repayments along with the interest or will it create a spiral of debt that will be hard to climb out of?" adds Baker.
How to prepare your finances for the future
Taking care of your finances today can protect your financial future tomorrow. Use some of the lockdown experience to change your spending habits. Carefully assess your needs versus your wants. We may be in the eye of the storm, but it matters now more than ever to work with what we have to make it out on the other side. As many South Africans tighten their belts to focus their spending on necessities, it is important to remain prudent with your finances and to limit your options to those that are financially viable for you.
When it comes to planning for the financial future Baker points out that, "constantly adjusting our budgets, personally or in business, to keep up with the current situation is a given. In these uncertain times, cutting back on unnecessary expenses can free up money for products that provide protection our financial futures. You also have the option of speaking to a financial advisor who will be able to assess your situation and give you practical solutions to adapt your finances. But most importantly, the pandemic has revealed that being adaptable matters more than ever. Assess the situation, see what can be changed and adapt."