With COVID-19 cases rising across the country, there's not really much debate about whether the situation is getting worse or better in the United States. In fact, the only division among public health experts now is whether we're in a second wave, or whether the first wave never ended.
Sadly, things are probably going to continue getting worse, with some states re-closing, case counts rising, and hospitals in some parts of the country at risk of becoming overwhelmed. As the bad news mounts, there's a very real chance there will be significant economic consequences, including an extended recession and a possible repeat of this spring's market crash.
Retirees need to be prepared for this type of economic turmoil. Here are three key steps to take right now to get ready if a second coronavirus lockdown happens.
1. Bulk up your emergency fund
If COVID-19 cases continue to spike and businesses begin re-closing en masse across the United States, the result will almost assuredly be economic chaos. This could have an impact on the stock market, potentially sending your investments plummeting again. And if consumer spending falls this quarter, you'll likely see no Social Security cost-of-living adjustment next year.
If your investment account balance falls and your Social Security benefits stay stagnant, putting you at risk of losing buying power, you don't want to be in a position where you have to sell losing investments just to get money to cover your costs or cope with an emergency. Make sure you're prepared for both minor and major calamities by building up a hefty emergency fund in a high-yield savings account.
If you have liquid cash to cover several months of living expenses, you can wait out any market downturn and economic chaos a second wave causes without putting your future financial security in jeopardy.
2. Review your investment strategy and asset allocation
Retirees should have some money invested in the market, but it needs to be an appropriate amount and in appropriate investment vehicles given your age and risk tolerance. It's important to make sure you aren't over-invested -- especially with the looming possibility the market could crash again.
To determine what percent of assets should be in the market, subtract your age from 110. So if you're 70, you'd want about 40% of your money in equities and the rest in more stable and secure holdings. You'll also want to ensure you've got a sound investment strategy that you're comfortable with so you're less likely to incur long-term losses in a bear market and so you won't be tempted to panic-sell if you see your portfolio balance start to fall.
3. Review your medical coverage
Most retirees have Medicare, but its coverage isn't as comprehensive as many think. To ensure you're not caught off guard by surprise expenses, review what's covered and what your coinsurance obligations are in case you get sick.
You can see details about Medicare Coronavirus coverage online, but this pandemic is an important reminder that you tend to become more medically vulnerable as you get older, so you also need to know what your insurance will cover if you develop other ailments.
For many seniors, it makes sense to opt for a Medicare Advantage or Medigap policy to get more comprehensive protection than traditional Medicare offers. Start looking into your options now so you'll be ready to make a change if needed when open enrollment comes around.
Don't get caught unprepared for a second wave
The coronavirus has already sent the country into a recession, driven record-high unemployment, and caused trillions of dollars in (temporary) losses in the stock market. There's a very real chance a second wave could be worse if it necessitates more stay-at-home orders that last for a longer time.
While there's no guarantee economic disaster will result from rising COVID-19 cases, it's best to be prepared in case it does. Taking the three steps mentioned above will help ensure your retirement isn't derailed if things go wrong. And if everything turns out better than expected, having a little extra money saved for emergencies and ensuring your investments are wise ones will only make you more prepared for whatever happens in the future.
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