When my co-host and I started our podcast, "Stacking Benjamins," eight years ago, we wanted to help our listeners change their perspectives about money. It was important to me, especially as a former financial advisor, to show our audience that financial literacy wasn't something that was intimidating.
Our goal was to create a fun environment where people would feel free to talk about wins and losses. One of our big rules is that there is nothing embarrassing about money. Everyone makes mistakes when they are starting out, even the top experts in the industry, so let's learn from them together.
During an uncertain moment like this one, there is a lot of information to sift through, and it can feel paralyzing. So I checked back in with some of my all-time favorite guests and asked them for their advice about making the best possible financial choices for your future during this time.
When Bola Sokunbi, founder & CEO of Clever Girl Finance, came on our show last July, she told us that the most important thing she wanted our audience to understand is that, regardless of one's financial circumstances, it's possible to recover, improve and succeed. Today, she says, that mission is more important than ever.
"Considering what we'll be going through," Sokunbi says, "It's hard to look up and see the light at the end of the tunnel, but one thing I know is that we will get through this, despite how difficult it might be."
The best thing you can do right now is focus on what you can control, she says. If you are employed, put away as much money as you can. If you're having to take on debt because you're having trouble paying bills, be mindful of your spending and start your payback plan for when your circumstances improve.
Video by Courtney Stith
"There's a lot of temptation for people to spend on nonessentials right now, and retail therapy," says Sokunbi. "I would however caution that now more than ever is the time to be intentional about your spending. With the uncertainty of how long this will last and the potential long-term negative economic impact, this is the time to focus on what you truly need and put a pause on everything else."
If you are looking for some free activities that will make you feel better, Sokunbi suggests focusing on your health, mental wellness, and kindness to others.
When Dr. Daniel Crosby, author of "The Laws of Wealth" and Chief Behavioral Officer at Brinker Capital, was on the show, he told us the goal was to help listeners understand that they control what matters most.
"Most folks feel out of control at times like these and feel that their long-term financial success owes to externalities like Fed decisions, political actions, or in this case, even the spread of the virus," he says now. "But what is crystal clear when we look at financial history is that your decisions, especially in times of heightened anxiety like we are currently experiencing, are far more predictive of long-term success than anything outside of you."
So how do you increase your feeling of control when it seems like we're on a roller coaster? Own that you're scared. But don't make any decisions driven solely by that fear.
Crosby says we should stick to two P's: purpose and proof. By purpose, he means remembering your long-term financial goals, reminding yourself why you're investing, and identifying about what you can do right now, rather than what you can't. By proof, he means acting with a mental understanding of the markets, rather than a gut reaction to the short-term view.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
"Students of market history will know that periods of sharp decline have historically tended to lay the groundwork for future returns that are above average," he says. "If you've stuck around for the risk, you might as well hang on long enough to get the reward."
His best tip to ease anxiety is to take action. Read up on investing to be as informed as possible. Reach out to become a helper during this time, or start a new program of exercise or meditation.
"My favorite quote comes from Viktor Frankl who said, 'Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom,'" says Crosby.
When Michael Kay, the author of "The Feel Rich Project," was on our show, we talked about the forces that can inform our relationship with our finances without even realizing it — and how to recognize and prevent the harmful money messages that we may have internalized over the years.
Kay says understanding where your perspective on money comes from is especially important at this moment, because there's nothing easier than letting your emotions take over during stressful times. His advice for what to do right now is: "Begin with a positive and constructive mindset. Looking back at past mistakes and living in blame and shame is no way forward to making positive changes."
"It begins with emotional stability," says Kay, "and then move forward into areas of finance and planning." Then, as you examine your numbers and establish your priorities, seek professional advice before making any big decisions.
Joe Saul-Sehy is the creator and co-host of the award-winning "Stacking Benjamins" and "Money With Friends" podcasts. For 16 years as a former financial advisor, he helped people plan for their savings goals. For nine years he was the WXYZ-television "Money Man" in Detroit, where he currently lives with his spouse Cheryl.
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