Experts are recommending patience and a long-term vision to help investors make decisions in a world of unpredictable markets and an uncertain economy in 2020.
In addition to killing thousands around the globe, COVID-19 has produced a number of side effects, including heavily impacting the economy at the state, national and global level as businesses struggle with reduced business traffic, forced closures and many workers standing in the unemployment line.
It is a situation that can heavily impact family life, and household leaders planning for their financial future can find the situation overwhelming as markets remain volatile and future employment options appear to be in question.
Jay Tolsma, with ELO CPAs & Advisors of Mitchell, said people are looking closely at how to best manage their finances in these times, which he calls very uncertain.
“I think for the most part everyone is very, very cautious,” said Tolsma, who serves as senior partner at the firm.
He said COVID-19 has changed the way some clients look at their portfolio, but the upcoming election also has some wondering about how the upcoming presidential election will affect their taxes.
“What I hear from people overall, to some degree, is tax preparation and planning, and what is that going to mean for the tax situation. Should we do something now in anticipation?” Tolsma said.
Tolsma said that is one of many angles investors are looking at as they continue to manage their finances. But he said in most cases, it is important to remember that investing is a game that is best played when looking at the long term. With the level of uncertainty at a high, people may feel inclined to move their investments around and make adjustments to every market move.
COVID-19 was a factor in the steep decline of the stock market in February, when the three major indexes all saw their largest one-week declines since 2008. Those indexes have recovered as of August to some extent on factors such as emerging hope for a COVID-19 vaccine, but the extreme up-and-down nature of the markets still has many investors on edge.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution with managing money, even in the best of times, and Tolsma said elections always add a level of curiosity with investments. Planning ahead with your business plan and income can help clarify some of those decisions.
“I would say in short, there is no magic bullet. But what I try to tell (my clients), in terms of this year, is that it was a very unusual year with the impact of COVID-19 and the upcoming election,” Tolsma said. “(The election) is nothing new. We have changes in administrations and tax laws change, so you really have to take a long-term approach and focus on your business and a plan.”
Jacquelyn Johnson, a financial planner with Dice Financial in Mitchell, agreed that long-term planning is essential, as is saving wisely.
“We are in unpredictable times, and that can cause concern for investors in some situations,” Johnson said in an email to the Mitchell Republic. “Most people, though, understand that if you wait for the perfect time to get into the market, you’ll be waiting forever. It’s important for long-term investors to save, regardless of the headlines.”
The instability of the business sector is affecting how many approach their planning, Tolsma said. While many sectors of the economy have taken a hard hit over the last several months, agriculture for the most part has soldiered on. While it has suffered from fluctuations in commodity prices and in product demand due to COVID-19, producers appear to be relatively optimistic after a rough 2019 season saw flooding wipe out many fields.
“The agriculture side is probably cautiously optimistic, though there are a lot of concerns about prices and things like that,” Tolsma said.
Tolsma said some economic sectors are hoping for a rebound after suffering a hard hit early in 2020, which could also affect how investors look to proceed.
“There are other industries that have done really well. Small contractors — with everyone hunkered down they are doing some home improvement projects,” Tolsma said. “Certain sectors obviously have been hit harder by COVID-19, and that’s going to be a lot of hospitality sector businesses, bars and motels up here. That’s a big concern. They missed their best time of the year in spring and summer. I’m sure they’re hoping for a positive hunting season to provide a little bit of help.”
Tolsma said those in business should review their business model and be prepared to make adjustments, when appropriate, as conditions change. Planning wisely for the future means maintaining flexibility while keeping an eye on the matters further down the road, he said.
“Making sure your business model is solid and looking at those kinds of things. It’s not any one specific thing,” Tolsma said. “The advice I give everybody is to make sure your balance sheet is strong and not overly leveraged and to have that flexibility to (take advantage of opportunities). Be ready to take advantage of that.”