While plenty of valid financial wisdom exists, traditional rules and concepts shatter under the chaos brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We're giving you permission to break the emergency glass on the following, treat them more like guidelines, and do what works best for your finances. Here are some pieces of financial advice that haven't aged well during the crisis.
The rule: 'Save 10% of your income'
Life changes and so will your saving patterns. Sometimes you’ll be able to save more and sometimes you’ll have to save less — and that’s OK.
If your income stream is more sporadic thanks to the pandemic don't stress over not meeting your savings goals.
If you can afford to set some cash aside, consider a high-interest savings account. Unlike a guaranteed investment certificate (GIC) which locks down your money for a certain period of time, you can access your funds with less hassle.
High-interest savings accounts are quoting rates as high as 2.80% which is more than some GIC’s are offering. Remember to ask about how long an amazing rate lasts for (sometimes they are for a limited time), minimum and maximum deposits and withdrawal rules, if any.
The rule: 'You don’t need life insurance if you’re under 35'
Many people seem to be obsessing over whether they'll be able to travel again — instead of planning for the unthinkable with a life insurance policy. But the current pandemic serves up sobering reminder that anything can happen.
So, if you have debt, loans or a mortgage, you should definitely consider purchasing a life insurance policy — even if you're under 35.
A small policy that covers the cost of your collective debt and your funeral will leave your family with the gift of a zero balance.
Per $100,000 worth of coverage, policies can be as low as $10 per month for a healthy and non-smoking 30-year-old. That's like getting a streaming subscription.
You can get started with a service like PolicyMe which makes buying life insurance policies within your budget easier than finding a hotel. You'll be able to get side-by-side quote comparisons in minutes.
The rule: 'You need to pay off your mortgage right away'
Your grandparents and parents stress that you need to pay off your mortgage ASAP. That's probably because they have a financial hangover from sky-high mortgage rates during the '80s — which catapulted to 21%.
Today’s interest rates can be as low as 2.10% (10 times lower than the '80s) and you're able to compare a pool of lenders side-by-side to find the best rate.
While you’re setting up or refinancing your mortgage (which is worth exploring while rates are sensationally low), leave yourself with enough monthly cash flow to invest. Through a diligent investment strategy you may be able to generate returns higher than your mortgage interest and have more money to fall back on.
By redirecting some money that would’ve gone to a big and expensive mortgage payment, you have more cash to work with when investing.
You might then want to contribute your money to a tax-sheltered account like a RRSP or TFSA and invest in high return stocks and bonds — on your own or with the help of a financial planner.
If you're not a confident investor, it's OK to sit back and let a robo-advisor do the work. Robo-advisors have growth portfolio options for those looking to boost their earnings, and you're able to easily open an RRSP or TFSA investment account for tax-sheltered gains.
The rule: 'Ditch things you love from your budget'
Saving doesn’t mean forgoing the things that spark joy in your life. It’s better to plan for the odd breakfast sandwich, or dinner at a nice restaurant, instead of feeling guilty over reasonable splurges.
Finding money to save is about cutting out mindless spending first. Start by evaluating automated subscriptions or bills siphoning money from your account every month.
Instead of subscribing to every single streaming service out there, focus on one or two that have the most programs that you're interested in. If you have a car, your insurer might be offering lower or refunded premiums for coverage during the crisis.
Consider downgrading data coverage on your mobile phone — since you're mostly using WiFi during lockdown.
Get rid of paid personal training programs, there are plenty of free online workouts, resources and classes accessible from the comfort of your home.
The rule: 'Never carry a credit card balance'
Debt is a scary word and some struggle to get a handle on it, or avoid it at all costs. It's possible to reach this state of debt-free nirvana if you have a steady job but COVID-19 has taught us that your cash flow can get zapped overnight.
When you don’t have the money to pay for essentials like groceries and transportation, trust that your credit cards are there to tide you over until you get back to work.
There’s no shame in having debt when you need to bridge your finances. The thing you'll want to do immediately, though? Lower your interest rates.
You may want to transfer your debt to a card with an active balance transfer promotion. Balance tranfser promotions often offer low-to-zero interest rates for a limited period of time, typically the first six months to one year.
And once you're able to get back to work, you might want blast through your debt with a low-interest debt consolidation loan that'll allow you to focus on a much smaller monthly payment.
Before you start leaning too much into credit cards though, register with a free online service like Borrowell that offers credit monitoring. Monthly reports will give you a glimpse of your credit score so you’ll know when you’re pushing your limit and affecting your score.
Ultimately, an excellent credit rating is something you’ll need long after this current crisis is over.