How to Get Your Finances in Order Before Returning to Work
By: Veronica Dagher
August 20th, 2020
The pandemic has shed fresh light on the need for workers to make sure their budgets,
wills and insurance coverage are in good shape no matter what their age. As some
businesses and schools reopen this fall, and employees head back to public spaces, many
might want to make sure their finances are in order in case they become sick with the
Here are some things to keep in mind:
How should I be thinking about my emergency fund now?
Financial planners often recommend having three to six months of expenses saved in cash
However, because of the continuing economic uncertainty, it is a smart idea to have
additional savings, says Tom McLean, a financial planner in Olympia, Wash.
An emergency fund that can cover essential expenses for 12 or even 18 months can
provide an important safety net in case of a job loss or extended illness, he says.
If you believe the virus could have a long-term impact on your earning capability, you
might need to adjust your asset allocation to be sure you have adequate funds outside the
stock market in cash, money market, CDs and short-term bond funds to cover your income
shortfall for the next five to seven years, says Jane Young, a financial planner in Colorado
What if I get sick at work?
Understand what type of health insurance you and your family have and which providers
are covered under your policy so that you know where to turn should you or a family
member need medical attention, says Corbin Blackwell, a financial planner at Betterment.
You might want to prepare by contributing to a health-savings account or a flexiblespending
account if you are eligible. By contributing to these types of accounts, you can
reduce your taxes while simultaneously building up savings that can be used to pay for
qualified medical expenses.
See what sick leave or benefits your employer provides in the event you contract Covid-19,
says Mark Reyes, a financial planner at Albert, a financial-planning app.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides protection to employees who
qualify, such as two weeks of paid sick leave for those who are quarantined or
experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.
If you aren’t eligible to receive benefits from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,
check your local city and state regulations to see if any additional Covid-19 relief benefits
are available to you, Mr. Reyes says. If no benefits are available, relying on your
emergency fund will be important.
Check that you are covered by your employer-sponsored long-term disability insurance.
Depending on your employer, this may replace up to 60% of your gross income if you
become disabled. If your employer doesn’t provide adequate long-term disability
coverage, secure a supplemental policy from a private insurer, says Jay Abolofia, a
financial planner in Weston, Mass.
Is now a good time to create or update my will and take care of other estate planning
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a will, power of attorney and
health-care proxy in place in the event of an unforeseen event such as a serious illness,
says Avi Kestenbaum, a partner at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP. Some states
are allowing virtual notarization of these documents.
If you have a simple estate, you may consider creating your will with digital options.
Check to see if your company offers legal benefits that enable you to work with an
attorney to create your estate-planning documents at a reduced price. Otherwise, call
your lawyer for help or for a referral.
Someone single especially needs to make sure that a trusted loved one knows where to
find and access all of their legal documents, financial, medical and insurance records,
online passwords and burial information, as well as the contact information for their
advisers and keys to their homes and properties, he says.
For someone with children who are minors, pay particular attention to the provisions
dealing with guardianship as well as understanding how assets that are intended to be
used by the children, now or in the future, would be protected if a spouse remarries, Mr.
As college students head off to school, it is important to remember that once they turn 18,
they are considered adults and access to their health information may be more limited
without advance planning, says Michael Henzes, a financial planner in Pottstown, Pa.
Creating a health-care proxy for the student could help if they become ill and the parent
has to act on their behalf, he says.
Should I adjust my budget as I return to working outside my home?
Prepare for an increase in expenses when you return to the office, says Avani Ramnani, a
financial planner at Francis Financial in New York City. You might need to spend money
on child care, your commute or meals out.
Consider budgeting more toward personal protective equipment to help you stay safe
when you are back in the office or class, says Albert app’s Mr. Reyes.
If you are uncomfortable with taking mass transit, see if it is within your budget to use a
ride-sharing service or purchase a vehicle instead, he says.
If possible, though, try to keep some of the budget-friendly habits you may have
developed during quarantine, Ms. Ramnani says. Continuing to cook at home and
minimizing purchases of new clothes, for example, can help keep your costs down.