- Despite the hardships caused by the current pandemic, Americans are expressing confidence in their abilities to take on the challenges ahead.
- Social connections offer psychological benefits that can help counteract stress and anxiety. Taking the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones in a positive way can be a silver lining in the COVID-19 era.
- Working with a professional to create a plan can help provide greater wellbeing for people who seek to safeguard their financial security.
Although the dark clouds of the COVID-19 pandemic are still overhead—massive layoffs, nasal testing, concealing face masks, and closed restaurants to name a few—there are silver linings on the horizon and many Americans have learned important lessons that will have a positive impact on their lives, money, and families.
According to Fidelity's Moving Forward study,1 despite an unprecedented level of uncertainty, stress, and anxiety, Americans are expressing confidence in their abilities to take on the challenges ahead. Perhaps as a result, 58% of those adults surveyed claim to have experienced a recent "life event" and say they are preparing differently financially for the new year.
“The events of 2020 are unlike any other, and they are especially stressful since our way of living and working continues to evolve,” said Stacey Watson, senior vice president with oversight for Life Event Planning at Fidelity Investments. “Even with these challenges, it’s encouraging that many families have discovered this experience has brought them closer together, taught them not to take anything for granted, and above all, made them realize they possess strength and resiliency they never knew they had.”
Compounding the stress of day-to-day life during these tumultuous months has been a steady stream of life-changing events. More than two-thirds of respondents report experiencing some sort of major life event—most commonly, job loss (24%), the loss of a loved one (18%), caregiving responsibilities (14%) or making a major purchase (13%). The study also found a number of key financial stressors during the pandemic have actually increased since April 2020,2 even though the market was far more volatile at that time.
Look to find the silver lining as you deal with ongoing uncertainty
Even in troubling times, there are some encouraging findings. A large majority (80%) of respondents feel the pandemic has taught them they can handle more than they realized. In addition, 77% say the experience has put life’s challenges into a different perspective; two-thirds indicate the experience has renewed and strengthened connections with friends and family. And, when thinking about challenging events, many discovered something unexpectedly good came out of the experience.
"Thinking about others actually has several benefits in times of crisis," says Andy Reed, PhD, Fidelity's behavioral economics research lead and psychologist. "First, we tend to be less biased when making decisions on behalf of other people or taking others' perspectives. Second, social connections offer psychological benefits that can help counteract stress and anxiety. Taking the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones in a positive way can be a huge silver lining to the current crisis."
He adds, "Although uncertainty comes in many shapes and sizes, it's important to remember to think outside of ourselves. That way, it's a little easier to understand when we are fearful for others vs. being fearful for ourselves."
Planning and support from a professional
Sometimes people need coaching and support, or someone just to listen to when they feel stuck or feel they are being asked to deal with a lot of uncertainty. That's where financial professionals like Alicia Barnhart, vice president and wealth planner working with Fidelity clients in the greater Detroit area, can play a role. "Michigan has been hit hard by COVID-19 and we're going the extra mile to support our clients. We are doing Zoom video calls every day to help clients create detailed plans that can help provide greater wellbeing as they look to safeguard their financial security."
"A client from Novi, Michigan in his late 60s was in the hospital for 10 days over the summer. Thankfully, his medical condition did not require a respirator and he has since fully recovered from COVID-19," says Barnhart. "He and his wife both told me that during the most stressful, scariest time of their life, the one thing they didn’t need to worry about was their retirement and their investments. They said that thanks to all of our planning, they thought they could make it through anything. It was a big relief for them to be able to focus their energies on getting healthy and staying safe."
3 tips from Fidelity Life Events to help you handle the unexpected
Fidelity’s research uncovered best practices for handling mounting pressure:
Lastly, the study found that the majority of Americans are staying positive and say they will roll with the changes and create new holiday traditions—and may even enjoy the holidays more because they’ll be simpler.
"There are many resources that we can tap to help us through the stressful times in our lives—from our individual traits like personality and coping skills to external support systems like community and faith organizations," says Reed. "But it's important to remember and appreciate the fact that one of the most profound sources of resiliency is our close relationships—the people who matter most help us get through tough times and come out stronger on the other side."