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Ask the Expert: Managing Money in Times of Uncertainty with Shannon Lee Simmons and Bob Gavlak

The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of people feeling anxious about their finances. In this week’s Ask the Expert chat, we invited Shannon Lee Simmons and Bob Gavlak to answer our users’ questions about Canadian and US finances respectively.

Shannon Lee Simmons is an award-winning Certified Financial Planner, speaker, Chartered Investment Manager, author and founder of the New School of Finance. Her two books, Worry-Free Money and Living Debt-Free are best sellers. She is a personal finance writer for the Globe and Mail as well as CBC Radio’s Metro Morning money columnist and financial expert on The Marilyn Denis Show.

Bob Gavlak is a Certified Financial Planner and Wealth Advisor at Strategic Wealth Partners. Bob employs a holistic approach when working with his clients, ensuring that all aspects of an individual’s financial needs are taken care of. He specializes in working with young professionals and pre-retirees through personal interaction, helping to build the ideal plan for navigating a broad range of financial situations.

Here are the highlights from our webchat with Shannon Lee Simmons and Bob Gavlak. Please keep in mind all user participation is anonymous.

Managing fixed expenses

QUESTION — “We all have fixed expenses. Have you found any good ways to reduce these during this especially uncertain time? I noticed many car companies are offering lease deferrals related to COVID as an example (1 or 2 months off and extend your lease by those months at the end). Any other great tips to explore?”

Shannon Lee Simmons — “Fixed expenses are often the most troublesome because they are… well, fixed. However, as you say, there are companies providing breaks to people during the pandemic. But, is it always worth it?

Step 1: Call all your providers/go to their site to see if they are promoting any breaks (car leases, mortgages, subscriptions, landlords!).

Step 2: For those that are offering some sort of pandemic aid, be careful. Some of these programs are “deferrals” vs “breaks”. This means that you aren’t paying it now, but you will pay it later and sometimes (like with mortgages) plus interest! Many of these are emergency measures only, so it’s not the best financial option for you if you can pay your bills right now because it may overload you later. For example, if you get a lease break for 3 months, you don’t owe your car payment of $500 a month. But then, you owe $1500 and it’s likely they will add this to your monthly payment after that.

Step 3: Reduce fixed costs you don’t need. Take a break from any subscriptions/on-going payments you may have. Now… I know no one is getting rid of Netflix right now, but maybe the gym?”

Setting priorities

QUESTION — “What would be your top 3 priorities for a middle-income family at this time?”

Bob Gavlak — “In no particular order, I think the top three priorities should be the following:

  1. Taking a look at your budget and cutting unnecessary expenses. During a time like this, it’s important to keep a sharp eye on expenses and make sure you minimize waste. Be sure to continue to save to your retirement plans, savings, etc. during this time.
  2. Stay focused on the long-term. If you have long-term retirement investments in place, be sure not to panic and sell when markets are volatile. Focusing on the long-term of your investment strategy is important to long-term success.
  3. Look into refinancing debts. If you have a mortgage, student loans, or any other debts – look into consolidating or refinancing them. Rates are still at lows, and banks/loan companies are willing to lend. This can help manage #1 as well.

There are many more, but that’s a great start!”

Don’t miss our next Ask the Expert session!

If you weren’t able to catch our webchat with Shannon Lee Simmons and Bob Gavlak, you can always sign in to your LifeSpeak account to read the transcript. And be sure to log on May 21st at 12PM EST to chat with success coach and registered psychotherapist Hina Khan, who will be answering your questions about embracing positivity and self-compassion. If you don’t have a LifeSpeak account, please have your HR team reach out to us about your company subscribing.

What is Ask the Expert?

Our Ask the Expert sessions allow our users to have regular access to our experts in real-time, which allows them to have their pressing questions answered. This opportunity provides our users with practical and easily implemented tips to help them make real changes in their lives. To learn more, don’t hesitate to book a walk-through.