Expect the unexpected.That’s the lesson the financial services firm Edward Jones says everyone should remember as we continue to face the triple barrage of COVID-19, civil unrest and millions suddenly left unemployed.And yet, because of all that still ongoing turbulence, a new study by the firm found that only 44 percent of the 2,200 adults surveyed nationwide feel in complete control of their financial situation, while a larger chunk — 53 percent — said they either had “some,” “not much,” or “no control” at all. (Three percent, if you’re doing the math, either didn’t know or had no opinion.)And why, exactly, should we have already learned that lesson?”In the past two decades, we had the dot.com bust of 2000-2002, the financial crisis of 2007-2008, a weak recovery, a market sell-off in 2015-2016, and a number of other bumps in the road,” explained Edward Jones’ Vanessa Okwuraiwe. “History repeats itself. So an individual’s financial stability requires careful planning, goal setting, and the flexibility to adjust strategies when unplanned situations arise.”In fact, one of the things that jumps out at you in the study is the stark difference in sentiment between those with a financial strategy — whether developed before or during 2020 — and those without one. What we’ll call the “armed” vs. the “unarmed.”Sixty-eight percent of the armed respondents reported feeling “financially stable” and 69 percent of them “financially resilient” — the latter meaning they could withstand or recover quickly from difficult financial conditions.That compares to 46 percent and 39 percent, respectively, for the unarmed.Interestingly, not as many people as you might think reported having had to postpone major life events during the pandemic because of money issues. Yes,12 percent shelved buying a house. But only 6 percent delayed their retirement or wedding plans, only 5 percent delayed having a child, and –perhaps on the theory that lawyers never hold going-out-of-business sales — 1 percent put their divorce on hold.The study’s other key findings include:
- Having begun to recognize their financial vulnerability, 31 percent said they were contributing more to emergency savings.
- 33 percent said they were contributing more to the emergency savings of a hurting family member or loved one.
- Women, overall, felt the least in control of their finances.
- 42 percent said starting their own business had become a priority.
According to Okwuraiwe, the first step toward attaining the two pillars of financial resilience and stability is to “drill down on the issues most important to you and educate yourself on each.” To that end, Edward Jones has developed a free online Financial Fitness program that includes interactive resources on everything from entrepreneurship to retirement to making career choices that benefit your earning potential and you can always do what 36 percent of those surveyed began doing last year: talk things over with a professional financial advisor, like a local one at Edward Jones who has the perspective, experience and empathy to help you meet your goals and avoid getting tripped up by — what else? – the unexpected.