What we’ve learned about money in 2020
So far, 2020 has been a year no one could’ve predicted. Experts share four financial lessons from this unpredictable time.
It’s pretty fair to say that nobody could have anticipated the events of this year to provide financial tips for 2020 that would have all families covered. From a global pandemic to a nationwide lockdown to mass demonstrations supporting anti-racism and social justice, a lot of us are experiencing a tumultuous and life-changing year — and it’s only half over. We’ve learned new terms like “social distancing” and “quarantine pod.” We’ve become experts at working from home and teleconferencing with friends. We’ve (mostly) started wearing masks to protect ourselves and others, whether we’re going to the grocery store or taking a walk in our neighborhood.
Many of us are managing our money differently, especially if we spent the first part of 2020 laid off, furloughed or just anxious about what might happen to our incomes in the future. Now that we’re in mid-summer, can we use what we’ve learned about money in 2020 to help us make better financial decisions? We reached out to three financial experts to learn which money goals people should prioritize, how to navigate the uncertainty of investing, why estate planning is essential, and how their financial advice has changed in this unusual — and unpredictable — year.
In this article:
Emergency funds are more important than ever
If there’s one financial tip for 2020 that all three of our financial experts agreed on, it’s that emergency funds are essential for financial success. “We’ve all been reminded of the value of maintaining adequate emergency savings,” says Brendan Willmann, a CFP® professional at Granada Wealth Management. Sam Dogen, aka the Financial Samurai, told us that having a six-month emergency fund is “crucial,” especially if you’re worried about job losses or stock market fluctuations.
Emma Leigh Geiser, a personal finance coach who blogs about the intersection of finance and healthcare at Nurse Fern, advises everyone to prioritize saving as much cash as possible, even if it means pressing pause on other big financial goals like debt repayment. “Go back to paying the minimum on debts, put any extra money that would have gone to debt safely away in a savings account, and when things return to normal-ish that money can be transferred to your creditors.” (Geiser isn’t the only person who’s advocating that you pay the minimum on debts, btw — Suze Orman, Rachel Cruze and Shannah Compton Game have all shared a similar sentiment.)
The coronavirus pandemic taught us that we might have to spend an extended period of time living on whatever we happen to have stocked up, whether it’s food, toilet paper or emergency savings. A lot of us are going to put a few extra rolls of TP into our cupboards this summer — and we should put a few extra dollars into our emergency funds as well.
If there’s one thing all three of our financial experts agreed on, it’s that emergency funds are more important than ever.
Stock market downturns? Don’t panic
Having a robust emergency fund in place can help you cover the costs of an unexpected job loss, furlough or lockdown, but that isn’t the only reason to set aside six months’ worth of expenses. A solid cash reserve can also keep you from making panic-driven decisions during stock market downturns. “The more cash you have, the less you will feel the need to panic-sell at an inopportune time,” Dogen explains.
This is especially important for people in the second half of their careers. If you’re approaching retirement, selling your investments at a loss can seriously damage your ability to fund your golden years. Younger people can continue to invest with a growth mindset even during a bear market, but older adults might want to consider rebalancing their portfolios to avoid risky investments. “Many investors haven’t felt the need to rebalance their portfolios in the past few years because recent performance has been strong,” Willmann explains. “The market’s decline this spring has caused those nearing retirement to reassess the risk associated with their investment allocation.”
Willmann also advises everyone to keep their emergency savings out of the stock market entirely — even during bull markets. “A true emergency fund should be held in an FDIC-insured account to mitigate the risk of principal loss.”
Career fluctuations happen. Be prepared.
The coronavirus pandemic taught a lot of people that their jobs, careers and small businesses weren’t as secure as they had once thought — even if they were working in an essential industry. “I personally learned that even the most recession-proof work isn’t guaranteed,” Geiser told us. “As a nurse, I faced furlough days and know many others who were placed on indefinite leave when medical offices and surgery centers closed.”
Going forward, more of us will need to be prepared for career fluctuations, job-hopping and periods of unemployment. If you are fortunate enough to be employed, do your best to build the kind of professional reputation that can either help you retain your job during company restructurings or carry you into the next phase of your career. “It’s more important than ever to stay visible in the workplace and try to add as much value as possible,” Dogen advises. Jobs may come and go, but added value always looks good on a resume.
“It's more important than ever to stay visible in the workplace and try to add as much value as possible.”—Sam Dogen, Financial Samurai
Estate planning is key
The pandemic has taught many of us about the travails of working from home with kids and the importance of supporting local businesses — not to mention the fragility of life itself. “Unfortunately, the coronavirus has also served as a reminder to remain current with estate planning,” Willmann says. “Namely your will and healthcare power of attorney.” It’s a lot easier to create a will (which includes the opportunity to write a living will and set up power of attorney) than many people realize, especially if they work with a reputable digital company like Haven Life Plus partner Trust & Will.
Willman also notes the importance of setting up a life insurance policy, even during an economic downturn — and if you’ve already got a life insurance policy in place, it’s worth asking yourself whether you need to update your beneficiary designation. Unfinished or out-of-date estate planning documents won’t help protect the people you love, so take a few minutes today to get a free life insurance quote, begin the will-writing process or look into a revocable living trust. By doing the prep work now, you’ll ensure that you and your loved ones are as prepared as possible for whatever happens next in 2020 — whether that’s a recession, a second wave or something none of us could have anticipated.
About Nicole Dieker
Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.Read more by Nicole Dieker
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html
What our customers are saying
Nov 18, 2020
Life Insurance For Mortgage Protection
After purchasing a home, I decided to purchase a term life insurance policy that would pay off my mortgage and any other debts. I wanted to make sure my son wasn’t stuck having to worry about such things in the event of my untimely death. I didn’t really want to just do a general search online because I didn’t want all kinds of unsolicited phone calls. It just so happened my credit union sent me some information regarding life insurance through Haven Life for its members, so I looked into it. From start to finish, the process with Haven Life was extremely simple. After looking at different death benefits and policy years, I decided to submit an application. The application took minutes to complete and I was approved the very next day. The approval gave me an acceptable death benefit range, so I was able to increase the amount from what I had applied for and change the term. Boom, just like that, I’m covered. My son is aware I’ve put this policy in place and we both feel better knowing that if something happens to me, he’ll be able to take care of things.
–Patrickread more at
Nov 18, 2020
–Jahmiyaread more at
Sep 23, 2020
The process was easy and not time…
The process was easy and not time consuming. I appreciate the rapid response to my questions and the delivery of my policy. Other insurance companies should follow your lead. Thank you
–Cesarread more at
Sep 9, 2020
Very professional and responsive.
–Shemread more at
Sep 9, 2020
Quick and simple Approval
Both my husband and I got term life from Haven life. We recently had a baby girl and we wanted to make sure she’s protected financially if something were to happen to us. He got his first then i got mine after seeing how quick and simple the process was. We are both healthy adults in our late 20s so it was fairly simple and easy to get approved. The price is fair. Term life provides peace of mind for trajedy as we continue to build our wealth. We plan to be self insured when our term expires. I would recommend this company.
–Rachelieread more at