During these uncertain times, Abacus is here to help you expand what is possible with practical and thoughtful resources, tools, and advice for managing your financial well-being.
It’s an extraordinary and difficult time. The market is a roller coaster, people are stockpiling and isolating, our social calendars are empty. There is much uncertainty in the world. Of course we feel anxious. And it’s okay if you feel anxious, too.
But we are in it together. Our team, our clients, our colleagues and readers — all of us have a shared path forward. And we will collectively walk through each day, drawing strength from each other and our communities.
Our team has made some recent changes. We are working fully remote in the weeks ahead and conducting all meetings virtually, including those with clients. In the meantime, we wanted to share some of the guidance we’re following regarding self-care, social distancing, and mindfulness to support our mental and physical health.
We recognize we can only be our best selves for our clients if we prioritize our own mental health, so we’re sharing with you a few ways our team is practicing self-care as we navigate this time of social distancing:
- Nature. Walking, running, hikes with the kids and dogs (all with appropriate distancing, of course). Getting outside and enjoying nature without a phone or computer screen is relaxing and promotes a sense of eco-wellness.
- Friends and Family. FaceTime/Skype/Zoom calls with family and friends puts the ‘social’ in social distancing. Whether it’s group game night, a group Netflix watch party, or just catching up over coffee, being virtually together makes us feel better.
- Yoga and Meditation. Slowing down the moment, easing anxiety, promoting peacefulness — being mindful with yoga and meditation helps ground us and avoid worrying too much about the future.
- Writing. Sometimes we journal, sometimes at the end of each day we jot down three things we’re grateful for. But the act of expressing ourselves (and expressing gratitude for all the things we still have) helps take the edge off.
- Finding Your Bliss. Whether it’s exercise or reading, music or catching up on sleep, keeping a normal routine or forging a brand new one, finding activities that make us feel whole and fulfilled are more important than ever.
On our first fully virtual staff meeting this week, Abacus CEO Brent Kessel guided us through a short mindfulness meditation. Afterwards, he posed this question:
“What can we put our faith, trust, and optimism in?”
Every answer is unique, of course. But even in crisis there is always something or someone we can hold onto, we just must first remember to ask ourselves the question. What is the answer for you?
We must also remember that very few situations in life are permanent, that change is constant, and that even the hardest trials will inevitably shift. We can still choose how we react to stress, and we encourage everyone to do it with sanity, humanity, and when appropriate, even good humor.
One of Abacus’s core values is to serve others. In times of stress and anxiety, there are many psychological and emotional benefits to stepping outside of yourself to help fellow humans who are also struggling. So call someone you haven’t called in awhile to check on them, email an old friend, make sure elderly neighbors or those less fortunate in your community have what they need. Anxiety is nothing in the face of generosity and kindness.
Here are some other ways we can serve our community:
- Donate to your local food bank.
- Donate to an organization that helps the homeless. The homeless and underserved are particularly vulnerable during economic downturns.
- If you’re young and healthy, use social media and offer your services to help the elderly or immunocompromised get groceries (or other tasks that may not be so easy for them right now).
- Small businesses are hurting, so buy gift cards now from your favorite places; you’ll help keep them afloat, and you’ll have somewhere fabulous to go once this is eventually over.
While our Abacus team remains healthy and here for you, all of us have friends and loved ones who are elderly or immunocompromised. We are practicing being good global citizens to reduce any possible transmission to those who are most at risk. This will protect us, our families, our clients, and our communities.
For the time being, we ask all of our friends, family, and clients to please take your health and the health of your community seriously. Stay home when at all possible, wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds, and check in periodically with the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) for current updates on other best practices.
Above all, be kind to yourself and please reach out to your Abacus advisor for anything you need. We promise we’ll help all of us get through it together.
Meditation is a simple yet transformative way to reduce stress and anxiety, especially when it comes to your finances. To be calm and peaceful around money gives you the strength and resilience to live fully. The quiet act of mindful breathing and reflection on your finances can help you explore what’s most valuable in your life.
Start expanding what’s possible with your money with our new meditation series.
Instead of living in anxiety about your future finances, having a sense of enough can connect you to the fullness of life right now. Ironically, the more you embrace the acceptance of enough, the more you will attract abundance. Join Abacus Co-Founder, Spencer Sherman on a powerful guided meditation that helps you find fulfillment in an unexpected place — yourself.
The Money Breath
When it comes to money, people often react with anxiety or emotion more than wisdom. But if you simply pause to breathe and reflect, the difference between confusion and clarity can just be a moment away. Join Abacus Co-Founder Spencer Sherman on a unique guided meditation that teaches you how to slow down and create spaciousness around your money life.
Want more? Visit our Money Meditations page to listen to explore your Childhood Money Memory, your future Money Vision, and more.
After 35 years in the financial industry, I have seen and experienced a lot of stress. Stressors come in many forms: buying a home, not knowing when to retire, refinancing a mortgage, selling a business, investing in the stock market, running out of money, running out of time. Also, is it time to ask for a raise? Are my spouse and I spending too much? Should I be giving more or less money to my kids or aging parents? Should I make this expensive purchase? Should I save for college or for retirement? Do I have enough?
Invariably, in 99% of these situations, I have discovered that it’s not the mortgage, or the business, or the amount of our net worth, it’s our thoughts around these issues that create stress and unease. I know this because I have witnessed clients respond to the same scenario in a myriad of ways. To me this awareness is liberating: the possibility of not feeling urgency just because our bank balance is low, the market went down, and the roofer says we need a new $50,000 roof–all on the same Monday. There is what happens to us in life, and then there are unproductive stories that replay in our minds about what happened. “I’m not good with money. I should have done this differently. I shouldn’t have listened to my friend. I will never have enough.”
If we could realize our money stress has more to do with our thoughts about our finances than the finances themselves, we could be happier, calmer, and wiser about money. It’s a decision to react the way we do to money events, and it’s a decision to realize there are millions of people with your exact money situation (or worse) who are way less stressed than you are.
Last month, you might have said to yourself, “I’m worried about my knee. It hurts when I go down the stairs.” Today, much more serious worries may crowd your mind: my job is vulnerable, my investments are disappearing, COVID-19 could attack at any moment. You might look back on your knee pain thoughts and remember them fondly.
The financial market volatility caused by COVID-19 reflects the impermanent nature of reality. While we’ve always been at risk of losing everything (or gaining everything!), this universal truth of impermanence is painfully obvious today.
Ignoring or minimizing the truth of ever-changing world conditions, as well as the changing conditions of our bodies and our minds, is a source of tremendous anxiety. This leads us to grasp at and cling to things as if they weren’t supposed to change. But everything is changing all the time: our bodies, our minds, our work, our schooling, and, of course, economic conditions and the stock market. Are we so in denial to think the economy or stock market should only improve? There’s no way out of this anxiety, until we recognize the futility of grasping at impermanence.
Realizing that everything changes allows your grasping mind to relax and anxiety to abate. So, given the amount of fear and pain right now, here are some ways to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity for awakening:
Money & Finance
We are all stunned by how quickly our lives have been turned upside down. And we are no less shocked by the drop the stock market has taken since the COVID-19 crisis began. Please know the Abacus Investment Committee is laser-focused on this, which includes regular communications with the advisors at Abacus whom you work with.
Major drops in the stock market are not unusual. COVID-19 is the fifth significant market drop this century. We worked our way out of the other four, which include the two worst since the Great Depression, namely dot-com / 9-11 and the Financial Crisis. We knew during those crises, just as we know now, that our clients will be okay because we factor these drops into all financial planning scenarios we run. None of these scenarios, not even the Financial Crisis, are beyond the realm of our expectations.
Read more of this note from our CIO here.
A Note from our Advisory Team
We are in the midst of global events that are of deep concern to all of us. We realize during this period of alarming news headlines and unsettling market drops, you may have questions about what actions to take given the uncertainty ahead.
Every crisis is different in its details, and 2019 coronavirus is no exception. The previous health outbreaks this century fit into two categories. In the first category (SARS, Bird Flu, MERS, Ebola), the number infected were relatively small ranging from 600 to 28,000, but the death rate was high ranging from 10% to 40%. In the second category (Zika, Swine Flu), the number infected were high at 1.5 million to 1 billion, while the death rate was relatively low at 0.05% to 0.2%. We’ve dealt with these two categories successfully multiple times.
So far with the 2019 coronavirus, the number of infected and death rate lie between the two categories at 113,000 and 3 to 4%, respectively. And this has fueled the fire of uncertainty, which is never a good thing for the stock market in the short run. Further, nobody knows the depth of the crisis, or whether it will be resolved by a vaccine or by containment and control. Yet, we know that it will be resolved. And as health professionals and governments mobilize with increasing organization, we will see, as we have seen in all past crises, that this time is not different.
As of March 9th, the market was down 19% from it’s all-time high reached on February 19th. Declines like this are fairly common and occurred most recently in 2018 and 2011.
At Abacus, we are closely monitoring reports from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and others. We know the reports are daunting and the COVID-19 virus has become personal for some.
We are also monitoring the sell-off in the oil market and do not believe its spillover into stock market declines has any justification other than the short-term uncertainty it causes. Ultimately, cheaper energy will be a boon for the vast majority of companies and investors.
It is especially unsettling to deal with multiple market crises at the same time. Many of you were with us in 2011 when we dealt with a trifecta of events: European debt crisis, US government shutdown, and the first downgrade of US bonds in history. The market worked its way through that over five months and bottomed out when the S&P 500 reached 1,099. As we write, the index stands at 2,746.
We understand the fear and anxiety that’s present on a minute-by-minute basis in our 24-hour news cycle world, and we’d like to remind you of a simple question to reflect upon when panic strikes:
Have your long-term goals changed?
If your answer is “no,” chances are there is no reason for your investment plans or allocations to change either.
As long-term, disciplined investors, we will experience bad market days and bad market headlines over the span of our investment time horizon. Setbacks like we’re seeing are temporary, and permanent loss only occurs when one chooses to sell. Remember, there are far fewer bad market decades and the long arc of market history has always trended toward growth. You and your advisor have made thoughtful long-term plans for your future. It’s important not to let short-term anxiety derail you.
In fact, on days like yesterday when many in the market react to their emotions, our Abacus trading team steps in to buy shares at relatively low prices through our disciplined rebalancing process. Our team is staying the course on plans laid out with our clients.
If you are feeling anxious about your investments or financial plans in general, consider:
- Calling your Abacus Advisor directly and reviewing your long-term strategy or simply “talking it out.”
- Shutting out the “noise” by turning off the television or closing your web browser.
- Take a walk, pick up your favorite book, or read our latest blog post on Five Mindfulness Practices That Change How We Relate to Money.
- Stocks are a better buy today than they were at the market high.
- If you can’t turn off the news cycle, be selective of which sources you choose to watch and ensure they’re reputable.
We welcome your inquiries around this issue, or any other concerns you may have. We are grateful for the trust you place in our team and for allowing us to help you expand what’s possible with your money. We are here with you each step of the way.
In an unprecedented move intended to ease the economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus, the Internal Revenue Service has pushed the April 15 tax-payment deadline to July 15 this year for many.
Here’s What to Know:
The IRS is extending the April 15, 2020, Federal tax-payment and filing deadline until July 15, 2020, for individuals and businesses. This allows for three extra months to file and pay taxes owed without the penalties and interest that would normally apply.
The three-month extension applies to retirement plan contributions as well.
The CARES act allows for Required Minimum Distributions for 2020 to be suspended from IRAs, SEPs, SIMPLES, 401Ks, 403Bs and 457s. For the individuals who turned 70 1/2 in 2019 and delayed their 2019 RMD until 2020, that is also suspended. Although RMDs are suspended, voluntary RMDs are still allowed.
Those who pay quarterly estimated taxes can delay their April 15 payment until July 15.
In this 40-minute webinar, Dimensional (DFA) Head of Client Communications, Jake DeKinder, and Head of Global Client Services, Mark Gochnour, discuss recent volatility in financial markets and provide perspective on these events.
During the webcast, the Dimensional team members discuss:
- Recent volatility in the financial markets
- Historical perspective on market declines during previous events
- Why stock price fluctuations should be viewed as a normal part of investing
If you’re looking to hit “pause” and take a step back from the feelings and emotions that can come along with market swings, we encourage you to watch this webcast.
If your income has fallen or been cut off completely, this guide from the New York Times will connect you to the basic information you’ll need to get through this, including on government benefits, free services and financial strategies.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The SBA will offer up to $2,000,000 in loans to small businesses with up to 30-year repayment plans at 3.75% for any business affected by COVID-19.
Applying for Disaster Relief
Beneficial State Bank has provided the below step-by-step process detailing requests for SBA disaster relief. As you can imagine there are thousands of SBA Disaster Loans currently being processed. Expect back-log.
Disaster Relief submittals are to be made directly to the SBA.
- Documentation Needed
- Credit Requirements
- Applicants must have a credit history acceptable to SBA
- Applicants must show the ability to repay the loan
- Collateral is required for all Economic Injury Disaster Loans EIDL loans over $25,000. SBA takes real estate as collateral when it is available
- Rate is 3.75%. Maximum interest rate is 4%
- Loan Terms up to 30 years
- No Fees
- Loan Limit up to $2.0MM
- Personal Resource Test applies
- $350,000 or less: 2 times the total financing package or $500,000 whichever is greater
- $350,001-$1,000,000: 1.5 times the total financing package or $1,000,000 whichever is greater
- Above $1.0MM: 1 times the total financing package or $2.5MM whichever is greater
- Can not be used to refinance long term debts
- Applicants who have not complied with the terms of previous SBA loans may not be eligible
Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
In addition to traditional commercial lenders, microlending partners where loans offered range from $500 to $50,000. SBA provides funding to these organizations who then re-lend this money to qualified small businesses. The microloan program may be a fit for relatively small financing needs or in instances where a loan applicant is having difficulty obtaining financing from a traditional lender. The active SBA microlenders are:
- In the Washington area: Business Impact Northwest, Ventures and MercyCorps Northwest
- In the Oregon area: MercyCorps Northwest
- In the CA area there’s a list of lenders on the SBA site
Pro Bono and Counseling Services
SBA partially funds several technical assistance partners to provide pro-bono, one on one personalized counseling services. To name a few:
Small Business Development Center networks:
SCORE has several chapters:
Our biggest concern during the COVID-19 pandemic is our health and the health of our loved ones.
But lost work, lost business, and uncertainty are creating financial concerns for the healthy and sick alike. Sick individuals and their families may also be dealing with medical bills or, in worst-case scenarios, end-of-life expenses.
At The Ascent, those who are currently healthy and able to work want to help others who aren’t so lucky. So they’ve put together this list of financial resources that might provide some relief.
Head here to find information on nationwide relief for everyone, nationwide relief for workers in specific industries, and local relief that’s available to affected individuals and businesses in certain cities and states.
With so many kids at home for the foreseeable future, Abacus advisor Stacie Rasmussen (former teacher and current homeschool mom) has offered some practical advice and resources to parents on how to survive.
I was an educator for many years before coming to Abacus and have been a homeschool Mom for 10 years. I get it. This is scary and the new normal will take awhile to get used to, but it can be done. Here are a few things that might help:
Listen to your kids. I don’t mean only their words. Their attitudes and energy will tell you a lot about how they are coping and what they need from you. They are used to having the structure of school every day and now they don’t. For some kids, this will be a welcome reprieve. For others, they may still require a structured day. Each kid is different. Work with them on a schedule they feel good about, and that will help you feel better about yours. (Just remember to schedule some personal “Quiet Time” in there as well).
Don’t be afraid to NOT do homework. Each school’s exact requirements will differ, but don’t make yourselves or your kids miserable by trying to do everything. They will still get into Cal (Go Bears)! Don’t worry.
This is an excellent time to just BE with your kids. They are feeling the anxiety we all are feeling, but without the adult words or perspective to properly express it. I recommend lots of hugs and cuddles.
Things to Do
Online and board games teach kids without feeling like you’re working at it. Even just playing with Monopoly money to “buy and sell” things to each other around the house is a great Math and Value lesson. Card games offer lessons in recognition skills and pairing. (Just don’t count on future college savings opportunities from teaching your kids Texas Hold’em.)
Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime all have many great documentaries and nature shows. Turn down the volume and have your kids narrate them, Richard Attenborough style. (Be sure to record these for posterity!)
Create an obstacle course or other physical activities and host your own Olympic Games (it may be the only one we get this year). Especially on rainy days, this is a great way to get some energy out. Can your 4 year-old do more push-ups than you?
Celebrities to the rescue! Celebrities are streaming their talents for us all right now. Coldplay and John Legend are doing mini-concerts. Lizzo is playing the flute and offering guided meditation. Olaf himself, Josh Gad, is reading to kids at night. Yo-Yo Ma is cellin’. The list goes on. Find things you and your kids are interested in and enjoy. Mr. Rogers always said, “Look for the Helpers.” These are our helpers.
Zoos and Museums are closed, but their online tours still provide hundreds of new worlds to explore. This site offers a list of 300 Virtual Tours of Museums and Exhibits. There are also theme park tours as well as art and concerts.
Interesting Live Webcams (PG of course!)
Did you also know there are interactive webcams at cat shelters? Yes! You and your kids can play with the shelter cats online. You can also hangout in the International Space Station. How about the webcam called DRIVE ME INSANE! This one features a live cam inside a home, with interactive components. Your goal is to drive the resident insane by turning on lamps. There’s even a disco ball! Watch wildlife at an African watering hole. Watch live cams at Aquariums. There is one where you can watch grass grow. On some webcams you can see baby owls or eagles hatching. Find the world you love and dive in!
Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime all have many great documentaries and nature shows. Turn down the volume and have your kids narrate them, David Attenborough style. (Be sure to record these for posterity!)
At stories.audible.com, you will find hundreds of Audible titles available completely free with a mix of stories to entertain, engage, and inform young people, ages 0–18.
Kids love making things, and the internet is full of instructions. From DIY creations, to quick and easy crafts, there are tons of resources online on how to use what you have lying around the house to create art!
Virtual Play Dates
Use Google Hangouts to host group play dates and dance parties. Your kids will be missing the interaction they get from their peers. So much can be done online together including card games, those Olympic contests, reading, making up stories, arts and crafts — tap into their imagination and ideas to see where it leads. (Don’t forget about getting grandparents involved in these online activities, because they may need the socialization, too.)
Have your kids write emails to loved ones. More socialization, as well as practice for their writing skills.
There are also many great programs and online instructions (YouTube, Babbel, etc.) for learning new things like knitting, language, piano, guitar, ukulele, etc. Look for what interests you and them.
Mostly just be kind to you and your little ones (and even the medium ones!). Look for ways to turn learning into play and home school will seem much less daunting. Be creative and hang in there!
(And cuddles, of course. Lots and lots of cuddles.)
Everyone deserves quality financial advice and peace of mind around their money. Abacus offers pro bono financial services to get you closer to achieving both.
Through our pro bono program, individuals and families have access to the highest standards of fiduciary advice and financial planning. Abacus Financial Advisors will host a 45-minute phone session with you to clarify steps you can take to achieve your most important goals.