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Adviser speaks on investing during COVID-19 crisis

COVID-19 has strained household finances with rampant unemployment, reduced hours and, in some cases, lower pay. Everyone has been hit.

According to Kent C. Newhart, owner of ATA Financial in Whitehall, Congress and the White House acted quickly to replace income. The problem was with the delivery system and timing, which resulted in strained state and unemployment offices, small-business administration and treasury department.

The result, however, is lower-income households are actually better off with unemployment, plus the $600 additional Federal Unemployment compensation, which would have ended July 31, but as of July 1, that has been continued for those who have exhausted their benefits. In addition, Newhart said he had not seen an uptick of retirees looking to up their monthly fund distributions.

This all sounds pretty positive until you think of the millions of people who are struggling with the cost of inflation on the household budget. In this climate, how can you continue investing in your 401(k) or college funds without winding up in the poorhouse?

According to Newhart, identifying your needs is paramount to making good decisions.

“You need to take care of your core,” he said, meaning home and family.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need extra money for the household expenses but also need to save for three kids’ college education, concentrate on the oldest one’s fund. Trim your household budget as best you can and contribute a smaller amount to the others as necessary. By the time the others grow up, this crisis should be past. The same goes with a 401(k) - lower your contributions to take care of yourself until you can return to normal contributions.

Newhart added, “Don’t panic,” because fear leads to bad decisions.

“We just came off a nine-year bull market, and it’s already starting to return. Each time it drops, it creates a significant opportunity to shift investments,” he said.

For example, the airlines are doing poorly now, but we know they’ll have to come back. Keep that train of thought in mind when you invest. See what types of enterprises are due to come back and those that may not, he added.

The thing to remember about investing is that dips and rises are going to happen.

“Plan for that,” Newhart said.

There will be times you need to change strategy with your investments. The important point is you keep investing for the long term.

If you, like a lot of people, don’t feel confident enough to invest on your own, there’s always help available. Fiduciary companies such as ATA work on a non-commission basis to help manage your wealth. They don’t get paid unless you do.

Above all, don’t let fear reign over your financial decisions during this pandemic and beyond.