COVIDiaries: 33-year-old chemical engineer cuts spending and shares investing advice

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In the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, many people find their personal finances in complete upheaval. We want to share real stories of how people are coping with the crisis. 

Our new series, the “COVIDiaries” will share individual experiences with how the pandemic is impacting income, savings, debts, and more. You can read more here. We hope you find these stories relatable and reassuring, even if they do nothing more than show you that you are not alone. 

We are all in this together.

If you would like to share your experience of how the Coronavirus is impacting your finances, please fill out the form here

Neil, 33, from Calgary, Alberta

What do you do for work? Has the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted your income in reduced hours, layoffs, work from home or in another way?

I am a Chemical Engineer. My spouse is virtually laid-off. She does not have an ROE yet but she has been asked to not charge hours to overhead or any project implying she will not be paid any more. I am still working but almost all projects are on hold indefinitely.

How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your spending? Are you spending more or less right now? What are you buying and why?

Discretionary spending is virtually nil, like our weekly brunch or shopping online for electronics, clothes, etc. Staples spending is higher because the of groceries has risen. We are driving less so we are not impacted by the cheaper fuel rates.

What about your debts? Are you incurring debt to cope with reduced pay or increased costs? Or are you finding relief in lower interest rates?

I have debt but I am able to manage the debt by paying down as per my schedule. Paying down debt has always been a priority for me. I have benefited from the lower prime rates as my mortgage is on a variable rate. I have seen a 1%-point cut.

Are you concerned about what will happen to your savings and investments at this time? Is this detrimental to your long-term wealth or a once in a lifetime opportunity to get into the stock market? Will you recover from this crisis or be richer or poorer because of it?

I am an aggressive investor with 95% exposure to equities. I am down 200k but I am not too concerned. I have been buying index funds like HXQ, HXT, or HXS every opportunity I have for when the markets fall. I know for a fact that this is NOT the end of the world. Central banks across the world will enhance monetary policy to expedite quantitative easing and the bear market should not last longer than a year

Did the pandemic force you to cancel any trips or special events? How did that impact your bank account (and your mental health!)

I was naive to book flights for travel in December in January this year. The flights were about 7k. It was poor decision making on my part but then again we are facing a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic that I didn’t foresee would grow exponentially.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic made you realize anything unexpected about your personal finances? Did you find vulnerabilities or are you more secure than you thought? Will it change how you see and manage money going forward?

Yes! I have learned the true value of index funds. Over the past three years, I have been slowly moving away from individual stocks. I still have 10 individual stocks in my portfolio that have taken a significant beating in the current bear market and I would have been a lot more confident about my finances had I sold them when I had the opportunity.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would like to tell all readers to continue to invest their disposable cash in the bear market. Cut discretionary spending to virtually nothing and use that money to invest in equities. Sell bonds and buy equities every time the market falls. All governments want to be re-elected. They will do their best to ensure business and markets grow. The bear market was due and the inverted yield curve had predicted it.

Share how your personal finances are being impacted by the Coronavirus here

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