ARBOR OUTLOOK: Avoiding the pandemic panic urge

Margaret R. McDowell
Walton Sun
"Well, I'm runnin' down the road ... tryin' to loosen my load; Got a world of trouble on my mind ..." — from "Take it Easy," as performed by The Eagles
During times of financial upheaval and economic uncertainty, avoiding impulsive choices and rash decisions can be extremely difficult. But oftentimes simply sticking to our personal financial plan is our best option.
It's not easy. Who among us has not been tempted recently to make a sudden change of direction in our financial course? A once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic can have that effect on even the most level-headed among us. With so much economic, social and political unrest, it's only natural to consider a sudden departure from a planned financial path.
As a wealth manager, I often attempt to guide a surviving spouse through the financial aftermath following the death of a partner. I usually recommend not making any sudden or large financial decisions for a while and to allow some time to pass before we sell a house, move to be with children or grandchildren, or make other major changes in our lives. Doing one of these things ultimately may be in a surviving spouse’s best interest, but invariably that option will still be available after a few months or even a year. So waiting a while before we make a major financial or life decision is usually part of our conversation.
The same is true in our current economic environment. Some older workers have recently made the decision to retire early, fearful of contracting the virus in the workplace. This of course will lengthen their retirement years and can often stress their financial resources.
We can take Social Security at age 62. Some are opting to do so, even knowing that if we wait until our full retirement age (which varies for each of us) or until age 70, we will draw more in Social Security benefits each month. Of course, this is a not a one-size-fits-all decision: for some, taking Social Security benefits earlier makes sense. But often, if we are in good health and can afford to, we can benefit financially through our remaining years by waiting to file for benefits.
The pandemic is impacting each of us differently. And make no mistake, it enters our financial thought process and decision making. But it's smart to seek impartial advice before we veer significantly away from our personal financial plan. There may be ramifications we haven't considered. We can all utilize calm, objective advice in our financial lives. As David Rae recently wrote in Forbes, "Talk with a fiduciary financial planner to make sure you understand the pros and cons of the choices you are making."
So much bad news in such a short window is taking its toll on all of us. Before we jump out that window without a smart safety net below, it's wise to consider our situation from every perspective. Things may look considerably brighter and quite different a year or even six months from now.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.