How to make decisions on investing, work and even buying toilet paper

Artur Widak | NurPhoto | Getty Images

This is not going away anytime soon.

From grocery shopping to working remotely to homeschooling kids, nearly everything in life is different. Almost all Americans are anxious about money, according to a survey from National Endowment for Financial Education.

“We are in a crisis,” said Dr. Brad Klontz, a certified financial planner and financial psychologist. “The pain and fear are real. It’s OK to be sad and afraid.”

But keep an eye out for opportunity, he says, by focusing on things you can control. If you’re stuck at home, scout ways to connect with your children or improve your marriage.

More from Invest in You:
Three ways to make an uncertain income more certain 
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This simple financial plan makes it easier to get through tough times 

It could be a great time to take a closer look at your finances. “Where was your money going before the crisis?” asked Klontz, a managing principal at Burlingame, California-based Your Mental Wealth. “Was it in line with your values and goals?”

Think about the things you can cut back on, and spend time creating a plan to improve your financial health when the crisis is over. 

Here’s how to pivot to new strategies and new mindsets.

Trusting the stock market

Volatility is a fact of market life, says Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E-Trade in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“In fact, looking over recent decades, the market has pulled back substantially every few years when there’s been a significant economic or geopolitical issue that ignites volatility,” Loewengart said.

When the market is rocky, it’s a good time to see if there are gaps in your portfolio and to look for buying opportunities.

How to invest under 39

Use your long investment horizon to your benefit.

If you are grappling with unemployment or are furloughed from work, that may dictate what you can invest and how much risk you’re willing to take on.

Those in a relatively stable situation should remember the tremendous asset that is the power of compounding over time.

“For young investors working toward long-term goals like retirement, getting invested now can pay off down the road,” Loewengart said.  

How to invest over 40

Think big picture.

All your life, you’ve made pivots and adjusted in response to market upheavals, says H. Jude Boudreaux, a CFP and founder of Upperline Financial Planning in New Orleans.

Preserve cash, spend less when things are uncertain, delay purchases such as replacing a vehicle or buying appliances. “Avoid selling from your portfolio when things are uncertain,” Boudreaux said. “You may need to change some things in the short term, but it’s not forever.”

Don’t forget the opportunity risk you’ll take on if you move into cash or less-volatile investments, Loewengart says. “When the market makes a comeback, you don’t want to miss out on the up days, especially if you have time on your side.”

Retirement-age investors may want to explore blue-chip investments that typically offer dividends in this low-interest rate environment.

“There will always be short-term noise that tempts investors to stray from their goals,” said Loewengart.  

Career concerns

Now is the time to calculate how to recession-proof your earning power, says Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. On the job, make sure you’re performing at your absolute best.

With all the free webinars and courses, you can hone skills or just learn what’s going on in the world. “Find new sources of work if your current situation starts to dry up,” Collinson said. “It’s really important to be thinking on those terms.

“Connect with friends and share ideas.”

Stay in touch with former colleagues who might remember projects you excelled at, which you can then add to your resume.

If you lose your job, don’t give into negative feelings for too long, says Claire Bissot, managing director of CBIZ Human Resources Services in Roanoke, Virginia.

It’s a shock, Bissot says, but you need to stay ahead of the game. Ditch your “woe is me” mindset and declare, “I can survive anything.”

When everyone comes back on the job market, ask yourself what will make you shine above the others. 

Eat this, not that

Restaurants are out and home cooking is in.

Along with empty shelves and empty aisles you may have heard that meatpacking plants are closing.

Here’s what that could mean for your budget and your menu. Meat prices will temporarily increase, says Stew Leonard Jr., president and CEO of grocery retailer Stew Leonard’s, but don’t panic. It’s temporary.

The virus has hit the Midwest, and suppliers and packers in Dodge City, Kansas, have told Leonard their capacity is down about 30%. The ranchers have the cattle, but the chain breaks down when workers are quarantined or reluctant to come to work.

It’s Economics 101, Leonard said. Tightened supply and increased demand drives prices higher.

On the bright side, look for bargains in seafood and produce. Leonard says vendors have excess product and reduced prices. And some cuts normally considered fancy are actually cheaper.

You don’t need to hoard toilet paper

Georgia-Pacific tissue plant in Palatka, Florida.

Source: Georgia-Pacific

Like a Manhattan parking space, bathroom tissue disappears the minute it hits grocery store shelves, according to Eric Abercrombie, a spokesman for paper company Georgia-Pacific.

We’re home more, so we’re using more. But how much do we really need?

The average two-person household uses 409 regular rolls per year, according to the data analytics and market research company IRI.

For a two-week period,  a household of 2.6 people would need: nine double rolls or five mega-rolls. Confused about the difference between double and mega-rolls? Consumer Reports has more detailed info on toilet paper roll sizes.

Companies are still making it and drivers are still delivering it.

“We’ve been able to reduce shipping time by up to three days,” Abercrombie said. They’ve upped production by 1.5 million more rolls a day, boosted shipping and receiving efficiency, and now ship 120% of their normal capacity.

If you see an empty shelf, try asking a store manager when they expect the next delivery. Then plan your shopping around that, Abercrombie says.

Taking care of kids

Access to childcare is a serious concern.

The economy — and now our health and welfare — rests upon a human infrastructure of care workers, says Tim Allen, CEO of, the network of caregivers.

“This pandemic has put a spotlight on a universal truth,” said Allen, adding that a lack of childcare “impacts productivity and the ability to work.”

Essential workers can’t work without childcare. “It’s essential for them, and they’re essential for all of us,” he said.

Allen recommends parents convey their preferred rules and guidelines around social distancing to caregivers.

Families should follow the usual precautions when hiring caregivers, and Allen advises taking additional care: Have proactive conversations with existing caregivers about safety expectations. Ask about hand-washing and hygiene practices, and definitely request open communication about illness and travel.

How not to fight with your family

Physical and emotional space.

You need both for conflict resolution when you’re sheltering in place, says Dr. Sean Davis, a marriage and family therapist, and psychology professor at Alliant International University.

Whatever an argument seems to be on the surface, it’s more likely from some underlying need — for sleep, food or fresh air, or just wanting to be alone.

Home can be a pressure cooker. “If things start heating up, encourage people to take some time apart to cool down,” Davis said. “Stepping away and cooling down will resolve most small conflicts.”

The importance of rituals

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