Daily Outlook

‘Freaking out doesn’t help.’ 10 smart things to do right now — instead of panicking about the Dow’s plunge or coronavirus

1. Distract yourself from alarming headlines If you’re a relatively young, long-term investor, don’t even look at your account balance, or the news of Monday’s stock-market fall It is too difficult at this point to predict the market’s levels years into the future, when young investors will be cashing out accounts such as their 401(k)s. Money that people are saving for short-term goals shouldn’t be invested in the market.

So instead of obsessively checking account balances or worrying about COVID-19, work out or socialize with friends Exercise has even been linked to financial health; a 2016 study from the American Heart Association found that individuals who exercised moderately paid about $2,500 less in annual health care expenses related to heart disease than those who did not exercise.

2. Take time to evaluate your budget Many Americans would do well to examine their budgets — if they even have a budget at all, according to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at the personal-finance website Bankratecom. About two-thirds of American adults don’t even have one, according to the polling firm Gallup And about the same percentage say they would have trouble coming up with $2,000 in an emergency, according to the New York Federal Reserve

Some obvious places in the budget to make cuts: Cable TV, cellphone plans, video streaming subscriptions, or other monthly subscriptions that you may have forgotten about Is it time to cut out that extra movie channel that you don’t watch?

3. Why not make your own hand sanitizer The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at 20 seconds over using hand sanitizer But both aren’t always readily available, in which case the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Purell, which has been selling briskly, contains 70% ethyl alcohol. But many hand sanitizers are sold out. (GOJO, the parent company for Purell, did not respond to a request for comment.)

That said, you can easily make your own hand sanitizer and save yourself some money in the process, given that some hand sanitizer is selling for more than $100 for a 12 oz bottle from third-party sellers on Amazon. Anne Marie Helmenstine, who holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, posted a tutorial online for how to make it It may take your mind off the plunge in the stock markets on Monday, although some health experts say homemade versions may not be very effective Here are the ingredients and equipment you would need:

2/3 cup 99% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) or ethanol 1/3 cup aloe vera gel 8-10 drops essential oil, optional (such as lavender, vanilla, peppermint, grapefruit) Bowl and spoon Funnel Recycled liquid soap or hand sanitizer bottle

4. Check-in with elderly family and community members The elderly appear to be more prone to contracting the new coronavirus. “But some haven’t even heard about it,” said Amy Goyer, a family and caregiving expert for AARP. “For others, that’s all they’re listening to.” It’s a good idea to call seniors and get a feel for where they stand, she said. “As the virus spreads it’s more and more important to be in touch with people who are isolated,” Goyer said. “They may think this is minor and may not get themselves checked out.”

5. Be choosy about where you get your news Misinformation on Facebook or Twitter could cause health authorities to expend more effort debunking false theories about coronavirus. Companies like Facebook have brought in third-party fact checkers to cut down on the amount of fake news. Seek out COVID-19 information from the CDC or WHO, and financial information from trusted news sources rather than online groups. “You’ll feel reassured because you’ve done what you can to prevent and prepare, just in case you need to,” Belling said.

6. Organize your finances and pay off debt Fully 18% of people who earn more than $100,000 say they live paycheck to paycheck, according to a survey released last month of 8,000 workers by global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson “There’s a high correlation between high pay — and living in a high-cost area and having an advanced degree,” Shane Bartling, the senior director for retirement for the firm, explains of why so many people making a chunk of change say they’re still living paycheck to paycheck.

Do you have a student loan, or even some credit-card debt? Currently, Americans have a total of roughly $15 trillion in student loan debt — and graduate degrees are responsible for a chunk of that debt. Make a payment, instead of worrying about the market. Many credit-card accounts have compound interest rates of 20% or more. So money spent on that debt can guarantee high returns. Even paying student-loan debt, which typically has lower rates, can guarantee a better return than the market can at times, she said.

7. Amp up your retirement investing Have you signed up for a retirement account? There’s no time like the present Many employed Americans don’t have a retirement account at all. If there’s room in your budget, you can also amp up the amount you contribute to your 401(k) in order to get a contribution match from your employer, if it offers one. For those who don’t have 401(k) accounts at work, it can be fast to sign up online for a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. They allow you to save while receiving tax benefits for doing so.

8. Open a higher-interest savings account Many traditional banks offer low interest rates on savings accounts, but there are several online banks offering higher rates to consumers.Consumers holding an emergency fund in cash could be earning more than they are currently, he said, and setting up an online account can take only a few minutes. Look for a savings account that pays a greater than 2% annual percentage yield. On that note, some financial writers recommend CIT Bank and Citizens Access, an offshoot of Citizens Bank, Marcus by Goldman Sachs Synchrony and Barclays.

9. Celebrate your strengths, fix your financial flaws In less than 15 minutes you can find out just how financially healthy you are by taking a financial capability quiz. Questions like: Could you come up with $2000 if an unexpected need arose within the next month? May prompt you to adhere to a stricter budget, especially if you or your partner has to take time off work because of illness.

One rule of thumb: dedicate 80% of your spending budget to necessities like rent utilities and 20% for fun splurges like concerts and clothing, according to Northwestern Mutual. A fear-driven rush to sell stocks amidst coronavirus concerns may ignore the less obvious underlying problems in your portfolio. “Are your investments appropriate for your age?” or “Are you sensibly diversified?” may help you regain a sense of control over your emotional and financial health.

10. Finally, explore the art of meditation Closing your eyes and taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth won’t pay your bills create a magical bump in the stock market, and it certainly won’t act as a preventative measure against coronavirus. But it can help you restore a calm mind set to make more rational decisions. There are free apps such as Smiling Mind and one designed by UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. YouTube also offers guided meditation tutorials.

One of the most popular paid meditation apps, Headspace, which costs $12.99 a month, offers a catalog of 30-day courses on topics such as how to find focus at work and dealing with regret. They also offer single meditation courses that can last three to 10 minutes. “Our brains have developed to focus on the threat,” said Megan Jones Bell, a clinical psychologist and chief science officer at Headspace. “I think it’s understandable for people to go down a rabbit hole.”

Meditation helps people “deactivate that emotional center of the brain which is sensitive to negative reactions that keep us hooked to news cycles,” she added. That will hopefully help you process both ongoing news of COVID-19 and the Dow’s rough ride.

‘Freaking out doesn’t help.’ 10 smart things to do right now — instead of panicking about the Dow’s plunge or coronavirus, CNBC, Mar 10

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