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What does the economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) mean for your financial plan?

This is the question many individuals and families are asking in today’s uncertainty. Aside from the obvious concerns for the health and safety of the community, market volatility is stressful and economic slowdown may be hard on business owners and employees as we navigate this pandemic as a society.

Ballast Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) and fiduciary firm based in the Twin Cities, guides individuals and families to achieving their goals using financial planning and time-tested investment strategies.  We caught up with Managing Partner Paul Parnell to have him answer a few frequently asked questions during this period of financial uncertainty and anxiety.

Will this recession last?

Steep declines in the stock market have often coincided with a downturn in the economy. There are still many unknowns, but since World War II, 9 out of the past 12 Bear markets have resulted in recessions, defined as the market dropping 20% or more from its peak.

“It’s reasonable at this time to prepare for a longer-term recession,” says Paul Parnell. “It is hard to keep emotions out of it, but there are smart steps that you can make now to stay financially sound.”

Should I throw in the towel?

Panic selling or “capitulation” is what you begin to see in these uncertain times, but it is important investors understand some key points.

“If you have a solid financial plan, you’re already prepared for this ahead of time,” says Parnell. “At Ballast Advisors, we work with our clients to have balanced and diversified investment portfolios and we help to mitigate risk depending on our client’s age and stage of retirement. Generally, most people gradually reduce risk as they approach retirement.”

Of course, a diversified portfolio is no guarantee that you won’t suffer volatility, but long-term strategies are based on the idea that financial markets are historically cyclical.

“We start to see very high emotions in times like this, and people are tempted to throw in the towel,” says Parnell. “And while it’s very difficult to watch, capitulation can be a detriment for your entire portfolio. For example, after the lows of 2009 recession we saw markets increase 45-54% from the bottom. If you miss this opportunity, it may impact you forever.” 

What changes do I need to make in spending or saving?

In addition to your long-term investments, Ballast Advisors suggests this is a good time to review your budget.

“Discretionary expenses are the first ones to go,” says Parnell. “If you don’t have to reduce savings, don’t.”  Keeping with the philosophy of buy low and sell high, Paul adds, “Try to increase savings, as long as you have the proper cash reserve.”

With the mandated shutdowns, Ballast Advisors suggests you save money on travel, activities, dining out, and similar activities. You may also find savings by negotiating new rates on services, as companies may rather keep you as a customer than lose your business.

“Typically having 3-6 months, salary in cash reserve is recommended. If you are dealing with uncertainty with unemployment, you should increase that to 12 months,” he says. After that is established, Parnell recommends looking at opportunities to increase long-term investment savings.

“Market downturns are generally temporary.  You stand to make money on dollars you invested in a downturn,” says Parnell. “We saw it happen after 9-11 and in 2009. If you’re a retiree, and you supplement income from your investments, cutting your current distributions can make a big difference when markets recover.”

Emotions and Money

“I love Warren Buffet’s quote on the stock market and investing: ‘Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful’,” says Parnell. “You cannot tie emotions to decisions about money.”

Anxiety levels are high for all investors currently. But it’s important to keep perspective, and he suggests limiting your exposure to media that tracks the market volatility daily. 

“I cannot emphasize that enough to clients, I’d be a nervous wreck if I watched the markets on TV all day, and I am in this business,” he remarks. “We believe in staying well grounded.”

These times are hard, no doubt, however, this is the reason you do financial planning, to plan for the uncertainties in life.  This has worked in the past and it will guide you in the future.

“If you are looking at retirement in 5-10 years, you should be looking for a financial advisor, it’s critical,” says Parnell. “Your portfolio should begin to match what it will look like in retirement.”

For more information on how Ballast Advisors helps clients with personal financial planning, executive benefits, and saving for retirement, see




The opinions expressed are those of Ballast Advisors, LLC. The opinions referenced are as of the date of publication and are subject to change due to changes in the market or economic conditions and may not necessarily come to pass.

Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about the firm, including its services, strategies, and fees can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available without charge upon request.