Picture: 123RF/Thitiya Mangprayool
Picture: 123RF/Thitiya Mangprayool

We're all reading more than usual. And, based on everyone's social media posts, baking more than ever. I made bread and vetkoek for the first time and they turned out really well.

But while we're all becoming more domesticated, we're also having to confront some of our worst nightmares, brought by Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown.

Many businesses have had to shut and many more will do so. With closures come the casualties - you and I, among others.

I think of all the goods and services that my family and I have had to forgo recently: dry-cleaning, shoe repairs, hair styling, car washing, swimming lessons for the children - the list is endless.

These services were the bread and butter of the people offering them, people who still need to feed their families and pay the bills. And even those who are still lucky enough to earn an income don't have job security - a scary reality.

Money conversations are some of the most difficult to have under normal circumstances. What, then, when we're facing what feels like Armageddon?

A 2018 Ameriprise study, "Couples and Money", found that at least a third of surveyed couples in the US clashed about money at least once a month. It would be safe to assume similar, if not higher, numbers for couples in SA.

But life as we know it has changed and there is no better time than now to have serious conversations about money with our partners, and families in general.

Rework your budget

If you and your partner share financial responsibilities, revisit that arrangement to see what the impact of a pay cut or job loss would be on your household.

If you haven't yet, draw up your budget accurately and have frank discussions about what you can and cannot afford. Do you know what your partner earns? Is the split in financial responsibilities fair? Are either of you able to carry more financial responsibilities, if necessary?

Make lifestyle changes

Once you've understood how much money there is and where it's been going, you can make the necessary changes to your lifestyle. Re-evaluating your wants and needs and allocating money accordingly will make the biggest difference in your new reality.

The lockdown is teaching us one of the biggest personal finance lessons - that we can do with very little, if we really have to. Suddenly, an investment property or an extra car in the garage seems more like a burden than a luxury.

We only need the basics to get by, particularly in tough times - food, a roof over our heads, medication for when we're ill, and our loved ones. This time should be an opportunity for all of us to do some much-needed financial spring-cleaning.

Look into payment holidays and debt restructuring

According to a 2018 Dave Ramsey study, "Money, Marriage and Communication", there is a positive correlation between a couple's level of indebtedness and how much they fight.

In precarious times such as these, you'd do well to get your debt under control.

Financial institutions such as banks and insurance providers are offering premium holidays, breaks on debt repayments and funding to individuals negatively affected by the lockdown.

If you can negotiate more favourable terms on your debt, do so. Use any payment break to clear as much debt as possible. Certain conditions may apply, so do your homework and make sure you understand the implications before getting into any arrangements.

Be honest

We're all worried about the future and it's OK to admit that to yourself and your partner. Talk about your fears and help each other work through them. One comforting factor is that the whole world is in it together.

If you find your situation too overwhelming, seek help - there are many professionals who can assist you with your finances. It would be even better to consult one with your partner.

The Ameriprise study found that 40% of US couples who disagree about money say that an adviser helped them make financial decisions that may otherwise have caused tension in the relationship.

If you need to find a qualified adviser, visit the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa's website - fpi.co.za.

Sidaki, a certified financial planner, is director and wealth manager at Wealth Creed

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