Emerging from a pandemic that threw many lives into chaos, Shawn Lackie considers himself one of the lucky ones. The only real disruptions to life for the managing sales representative of Coldwell Banker R.M.R.’s Lindsay office were personal.
“If anything, work got busier,” said Lackie. “Real estate was one of the few industries that could carry on during the lockdown.”
The booming housing market allowed him to maintain his regular routine and keep his income flowing.
“I still had the bedrock of going into the office, even though none of the realtors came in,” Lackie said. “I just did the same work I always did.”
Nonetheless, he missed going out to dinner with his wife, playing in his classic rock band and spending time with his grandchildren.
Now, as life gradually becomes more normal, Lockie says seeing family is his first priority, but he’s also eager to do his part helping out the economy by purchasing some tickets to live concerts and travelling.
As restrictions lift, both financial and life experts are cautioning Canadians to resist the temptation to spend their way back to their former social life. Take some time and think about what is best for you.
Tracey Bissett, president of Toronto-based Bissett Financial Fitness Inc., says she is seeing a lot of revenge spending, where people emerging from lockdown “are trying to get back control by spending on food, clothes, travel and experiences.”
After 18 months of being cooped up and watching their bank accounts swell, people may forget all the financial lessons they have learned, said Bissett.
She suggests taking the time to draw up a new budget or keeping the pandemic budget already in place with a bit of an increase to allow for those returning to social and entertainment opportunities.
“You still need to continue to be prepared, because we don’t know what to expect going forward,” she said. “In the past, the rule was to have savings equivalent to three to six months’ worth of expenses; now, it’s six to nine months’ worth, just in case there’s another lockdown. You need to look out for the future you.”
Bissett urges people to stay focused on their goals and remember the pandemic lessons about what brings them joy, apart from owning things.
Lackie is on board with those suggestions.
“I’ve mostly seen my grandkids and my daughters by Zoom, or the occasional driveway visit, so I want to see more of them in person,” said Lackie. “Will I be going wild and buying a Lamborghini or a Porsche? No, but books, music and travel are on my shopping list, starting with trips to Ottawa and Kingston this summer.”
Lackie is grateful he was busy during the pandemic and didn’t suffer financially. But not everyone was so fortunate.
Finances are a big source of tension during uncertain times, said Bissett.
A recent study of financial well-being among Canadians, by LifeWorks, a human resources services and technology company formerly known as Morneau Shepell, found that 54 per cent of Canadians have limited emergency savings, and one in three said that their financial situation was affecting their ability to be productive at work, said Bissett.
“I’m all for spending, but not to the detriment of your own goals,” said Bissett. “Everything in moderation is usually OK. It’s also never bad to ask for help from a financial planner or a debt counsellor; no one needs to do this alone and, sometimes, it’s easier to talk to a third party about your financial woes and concerns.”
Raia Carey, a Toronto-based certified life coach, says as people ease out of the pandemic, they are looking for ways to feel grounded.
She says using strategies for coping with re-entry to fulfil personal needs can help people avoid revenge spending.
One way to do this, Carey says, is to make buying decisions that are based on mindfulness, rather than on impulse. An “accountability partner” can help make sure that you’re “spending responsibly,” she said.
Rather than trying to spend your way back to your pre-pandemic lifestyle, Carey suggests spending time thinking about the challenges you have overcome. “Write them down so you can see and absorb these accomplishments.”
Finally, she says, be kind to yourself, “especially in moments of stress and uncertainty.”
Lackie believes strongly in being kind to oneself and to others as well.
“You can go to a restaurant and hear someone yelling at the wait staff because their food isn’t ready fast enough, when a month ago, you couldn’t even go out to dinner,” Lackie said. “People need to dial it back a little.”
Patrick Ens, president of Capital One Canada, encourages Canadians to take heart.
“When people feel like they aren’t in control, it can be difficult for them to make the best decisions for their financial future,” he said by email. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving financial well-being, but as we’ve seen with our customers over time, with the right resources, tools and support, people can improve their credit and take strides toward achieving their financial goals.”
Correction — Aug. 17, 2021: This article was edited to correct that a recent study of financial well-being among Canadians by LifeWorks found that one in three said that their financial situation was affecting their ability to be productive at work, not home as stated in previous version.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION