Are you financially prepared for another year under the pandemic? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Are you financially prepared for another year under the pandemic?

Seeking financial advise is a good idea whether you're feeling hard hit by COVID-19 or wondering what to do with your investments in these troubled times.
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November 30, 2020 - 7:00 AM

While COVID-19 has hammered some workers who’ve lost their jobs or had their hours cut, the majority of people living in the Thompson and Okanagan regions appear to be doing just fine.

“We’ve seen some stats come out in the last six months or so that show 40 per cent of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque,” Trevor Perepolkin, a senior investment advisor with HollisWealth in Vernon, told “The people we deal with aren’t part of that 40 per cent. Generally speaking, this hasn’t hurt them economically, so far.”

Those who had $500,000 invested with his firm at the beginning of the pandemic still have about $500,000 worth of investments, he said.

A survey released by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada at the end of October found that only 31 per cent of those surveyed said their incomes had decreased while 60 per cent said their financial situation is about the same as a year ago and seven per cent saw their incomes increase.

Another survey by TD Bank, released in early November, found 46 per cent or Canadians were financially impacted by COVID.

But the pandemic is far from over. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he expects to vaccinate half the country by the end of September 2021. 

Whether it's 31 or 46 per cent of people who are suffering financially, the Credit Counselling Society of Canada has actually seen a decrease in its activities.

“There are some people who are absolutely suffering and struggling,” Stacy Yanchuk Oleksy, director of education and community awareness for the society, told “Some people are actually able to put money aside through savings because they’re not commuting and can work from home so, some Canadians are better off.”

Personal insolvencies declined through COVID, although those numbers have started to increase, Yanchuk Oleksy said.

Government support programs like CERB, companies allowing payment deferrals and the fact that creditors are taking a soft approach to collecting have combined to make life better for some average earners.

That doesn’t mean people should sit back and wait for things to change.

Yanchuk Oleksy suggested people take three important steps at this time.

The first is to take stock of personal finances – not what you think they are but what they actually are and what will happen when government supports end or bills become due.

Secondly, she advises, is to actually save money.

“Even if it’s only a dollar or two a month – it doesn’t sound like much but it does add up and it builds positive momentum,” Yanchuk Oleksy said.

While paying down debt is important, she suggested taking a bit more time to do that in order to create a bit of a cushion so, when something bad happens as it inevitably will, there’s something to fall back on.

The third, is to seek help from a non-profit credit counselling organization as soon as financial stress hits. That’s because, in part, financial stress can contribute to mental and physical health deteriorating.

The Credit Counselling Society has an office in Kelowna, and there are other organizations that can help, such as Launch Community Development Foundation, also in Kelowna.

Launch is offering a free six-week Zoom financial literacy program starting in January and cited the same TD Bank survey that found 34 per cent of Canadians are reluctant to talk about their financial situation. The Zoom session can be attended anonymously.

At the other end of the spectrum, people with investments have different stresses to deal with.

“People are finding it difficult to understand exactly what’s going on and interest rates are really the biggest part of it for those folks,” Perepolkin said. “Normally, during a scary time, they would just buy a GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate) for four or five per cent. A GIC is, max, one per cent these days so that’s been a very significant part of the equation because safe investments don’t pay you anything. You either have to take more risk or you have to just know you’re losing purchasing power.”

With the Consumer Price Index at two per cent and other commodities, like food, going up by four or five per cent this year, a one per cent return on investment means falling behind.

The stock market plunged in the spring when COVID-19 first hit but it’s now riding high on news that vaccines are on the way, even while many businesses and individuals struggle.

“Main Street and Wall Street are two different things,” Perepolkin said. “Main Street, for us would be, literally 30th Avenue in Vernon. We’re seeing stores that are closed and so certainly, Main Street is being hit by this but Wall Street is so much bigger.”

He noted that big companies, like Facebook and Amazon, have seen their net worth grow dramatically during the pandemic.

“Throughout this process, the rich have gotten richer,” Perepolkin said.

Where the market goes from here depends on whether interest rates remain low and whether more stimulus programs are launched or continue, especially in the U.S. Essentially, stimulus means the government is printing more money, he said.

“If and when they print more money, the market will go up,” Perepolkin said, noting it may take until Joe Biden is actually sworn in as U.S. president on Jan. 20 before that happens.

He doesn’t advise investors to jump on the current vaccine bandwagon that has seen stocks for companies like Pfizer and Moderna jump significantly. That kind of buying should only be done by people who have a solid base of investments and can afford to risk a small portion of their savings.

As for taking a gamble on a post-COVID world, Perepolkin urges caution.

“To make any firm assumptions right now about anything is probably crazy,” he said. “People have to wait and see and react to what happens.”

Post-COVID, some companies are going to do better than others so investors have to more cautious than ever.

“Air Canada stock is skyrocketing, essentially suggesting that the pandemic’s over, everything is good and we’re going back to normal,” Perepolkin said. “I guess it remains to be seen.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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