Much of the U.S. retail sector has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic — one just has to look at the growing number of store closures and retail bankruptcies across the country for evidence.
That reality is all too clear for a client of Jane DeLashmutt O’Mara, a certified financial planner. The portfolio manager at FBB Capital Partners in Maryland told ThinkAdvisor about a longtime client of hers who, at about 50 years old, lost her marketing job at an online retailer in the middle of the pandemic.
“She contacted me the first week in May” about being laid off from her executive-level position that week after only about three months at the company, the advisor recalled. The client had been the main “breadwinner for her family” — which includes a husband who is still working but at a reduced salary and two young kids — “and now she finds herself in the midst of a global pandemic,” at the same time that “marketing positions are being shrunk, if anything,” at many companies, DeLashmutt O’Mara said.
During that phone call with the client, “we went through sort of like a laundry list of steps that she could immediately start taking to stop some of the outgoing cash flow that she had sort of automated in her savings plan,” and the talk also included her income stream and how to deal with health care, debt payments and other issues, the advisor recalled.
One way she could save money right off the bat was on dropping the payments she was making for lawn care, she noted.
Other topics DeLashmutt O’Mara has been discussing with clients during the pandemic, she noted, include budgeting, workplace retirement plans, deferred compensation, IRA distributions and insurance.
This particular client “felt like she had financially what she needed to get through this, but she was concerned,” the advisor noted, adding: “I don’t think that she feels that she has many opportunities to reenter the workforce probably for the next year.
I think she received some sort of a severance package, which is going to keep her whole here for at least a couple of quarters. And then fortunately we had been working with her now for many years and have been working together to build up a cash reserve and so the cash is going to really help her to, I think, feel confident to get through this.”
The client “wasn’t so much worried about her investment portfolio because she’s still pretty young relative to, I think, what she feels her retirement age will be,” the advisor noted. “But I do think that she’ll consider looking at potentially refinancing outstanding loans that they have,” she said, noting the main issues were resolved in a couple of phone calls.
As it stands now, “school’s out,” the client is “home with the kids and looking for work, [but] she did mention that she was able to find some kind of contract work” from a friend who needed help, which is “keeping her a little bit busy,” the advisor said.