08 Feb 2021 2:20 PM
As the pandemic enters its second year, what have we learned?
The World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020, coincidentally the day that Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his first Budget. At the time, the Chancellor announced a £12bn stimulus to counter the impact of the pandemic. By November, the Office of Budget Responsibility was estimating the cost had reached £280bn.
The last year has been a traumatic one in which much has changed, perhaps never to revert to the old ‘normal’. It has also provided some useful financial lessons:
- Make sure you have an up-to-date will – Early on in Lockdown 1.0 the importance of having an up-to-date will (or, in some cases, any will) was highlighted to many people just as it became difficult to arrange one.
- Relying on a state safety net is dangerous – The pandemic saw the number of Universal Credit (UC) claimants more than double to 5.8 million in the year to November 2020. The lowly level of benefits – even after a £1,000 temporary uplift – was a shock for many of those new claimants, including people who fell between the gaps in the job support schemes.
- Keep an adequate cash reserve – In a world of near zero interest rates, you may be reluctant to leave cash on deposit, earning next to nothing. However, cash gives you valuable flexibility and time to react to changed circumstances.
- Don’t panic – Whether you’re an active investor or simply make pension contributions, watching the performance of world markets has been stressful over the last year. The UK’s FTSE 100 hit its low for 2020 on 23 March, the day that the Prime Minister launched Lockdown 1.0. It was a dark time, but any investor who panicked and sold up at that point, when the FTSE 100 was below 5,000, would have chosen the worst time to pull out. By the end of 2020, the index was 29.4% above its March nadir. That performance was also a reminder of another lesson: trying to predict market timing is almost impossible.