Those working in the health care field are being impacted on multiple levels when it comes to health care reform, as the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare) touches both your personal and professional lives. Yet, so many of the changes and their effects are largely out of your direct control.
With the tremendous uncertainty of the long-term effects of health care reform, you may do better by looking within — control what you can to help bring peace to your world. Begin by taking inventory of your assets, liabilities, income and expenses. Understanding where you stand financially will help you respond to changes and make decisions based on facts rather than emotions.
Focus on protecting your income. Network and talk with your peers to learn what they may be doing. Evaluate your alternatives and consider ways to diversify your revenue where possible. Purchasing disability insurance is essential, as well as life insurance if others depend on you and your income.
Following are four areas of your financial life that you can control, even in the face of broader uncertainty.
If you have steady employment, set aside at least three months of your after-tax expenses in a checking or savings account as an emergency fund. If you are self-employed with a variable income, increase this number to at least six months.
Debt and stress are often correlated. Reducing your debt can help reduce the financial stress caused by uncertainty in other areas. For existing debt, look for ways to consolidate loans and reduce interest rates. Pay down loans where possible.
Do not take on new debt for depreciating assets such as cars and vacations. If you don’t have the excess cash, you may want to reconsider whether the purchase makes sense for you at this time. Also, if possible, avoid taking on new debt to upgrade your house (whether for a remodel or a move), particularly if you are 50 years or age and older.
Many people cringe at the suggestion of creating a budget, but the truth is that a budget can bring tremendous peace of mind.
Review your current and ongoing expenses to evaluate those items that are no longer important to you (subscriptions perhaps). Trips that are normally planned on late notice can be less expensive with more advance planning. And many entertainment choices can be pared back financially by 10 to 20 percent without reducing their enjoyment.
Do you have your nest egg taking the appropriate amount of risk for your situation? Greater uncertainty in your income could be offset by more certainty with your investments.
Working with a qualified financial planner can help you determine your personal and financial goals, needs and priorities; outline a time frame for achieving results; and understand your tolerance for financial risk. An advisor with a comprehensive knowledge of diverse financial issues — such as taxes, investments, retirement planning, estate planning and insurance — can help you understand long-term planning and the big picture, which in turn can help put your mind at ease.