Written by: Drew Feutz, CFP®
Where is your most favorite place that you’ve ever traveled to? One of mine is Italy. I love the history of the country and seeing the ancient architecture and how it’s incorporated into modern life. I was extremely fortunate to be able to experience things like the Colosseum in Rome, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, the ancient city of Pompeii, and so many other historical sites when I lived in Rome for 6 weeks during the summer before my senior year of high school.
When my wife, Amanda, and I got married in July of last year we knew we wanted to take a trip to the Mediterranean for our first anniversary. Italy is a country that Amanda has always wanted to visit and, at that time, it had been 9 years since I had been there. I really wanted to go back and be able to allow Amanda to experience all of the amazing things that I had when I was in high school. I’m someone who constantly tracks airfare prices, so when the airfare from O’Hare to Rome dropped to $600 per person in January, I knew we would be spending our first anniversary in Italy.
I immediately started planning an itinerary with help from an Italian friend to travel all across the country over 2 weeks to experience as much as possible.
Everything Started to Change
At this point, I don’t think that the coronavirus was even remotely on my radar. However, later in January it was reported that the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the US. Then things started spiraling seemingly out of control very quickly. Some cities in China went on lockdown, the WHO declared the coronavirus a global emergency, the virus continued to spread outside of China, and terrible news began coming out on the devastating impact it was having in Italy.
I think I still had some hope that the trip would happen, although the doubts definitely started setting in. I thought that things would blow over and we’d still be able to go on our trip. Alas, things just continued to worsen. It was discouraging. Not just because we wouldn’t be able to go on our trip, but more importantly because of all of the people who were getting sick and passing away from this novel disease. I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if it were to happen to someone in my family.
Unfortunately, we know how this all turned out. Having to change our vacation plans is an issue that Amanda and I are blessed to have. There are so many others whose lives have been so much more negatively affected by the virus that I can’t even imagine. However, I think there’s a learning opportunity to be shared here. Just like our travel plans changed, many people’s financial plans are changing as well.
At Market Street, we often tell our clients that a financial plan is a living, breathing document and that it will change often. That’s exactly why we encourage our clients to complete a financial plan update with us annually. Life changes quickly, no matter whether those changes are in your control or not.
I don’t want to compare my minor problem to that of anyone who has been affected by COVID-19 either directly or indirectly, but I do want to try and share a lesson that I think we can learn from my cancelled trip. I had already made an itinerary to travel all over Italy by train and had done the research to estimate the price of travel to and lodging at each stop. This is precisely what we do with clients’ financial plans.
But just like our travel plans, your financial plan will face challenges and unexpected changes, and sometimes there will be multiple changes in a very short time span. So many things can happen in a year that can have a significant impact on your financial life. This is why we work with clients to balance emotions and math and try to show them multiple different paths to success.
What To Do
Although our travel plans were a short-term goal, we model out financial plans for a lifetime knowing that they could look dramatically different as the years pass and life happens. So, what can you do when life changes or something completely out of your control happens?
Here are 3 things that Amanda and I will do as we adjust our travel plans and how they can relate to your financial plan:
1. Be flexible.
Being flexible when traveling often allows you to save money on travel and lodging and is necessary to remain sane when considering flight delays and other things that can make your trip go differently than planned. We have to accept that changes happen often (and sometimes are out of your control) and that we have to be flexible to changing our plans when they do no matter whether that’s in our travel plans or your financial plan.
2. Use our resources.
I’m a subscriber to many travel blogs since they provide tips and tricks to travel cheaply. I’ve already found a resource detailing exactly how to change or cancel an American Airlines flight under many circumstances. Market Street has written many blogs over the past couple of months describing how we are responding to the coronavirus and how our clients can as well. Additionally, we're always here to talk.
3. Be proactive about updating our plans.
We have two options: be proactive and update our plans or ignore the situation and potentially lose out on the money that we’ve already paid for airfare. We’re choosing to be proactive. Market Street offers to update our clients’ financial plan each year so that we can proactively adjust as life happens along the way.