As the COVID-19 outbreak takes its toll on British life and the economy, what can you do to help others and keep your own finances in check?
The emergence and spread of COVID-19 has already sparked panic buying and triggered big falls on the stock markets. The Government has taken steps including:
- Offering three-month mortgage holidays for homeowners affected by the outbreak
- Advising against all travel anywhere in the world
- Telling anyone with symptoms (a high temperature and a persistent cough) to stay at home for seven days, if they live alone (14 days for members of households where anyone has shown symptoms)
Keep up to date with the latest advice here.
At such an unusual and unpredictable time, your first thought as someone with a background in police work might be what you can do to help other people. You could also be mulling over the best course of action where your finances are concerned.
Managing your money
It's true that the COVID-19 outbreak has put the country in an unprecedented situation, and there's anxiety on the stock markets about what this all means for the economy. But that doesn't mean there's any need for savers or investors to rush into big financial decisions like surrendering policies or cancelling investments.
The FTSE 100 share index is going through a rough patch, but it's been through times like this before and has eventually come back stronger.
It's certainly worth looking into your finances to understand how much stock market volatility is likely to affect you. Some investment funds - like Metfriendly's With-Profits Fund - have limited exposure to equities, so will be less affected than others. While 55% of our With-Profits Fund is invested in a multi asset fund, overall the With-Profits fund currently only has 20% exposure to equities.
The more information you have the better, since this will allow you to make well-informed, careful decisions about your money, rather than hurrying into something you'll later regret.
Due to the current situation all one-to-one meetings are currently being carried out remotely i.e. over the phone or by a video link, in line with the latest Government advice.
There's a lot of talk at the moment about the country pulling together and everyone doing their bit to help other people - especially those most at risk, like the elderly.
The importance of helping others and having a social conscience at times like these will make a lot of sense to those who have worked with the police - especially if you're now retired and you spend some of your time caring for elderly relatives, friends or neighbours.
A background in police work will have given you some valuable skills that will come in useful right now, like:
- An ability to stay calm in stressful and potentially dangerous situations
- Resilience to adversity
- Calm and clear communication
- A desire to help others
If you're looking for ways to help others that make good use of these qualities, here are some things you can do:
- Check on the most vulnerable (over-70s) to see if they have everything they need and if there's anything you can help them with, like picking up some shopping.
- Pass on the latest information and guidance from the Government and the NHS to people who can't access it themselves because they're self-isolating or they're not confident using the internet.
- Remind elderly individuals they shouldn't be socialising or going out of the house.
- Donate supplies to food banks that might be struggling to keep up with demand.
Just bear in mind that the advice at the moment is for all people - but particularly those over 70 - to keep social contact to a minimum, so it's best to check in on friends and family by phone, or by putting a note through the doors of neighbours with your details for them to get in touch. If you're collecting shopping for someone, call them when you’re outside and say you’ll drop it off on their doorstep rather than giving it to them in person.
As you'll know from working with the police, times of crisis often bring a risk of vulnerable people being exploited. You can help people out by urging them to be alert to potential scams - like strangers offering to help with their shopping but disappearing with their cash or card. This advice will carry much more weight coming from a police officer.
When it comes to paying for things, bank transfers and contactless payments might be the best option for those who are concerned that cash might be hard to access right now. Handing over notes and coins can also be unhygienic.
As with any incident you’re likely to attend if you were on the job, remind others that the best course of action is to follow advice from the NHS and the Government and, crucially, not to panic.