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Last week was stock market nastiness at its worst. Prepare for the possibility of more to come.

How, exactly? Veteran financial planner Rona Birenbaum has some thoughts. In a blog post written at the end of the worst week for stocks since the financial crisis of 2008, she offered advice to working people, those approaching retirement and those who have already retired.

You hear a lot of platitudes when markets fall about stocks “going on sale” and such. Ms. Birenbaum gives you concrete steps to take if stocks lapse into a bear market and/or we have a recession caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

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Lessons from past market plunges - and my single biggest regret in reacting to them

Eight do’s and don’ts to protect your finances in these uncertain times

I know from years of experience that retirees and those on verge of retirement worry especially about stock-market declines. Ms. Birenbaum sensibly suggests having enough bonds, bond funds or cash in your portfolio to support your cash flow needs for the first five years of retirement. That way, you don’t have to sell stocks or equity funds that have plunged in value to cover your living expenses.

Any retirees out there who are full of regret for having too much exposure to stocks in their portfolio? Ms. Birenbaum says it’s important to understand that that your retirement date is not the end of your investment time horizon. Having stocks in your portfolio will help your retirement savings keep growing through your retirement years.

Finally, some advice applicable to all generations: Build up emergency savings. Having cash on hand to deal with interruptions in your income or investing setbacks isn’t just good personal finance – it also gives you peace of mind in uncertain times.

Subscribe to Carrick on Money

Are you reading this newsletter on the web or did someone forward the e-mail version to you? If so, you can sign up for Carrick on Money here.

Rob’s personal finance reading list…

How their lives improved when they left Toronto

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People speak out on how their lives became better after they moved from Toronto to other cities, including Hamilton, Montreal and Berlin. The big difference-maker for most is improved affordability.

Pension decisions gone wrong

Pension expert Alexandra Macqueen on the mistakes people make when deciding whether to keep or leave their defined-benefit pensions. That’s the best kind of pension – money for life.

Which banks deliver ethical investing options?

More than ever before, I’m hearing a buzz these days about socially responsible investing, which means investing in companies that do well according to environmental, social and governance measures. Interested in what your bank has to offer in the way of socially responsible mutual funds? Here’s some scoring of Big Five bank offerings.

How to remove a red wine stain

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Save your shirt or table cloth using club soda and salt.

Ask Rob

Q: My RRIFs, invested in GICs earning 2.5 per cent to 2.7 per cent, now require an annual withdrawal of $13,900 for me, an 80-year-old. The meagre return only offsets a small portion of the annual minimum. My daughter opines that GICs are a top-notch, safe investment, but I am not as confident. Is there a better, equally secure alternative?

A: The only safe alternative to a GIC that I can of is a high-interest savings account held within your RRIF. There are many different high-interest accounts, but only a small subset offer an RRIF option. Examples: Tangerine, with a rate of 1.1 per cent, and Achieva Financial, at 2.3 per cent. GICs might be your best bet if you prioritize safety and are willing to look at alternative banks, trust companies and credit unions for the best rates.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

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A handy calculator for calculating percentages in a few different ways.

Tweet of the week

I really liked the reply that the U.S. personal finance guy Ramit Sethi offered to someone questioning his very sensible, basic investing advice.

What I’ve been writing about

  • Lessons from past market plunges – and my single biggest regret in reacting to them
  • Stock up on stocks and retire earlier
  • Five things investors should know about managing their accounts in wild markets (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

More Carrick and money coverage For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group. Send us an e-mail to let us know what you think of my newsletter. Want to subscribe? Click here to sign up.

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