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It’s time to start thinking about how much your expectations for your personal finances are based on the economy returning to more or less normal conditions sometime soon.

If you’re retired, are you expecting stock markets to keep regaining the ground lost in late February and March? If your income or job was affected, are you expecting a call back to work before too long? Will it soon be safe to buy houses and cars, or put down big bucks on a deposit for a wedding or vacation?

It’s painful to contemplate, but a quick return to normal seems unlikely. For an overview of the challenges ahead, try this article from the June issue of Maclean’s. A quick summary: a zigzag recovery is likely until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, maybe in 2021. That’s long enough for many businesses to close permanently, thereby eliminating jobs and starving governments of much-needed tax revenue.

Here are some implications for your personal finances of an uneven, drawn out recovery:

  • Retirees may need to tighten their spending so they draw less from their depleted investment portfolios;
  • People just keeping their head above water should consider visiting a non-profit credit counselling agency for help with budgeting and staying on top of debts;
  • People who secured deferrals of mortgage and other debt payments must steel themselves for a new round of discussions with banks and lenders;
  • People excited to buy houses will want to think extra hard about their job security and the potential for losing hours and income;
  • Extravagances like expensive cars, luxury trips and posh weddings can be summarily dismissed for the time being;
  • Near-term financial goals start with filling up your emergency savings.

That Maclean’s article describes March as the month when the economy as we knew it died. Plan your finances for a bit of a slog to whatever the new normal turns out to be.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list …

One household, one car

The pros and cons of being a one-car household. The author is a woman who along with her husband decided eight years ago to go down to one car from two.

This cheap coffee maker rules

Introducing the Aeropress, a low-tech coffee-making device that runs about $42 on If you’re going to be making coffee at home instead of buying it at a coffee shop, an Aeropress is a great way to ensure you get a decent cup. We had one in the house, but one of our boys snagged it when he moved out a while back. Oh, and about all those Amazon orders you’ve been making.

The ten best websites for watching free TV shows

If your household economizing demands you cut your cable TV or Netflix, check out this surprisingly varied list of options for watching TV for free online.

Help for graduating high school students

The lowdown on how grads can receive the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, which offers $1,250 for each four-week period between May to August, plus other programs for students seeking work.

Has the coronavirus derailed your financial plan? Are you worried?

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Ask Rob

Q: I've been reading your column for a long time. Have you ever thought to become a financial/investment adviser yourself?

A: I’m a journalist who writes about personal finance and investing and that’s how I like it. I get to write about any and all topics related to investing, and I have daily opportunities to connect with Globe readers all over the country. I have literally spoken to or communicated by e-mail or social media with hundreds of thousands of people in my time as a Globe personal finance columnist. That’s my favourite part of the job.

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

A cybersecurity tipsheet from the regulator for investment dealers. Give this a read – scammers active in the pandemic, preying on everyone’s heightened state of vulnerability.

What I’ve been writing about

  • Pandemic Personal Finance Update No. 8: How to save $1,000 a month by working at home
  • Seniors deserve help with expenses in the pandemic, but investment losses are another matter
  • A look at the risk of losing money in supposedly safe parking spots for investing cash (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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