The turbulent markets created by COVID-19 have given investors pause, but moments like these also give us a chance to be introspective.
And while a sense of alarm or panic is a natural reaction to this anxiety-inducing interruption to daily life, introspection and planning seems to be the way forward, says Terence Chow, CEO, RBC Wealth Management Asia. “We don't know what we don't know … something (disruptive) can always come out of left field," he says.
It's an emerging trend Chow has noticed as the pandemic has caused more people to stay home, bringing families closer together.
“They're spending more time with each other and talking to each other more openly about money, which in Asian cultures is interesting ... they tend to keep cards close to their chest," says Chow.
It's a trend Vivian Kiang, head of wealth planning at RBC Wealth Management in Asia, has identified as well. She says a large number of her clients have family in Canada and a business in China and are used to flying between the two continents. But the pandemic changed that dynamic.
“It sounds like a very simple thing, but it's never happened to that individual," says Kiang. Slowing down and staying in one place has given them time to think about things they maybe didn't have time for in the past, like reviewing plans they already have in place.
It's something she recommends all clients should be thinking about right now. Stock markets will find their normal, eventually, and life will do the same. But Kiang sees this moment we're living in as an opportunity for families to have these conversations and think about wealth and legacy within both the context of short-term and long-term planning.
“Family situations change," says Kiang. “How you feel about giving to your family or your society (may be) very different from the way you thought 20 years ago."
Here are five things you should be thinking about within the context of your overall wealth planning strategies:
1. Revisit your wealth plan with your financial advisor
Health is at the forefront of everyone's mind, says Chow, not just personal health but financial health. “Especially with the economy being hit by the pandemic, they're wondering do they have enough, have they saved enough? Are they prepared? What happens if their businesses don't quite get back to where they used to be? What does that mean? Do they need to sell their business? Are they looking at dipping into savings?"
All these questions are stemming from the reality that even with a solid wealth plan, many investors have experienced a hit in their investments or net worth during this market turbulence. But as Chow points out, the best way to weather the uncertainty is to take a step back, look at your financial health and review your plan for the way forward. That's where you see the opportunities, says Chow.
2. Diversify your portfolio
Market downturns have a tendency to cause some investors to rethink their strategies, says Kiang, especially those with holdings concentrated in just a few types of assets. “Our recommendation, in general, is don't put all your eggs into one basket," says Kiang.
"Well-diversified portfolios," adds Kiang, "that include cash holdings as well as a combination of stocks, bonds and real estate from a variety of countries and regions, may help reduce volatility and mitigate risk.
3. Build insurance into your plan to protect yourself and your legacy
Kiang says while insurance isn't known for high returns, it's times like these where having it in place can help assure you your family will be protected in times of need. But it also matters where that insurance comes from.
“Investors should be putting a lot more effort into studying the background of the company (and asking) is it an insurance company that will survive 20 to 30 years after my lifetime?" says Kiang. She calls it a habit change – so often it's easy to just continue with whatever seems to be working but now is the time to do your research and make sure the company is financially sound and capable of protecting generations to come.
4. Look for strategic opportunities in a down market
“Tax-loss harvesting is not as strong of a focal point here in Asia because the effective tax rates are very low relative to other parts of the world, like Canada, the U.S. or UK." says Chow. “But to the extent that there are children, grandchildren in higher tax jurisdictions, there (may be) an opportunity there."
At its core, looking for strategic opportunities is part of a wider plan to generate, preserve and protect wealth for future generations. Work with your wealth planner to see where those opportunities lie.
5. Explore how charitable giving fits within your legacy
Chow says philanthropy is an emerging trend in the East, one that's driven by an increasingly globalised generation. “It's exactly these kinds of moments that help get families to take pause and realise it's not just about the rat race or making the next million or billion," says Chow. “It's about how do I make a difference in my family's lives? How do I make a difference in the communities that I grew up in and how do I give back?"
But Chow says that while the current crisis may create an urgency surrounding giving, it's important to be thoughtful and strategic and understand how that fits within the family legacy.
The bottom line
Chow adds that, if anything, the turbulent markets and the disruption to everyday life are good reminders that a long-term outlook is the best way to overcome short-term obstacles. Setting goals and consistently revisiting your plan can help weather the storm. Balance reaction with introspection. Because for family legacies, the future will always be unpredictable.