Tips for embracing love and finance during COVID-19
A look at how couples are navigating financial, relationship, and family pressures during the pandemic.
Nota del editor: También está disponible una versión en español de esta historia.
For Andrea and Nate Sanchez, love was in the air in 2020. Unfortunately, so was COVID-19. As the couple planned an April wedding, the pandemic forced an indefinite delay. In late December, however, love prevailed. They wed in a COVID-19 compliant, lakeside ceremony in Florida.
Along the way, they took a significant financial hit, including the nonrefundable costs of the originally planned wedding and buying a new home. It took all their resources and money management skills to come out ahead.
“Somehow, it all worked out,” said Andrea Sanchez, 27, who works for Wells Fargo Bank in Lakeland, Florida. “Everything fell into place, by the grace of God. It was really like a miracle. There was so much adversity to overcome.”
A curveball for couples
The COVID-19 crisis has thrown a financial curveball at many relationships this past year: Newlyweds faced historic financial challenges for the first time, dating couples navigated social distancing measures, and married couples juggled work-at-home and child care demands.
Many cut back on spending — some out of caution, others out of necessity amid job losses, furloughs, and reduced hours. Overall, consumer spending fell by more than half a trillion dollars in 2020, according to the Brookings Institution.
From the wealthy to the middle class, the angst of the pandemic has cut across people of all income levels, said Maureen Ayral, a financial advisor for Wells Fargo Advisors in Tampa, Florida.
“This past year, I have assisted many couples in making ‘life improving’ decisions as they faced the pandemic,” she said. “I helped clients overcome their fears about money in general, as well as investing, saving, and understanding what they can safely spend while managing the many challenges of life in the COVID-19 era.”
Learning to work as a team
When Henley Ridore graduated from college in 2018, he and fiancee Julianna Del Valle immediately set a date for their wedding. A year later, they married and began their life together. In less than a year, however, the pandemic hit. “We were stunned,” said Ridore, 24, who works for a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Orlando, Florida. Instead of driving them apart, however, the stress unified them. They made tough decisions about their budget, canceled cable services, stopped eating out, and learned to cook together — which strengthened their romantic bond. “The best thing that has come out of this is how I learned to be open, honest, and less self-centered with my wife in our finances,” he said. “It’s not my money, after all. It’s our money. We learned to work as a team, and that has made all the difference.”
In sickness and in health
For years, Katie and Nick Lorimer of Orlando had helped their teenage son Justin deal with the challenges of having Type I Diabetes. Then, in 2019, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, and the family supported him through months of treatment and recovery. They were already facing big medical bills when the COVID-19 crisis arrived in March 2020. Six months later, Nick Lorimer, 40, contracted the virus and the family quarantined. Despite the adversity, the Lorimers were financially prepared, said Katie Lorimer, 40, who works for Wells Fargo Bank in Orlando: “I believe you always hope for the best, but plan for the worst. We stuck to our financial plan and set aside enough savings so we could respond to any health care needs. That’s why, when Justin was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, we were ready — because we had budgeted for it, so we could focus on his health care.”
Making time for each other
Amid all the pandemic pressures, the couples agreed that making time for each other was key to keeping romance in their relationship. That could include things like having a romantic dinner for two at home, taking a day trip to a scenic spot, or dancing in the dark to favorite songs — none of which would break the family budget.
“We always find something fun to do,” said Nick Lorimer, a Wells Fargo Bank branch manager. “And that’s what keeps the love alive, despite all that we’ve been through this past year.”
While their disciplined budgeting has been invaluable, the Lorimers have benefited equally from investing in the relationship, Katie Lorimer said.
“In our relationship, we always joke about him being the spender and I’m the saver,” she said. “But sometimes I can be so insistent about saving. Nick has helped me realize we need to spend some money on each other to help keep a balance in the relationship.”
5 money tips for couples during a pandemic
1. Have ‘the money talk’
If there were ever a time to sit down together and take a hard look at your finances, a global pandemic would be it. Be prepared to make tough decisions about your household budget.
2. Boost your rainy day fund
As a couple, have you saved enough for an emergency, such as a pandemic? If not, start now. Redirect some ‘fun’ money (eating out, movies, etc.) to an emergency fund.
3. Prioritize bills
If unemployment has affected one or both of you, reprioritize which monthly bills must be paid and which ones can be deferred or restructured, such as credit card or car payments.
4. Keep a critical eye on insurance
Review your health insurance coverage, including deductibles and limits, especially related to COVID-19. Save or set aside money to help fill any gaps in coverage.
5. Spend and invest smartly
If your job and income are secure, invest smartly in opportunities like buying a new home or refinancing at historically low interest rates. Also, as a couple, find safe ways to spend on yourselves and nourish the relationship.