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Make someone else happy this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is definitely different this year. In the past, my wife and I were always on a fast track. It seems like just yesterday we were chasing three boys around the house and searching for a sitter so we could have a night out.

We were juggling the activities of young ones at a time when work required me to put in long hours. Valentine’s Day was a pleasant break that provided a few moments for my wife and I to put our hectic schedules on hold for a bit and go out for a nice dinner alone.

Fast forward to today. Our kids are all grown up and have their own hectic schedules. I continue to maintain a full workload, but thanks to technology, the vast majority is done in the safely of my own den. 

As a result of the pandemic, my wife and I are probably seeing way too much of each other, which takes some of the luster off of Valentine’s Day. It’s likely that, even with their limited seating capacities, restaurants will once again be busy. But as mentioned, it will be an entirely different feeling.   

In years past, I’ve done Valentine’s Day articles advocating caution regarding how much you spend for dinner, jewelry and other gifts for your loved ones. All that advice remains important, but as restaurants begin to reopen, my thoughts turn to their owners and staff. My heart goes out to the thousands that are enduring a severe financial crisis due to the pandemic.

Just this past December a friend of mine organized a food drive through the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association and distributed 400 family food boxes. Those 400 boxes represented 4,000 meals to hospitality industry employees unable to work.

Thank goodness some of those businesses that survived are beginning to gain traction and are able to bring back at least some of their employees. As more food services workers return to work, I urge them to take inventory of their accumulated debt and develop a strategy for reducing and eliminating it.

For example, if your credit card balances have ballooned, commit to paying down a specified amount each and every month. If you just pay the credit card company the minimum amount due you‘ll never climb out of your financial hole.

But there’s something else you can do that’s even better than just paying a fixed amount or percentage above the minimum due. It takes great discipline, but here it is: Lock the credit card away in a drawer.

In addition to reducing your outstanding debt, you should work toward building an emergency fund. It might be as simple as setting aside $25 per month. But whatever the amount, it’s important that you set something aside. Over time it will grow, and when it does you have to resist the temptation to spend it on something else.

I understand that these simple suggestions may not be easy to follow, but that’s what’s needed after an unexpected financial setback.

If you and your loved one go out for dinner this Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to consider what’s happened to the restaurant industry workers. Through no fault of their own they’ve been hit very hard in the pocketbook. I’m sure they’ll appreciate a generous tip.

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E-mail your questions to kenmorris@lifetimeplanning.com 

Ken is a registered representative of LPL Financial. Securities and financial planning offered through LPL, a Registered Investment Advisor, member FINRA/SIPC. Ken is Vice-President of the Society for Lifetime Planning in Troy. All opinions expressed are those of Ken Morris. LPL and Society for Lifetime Planning are independent companies. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.