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Wealth Planning

How to turn the economy's reopening into your fresh financial start

A return to (almost) normal is the perfect opportunity to revisit and refine your financial goals.


As countries around the world work toward relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, more and more people’s lives are returning to (almost) normal— in particular the United States and Europe. Certainly, the Delta variant and waning vaccination rates are reason for caution, but it also appears that the worst of the pandemic may be behind us. The reopening of much of our lives is likely to bring a mixed bag of priorities, pressures and emotions.

Behavioral science offers clues on ways to maximize the positive impact of this moment on our personal, professional and financial lives based on a phenomenon known as the “fresh start effect.”

Leveraging this psychological phenomenon to re-examine your wealth strategy can help you “freshen up” your portfolio to help make sure it remains well aligned with your goals and priorities and how they may have evolved during this difficult period. 

 

What is the fresh start effect?

Behavioral scientists have noted that people are more likely to assess their lives and make meaningful changes around “temporal landmarks”—dates that they consider to signal new beginnings. They call this phenomenon the “fresh start effect.”1

A classic example is the way most people treat New Year’s Eve and make resolutions for the year to come. The same effect can be sparked by birthdays, anniversaries and any other events that people tend to see as a new beginning. For instance, people are 20% more likely to start financial habits, such as saving or investing, if encouraged to do so around their birthdays rather than “in a few months.” 2 Most recently, a study to be published in November 2021 found that people are more likely to increase their savings in the future after framing those moments as a “fresh start” (e.g., birthdays or the first day of spring).3

The fresh start effect works because we tend to see our past, current and future selves as separate people. These specific moments in time provide a break, a chance to leave our past selves behind and transform into our future selves. We start anew, with endless opportunities to define our future. Of course, that may not always be how it unfolds, but that is how we feel about these moments and those feelings provide us with an opportunity to make a change. 

So imagine, the power of this fresh start effect at the beginning of the economy's reopening. We’re not just passing a random date on the calendar, but coming out of an intense, emotional period when many of us were forced to assess and protect what is important and what truly matters to us. This can be a time for a literal new lease on life.

 

What’s your financial fresh start?

Have you found yourself recently reexamining what’s truly important to you? That’s what can make this the perfect time to revisit your financial plans, to get a fresh start with your wealth strategy and consider how your portfolio supports your personal goals and values. Think about what your money has done for you in the past and what you’d like it to do for you in the future. Make sure it’s working for you—and the priorities you have about your future—as we emerge into this fresh, new world.

Now consider how your financial plan can continue to support these priorities. Start by revisiting your intentions and goals, as well as the purpose of your wealth.

  • Do you want your wealth to be spent, divided, preserved or grown? Revisit your goals-based strategy to make sure it aligns with your current and future aspirations and needs.
  • What do you want your legacy—your lasting impact on the world—to be? Is there a cause that is personally meaningful to you? Maybe you want to support the next generation of research into mRNA or other breakthrough healthcare, environmental or social investments.
  • Are there now pressing needs that you no longer want to put off? Perhaps you want to get a business succession plan in order or develop a family governance strategy. Maybe you need help navigating changing tax landscapes or cyber security concerns or simply want to prioritize investments that help you spend more quality time with those you love.

Your J.P. Morgan team can help provide effective solutions and ideas to help you pursue whatever fresh start you might want—from recommitting to your existing plan to embracing new opportunities for your portfolio.

 

Take control

It’s human nature to desire control over the course of our lives. Throughout the pandemic, so much of those lives—health, travel, work, education—has been dictated by outside forces. Applying the fresh start effect offers a chance to reclaim control over at least our financial strategies, even if uncertainties may remain elsewhere.

Of course, that may not always be how it unfolds, but that is how we feel about these moments and those feelings provide us withan opportunity to make a change.

However, the time to act is now. These moments of self-reflection are typically short and fleeting. Before long, we’ll be back to the grind of school and work and largely returning to how things used to be before COVID disrupted our lives. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hit refresh on your financial plan and wealth strategy. 

 

1.Hengchen Dai, Katherine L. Milkman, Jason Riis, “The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior,” Management Science 60 (10) 2563-2582  https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1901
2.Dai H., Milkman K.L., Riis J., Put Your Imperfections Behind You: Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings. Psychological Science. 2015;26(12):1927-1936. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615605818.
3.John Beshears, Hengchen Dai, Katherine L. Milkman, Shlomo Benartzi, “Using fresh starts to nudge increased retirement savings, ”Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 167, 2021, Pages 72-87, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2021.06.005

 

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