COVID-19 and the resulting recession have been affecting everyone — including 90-year-old investing legend Warren Buffett.
At his massive conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the pandemic “has adversely affected nearly all of our operations, although the effects are varying significantly,” the company said in its latest quarterly earnings release in early November.
But even with the challenges, Berkshire reported an 82% jump in net profit for the July-through-September quarter — so, billionaire Buffett would seem to be weathering the crisis just fine, thank you.
You can, too, if you follow his lead. Here are takeaways from six bits of Buffett wisdom to protect your money as the virus keeps raging.
1. Capitalize on low interest rates
Buffett became one of the richest people on the planet by taking advantage of opportunities. During the pandemic, he has pointed to fantastic opportunities for borrowers, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s response to the COVID crisis.
The Fed “did the right thing” by cutting a key interest rate almost to zero in response to the virus, Buffett says. Other rates have tumbled like dominoes throughout the economy.
“This is a very good time to borrow money, which means it may not be such a great time to lend money, but it’s good for the country that it’s a good time to borrow money,” he said during Berkshire Hathaway’s online shareholders meeting last May.
How you can be like Buffett: If you’re a homebuyer or homeowner and have a solid credit score, grab one of today’s ultra-low mortgage rates while you can.
At the moment you can find rates on new and refinance mortgages at 2.75% or lower, if you shop around and compare mortgage offers from multiple lenders.
2. Keep your guard up
They don’t call Nebraska native Buffett the Oracle of Omaha for nothing. The multibillionaire told an interviewer in March of last year: “I’ve always felt a pandemic would happen sometime.”
In 2019, he warned his Berkshire shareholders in a letter that the world was due for a “megacatastrophe,” some kind of “total surprise” that would dwarf the devastation from hurricanes Katrina and Michael.
Buffett wrote that the monster disaster would lead to massive losses for his company, which is big in insurance (it owns Geico and other carriers) — but Berkshire would be ready for business the next day, he said.
How you can be like Buffett: You, too, can be ready for whatever comes — by buying life insurance, to provide financial protection for your loved ones. Sales of policies for family breadwinners has spiked amid deaths from COVID.
You can easily go online and find multiple life insurance offers tailored to your family’s needs and costing as little as $1 a day for $1 million in coverage.
3. Don’t carry credit card balances
As layoffs have skyrocketed during the pandemic, some Americans have found themselves forced to pile on more credit card debt.
Turning to credit cards because of financial hardship is one thing, but Buffett says some people use plastic as “a piggy bank to be raided.”
During the virtual shareholders meeting, he talked about a friend who came into a windfall and asked for advice on what to do with it. She also had credit card debt — at 18% interest.
“If I owed any money at 18%, the first thing I’d do with any money I had would be to pay it off,” Buffett said he told her. “You can’t go through life borrowing money at those rates and be better off.”
How you can be like Buffett: When credit card debt becomes overwhelming, one first step toward getting rid of it is to roll it into a debt consolidation loan.
You’ll simplify your bills and slash yout interest costs, to help pay off the debt faster. Instead of 18%, you might find yourself paying as little as 5.95% APR.
4. Do your homework with stocks
The coronavirus crisis is ravaging entire industries, including retail, restaurants and entertainment. Buffett decided the damage to one particular industry was more than he could bear as an investor.
“The airline business — and I may be wrong, and I hope I’m wrong — changed in a major way,” he told his shareholders. That was how he explained why Berkshire sold off all the airline stocks it owned.
Buffett says people have been discouraged from flying, so “the world has changed for the airlines.”
How you can be like Buffett: Investors who do their homework have been rewarded during the pandemic as the stock market has marched to new all-time highs. Plenty of well-regarded investing apps can help you make smart choices.
One popular app allows you to round up your purchases and invest your spare change, in portfolios that automatically rebalance to the market’s ups and downs.
5. Stick to your long-term plan
Warren Buffett says he’s confident the U.S. economy will bounce back from the COVID recession.
“Nothing can basically stop America,” he said during the online meeting. “We haven’t really faced anything that quite resembles this problem, but we faced tougher problems. The American miracle, the American magic has always prevailed, and it will do so again.”
But Buffett also said no one knows what’s going to happen, so investors should brace themselves for a potentially long recovery. He says they’ll get a “fine result” if they hold onto stocks long-term.
How you can be like Buffett: Financial planning services are more affordable and convenient than you might think, and can help you sit tight and stay focused with your investments.
Today, you can connect with a certified financial planner online and inexpensively, to keep you on track toward your long-term goals
6. Demand help if you need it
Buffett says the coronavirus has thrust the U.S. into an “economic war,” and many small businesses have become casualties. He urged Congress to provide more help.
“We’ve shut down a lot of people in this particular induced recession and others are prospering, and I think the country owes it to the really millions of small businesspeople,” Buffett told CNBC in December..
A COVID-19 rescue package approved in late December included funding for $284 billion in new “paycheck protection” small business loans. Now, President Joe Biden wants to provide $15 billion in grant money for more than 1 million hard-hit businesses.
How you can be like Buffett: If you’re a business owner or a family breadwinner in financial distress, look for sources of relief — and take advantage of what’s out there.
That means, for example, if you’ve got federal student loan debt, don’t make payments until October, when the government’s moratorium is currently scheduled to end. Private loans can be refinanced at today’s sharply lower interest rates.