Will COVID-19 dent your wealth expectancy?

COVID-19 has completely changed the way we live, spend and save but what will it mean for our long-term wealth and prosperity?

Leaving home is a big step but in some parts of the world, it doesn’t happen until relatively late, when you’ve saved enough to move out. A survey revealed nearly 40 per cent of 21 to 37-year-old Singaporeans lived with their parents. However, a growing number are now leaving the nest early. The reason? COVID-19.

With the pressure of working from home, surrounded by family, taking its toll young Singaporeans are taking control. Last year, Singapore was the tenth most expensive place to rent a property but the trade-off for young residents is the discovery of simple freedoms, like being able to eat what they like whenever they want. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, it’s the opposite with the pressure of lockdown leading more young people to self-isolate and remain in the family home.

How and where we choose to live is just one aspect of prosperity that is rapidly evolving but what else will change due to COVID-19?

From new skills to new jobs

In the wake of the pandemic, personal finances have taken a hit and the way we earn is changing too. One of our 2020 consumer polls found that more than 50 per cent of workers expect their job or income to be affected by the economic downturn. With this, people are knuckling down: most plan to work harder to get ahead and 78 per cent believe they have the digital skills they need to thrive in a post-COVID world. Where upskilling is required, some are already one step ahead. Recent Hong Kong market research by Ipsos found that one in five have used their increased time at home to take on e-learning or e-courses. 

Two groups in particular – young people (18 to 34-year-olds), and those in emerging markets – are the most optimistic about life after COVID. Nearly 90 per cent in emerging markets are confident they can thrive in a post-pandemic digital world.

Many young workers are even keen to start their own business or take on a secondary income stream. “Our study reveals young people’s willingness to upskill, adapt and embrace entrepreneurialism, which will hopefully help them emerge stronger than in previous downturns,” Benjamin adds.

Young workers are not the only ones keen to take on another job or become their own boss. With 50 per cent of employees expecting to be made redundant or paid less in the months ahead, it’s no wonder people are looking for new ways to earn. Fear of falling off the career ladder has older workers thinking about retraining, acquiring new skills and adapting to the latest technology.

From challenge to change

Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl said: “When we are unable to change a situation […] we are challenged to change ourselves.” Surviving and thriving in the years following COVID, hinges on one of humanity’s greatest strengths – our ability to adapt.

Adaptation is happening everywhere. People in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mainland China, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Taiwan, the UK, the United Arab Emirates and the US told us that their priorities were using more technology, upskilling and managing their money better. For example, a key driver for 81 per cent of young workers was to learn how to have more control over their finances. 

While COVID-19 restrictions have made us rethink our spending habits, how we spend our time is also changing, and with that comes more opportunities to save. Pre COVID, many people were spending hundreds of pounds in gym membership but are now getting similar exercise walking around local parks and neighbourhoods. A slower, more home-based lifestyle could slash the constant shopping and nights out that eat into our savings– for now, at least.

Regaining long-term control

COVID-19 might be changing the way we live, spend and save in the short-term but what will be the long-term impact be for personal finances? It’s an intriguing question at a time when wealth expectancy is changing. This term refers to your wealth ambition, specifically the highest level of affluence you expect to reach (typically by the age of 60.) But is it still attainable in these unusual times?

If you’re an ambitious saver, you’ll aim to achieve peak wealth of USD1 million by the age of 60 - the global average goal for prosperity, according to our Wealth Expectancy Report 2019. It’s no easy task, and our report revealed that 56 per cent of us will fall short. Given the current uncertainty about work and jobs, many of us may not reach the comfortable retirement we dreamed of by simply saving over a lifetime. So what else can we do to ensure we bridge the gap between aspiration and reality?

The answer is taking more proactive control of your finances and seeking expert advice. Some are pro-actively managing their money quicker and slicker during the pandemic by using digital banking services. Fast-growth markets in particular are diving into this space: 91 per cent of Kenyans and 84 per cent of Indians want banks to help improve their confidence at managing money online.

It’s by taking steps like this that we can start to work, play, spend and save to achieve the wealth level we expect. Even in tough times.

See how people are adapting to the pandemic in our latest consumer survey