103 Post-Pandemic Money Lessons: SoFi Members Share What They’ve Learned

103 Post-Pandemic Money Lessons From SoFi Members

The Covid-19 pandemic presented a lot of financial challenges—from lost jobs to unexpected price surges for toilet paper and antibacterial wipes. Now that we’ve all come face-to-face with our own financial realities, what wisdom can we move forward with as the world starts to recover? SoFi decided to find out.

We surveyed 381 SoFi Members to discover what’s changed and what hasn’t for them–as well as what lessons they think it’s important to take away from the past 16 months. Most of them (70%) were Gen Yers or Millennials, and most (84%) have already been vaccinated.

How Did We Weather the Pandemic?

So, were SoFi Members ready to move on, post-pandemic? In many ways, yes. Forty percent said they weren’t planning any big life changes in the next six months to a year (at least not any that they hadn’t already planned pre-pandemic). But 21% are planning a career change, 9% are thinking of relocating to a different state, and 8% want to get married or have a baby. Looking forward to that first financial splurge, 53% said their initial big purchase would be a vacation (out of the house at last)!

But while people seem to have a positive outlook and are eager to move forward, they also told us about their financial situations during the last year. Our Members were lucky during the pandemic in that 38% of them said their incomes stayed the same, and 32% reported that theirs had actually increased a little.

And What Can the Pandemic Teach Us About Managing Money?

Like many Americans, many SoFi Members saved during the pandemic, and of those, 54% say they’re going to invest in stock for growth, while 26% plan to put their nest egg in an interest-bearing account until it’s needed.

103 Money Lessons from the Pandemic

Nonetheless, like all pandemic survivors, none of the people we surveyed is likely ever to forget the experience. So, what financial lessons from the pandemic do Members say will stay with them even as they move forward? Read on for their actionable insights. (Responses edited for clarity and length.)

We Learned to Spend Mindfully

1.   Spend less and invest more.

2.   I tightened spending but spent more on the house.

3.   Don’t spend what you don’t have.

4.   There’s always something to spend on. No childcare, commuting, parking, eating-out costs… but it seems that expenses are the same.

5.   We adjusted a lot of subscriptions, coffee, and restaurant experiences to make it work.

6.   I’ve learned that being stuck inside makes me resort to spending money for a dopamine hit.

Recommended: How to Cut Back on Spending

We Realized That ‘Budget’ Is Not a Bad Word

7.   This was the first time my husband and I set up a real budget. It helped us figure out that with his new job I could quit my job and focus on my pet-sitting business instead.

8.   At least once, write down everything you spend to learn where your money is going.

9.   It became easier to stay on budget because I wasn’t going out as much, so I’m going to work on being as disciplined with my budget post-pandemic.

10.   I got a little better at budgeting because I had time to analyze my spending habits.

11.    Never stop saving and budgeting.

12.   Have a plan, stick with the goals, and—this is key—set timelines.

13.   I learned that I don’t do a great job of hitting my financial goals unless I’m constantly tracking them.

Recommended: How to Set Money Goals

We Found That Sometimes You Have to Have a Hard Focus on Finances

14.   I got super focused on getting my debt under control and understanding how my retirement accounts were being invested. I feel a lot more confident about my finances now and much better at not impulse spending.

15.   Save; build up an emergency fund; lower discretionary spending; delay large purchases.

16.   With no vacations or trips to distract me, I was able to double down on my finance goals.

17.    My family and I endured hardship when my additional source of income was removed and my significant other was furloughed. It made me look at my debt-to-credit ratio and spending habits and make hard decisions about what I need to do in order to get myself on a more positive financial track

18.    I think the best way to talk about finance with my family is to have an open-door, transparent policy. Keeping each other accountable helps us stay in check.

19.    We got more organized with our finances because I had plenty of time to devote to it.

We Finally Faced Up to the Fact That Eating Out Is Expensive

20.   Cooking is much more fiscally responsible!

21.    We have learned to do more at home—entertainment, cooking, etc.—and that has actually led to spending less.

22.    It worked out well for me and the family. Showed that we don’t have to blow thousands of dollars on leftover food in the trash. It’s much better to eat at home and try growing the surplus money.

23.    The habit of outside dining cost us so much! And having stopped doing it taught us to save for bigger goals!

Recommended: Examining the Price of Eating at Home vs Eating Out

We Saw That It All Comes Down to Saving

24.   Saving can be fun and you don’t have to spend a lot to do things.

25.   To be prepared to take advantage of crashes or crises, you need to have significant savings.

26.   I learned how fast things can change financially and that having a good amount saved is very important.

27.   Save more for another unexpected job loss.

28.   I learned the importance of saving: Cash is Queen!

29.   I must get my financial life in order, save more. SAVE MORE! I felt very unprepared for job loss and the global shutdown

30.   Banks will not loan you money easily in an economic crisis, even if you’d normally qualify for it. As this was my first such situation as an adult, I’ve learned to keep savings for similar situations in the future.

31.    Keeping healthy savings has saved us so much stress.

32.   I need a bigger nest egg!

33.   Save as much money as possible, always.

34.   I try to save as much as I can. It is almost an obsession, but at least I have something to fall back on.

35.   Increase your savings and diversify.

36.    Savings strategies became even more important. During the initial COVID scare, it became crucial to spend on supplies before things got crazy (toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant, etc.) and then save for long-term planning.

We Found a New Appreciation for Emergency Funds

37.   Three to five months of savings is very important. It gives you time to make wise decisions.

38.   It was difficult. Having an emergency fund helped.

39.   Having an emergency fund helped because it eased my anxiety about losing my job. (Thankfully I had a job throughout the pandemic.)

40.   Make sure you have six months of expenses saved.

41.   I learned how fast things can change financially and that having a good amount saved is very important.

Recommended: How to Start an Emergency Fund (and Why You Should)

We Reevaluated Our Priorities

42.   I cut back on work hours to care for my kids by working smarter.

43.   The quarantine made it easier to not focus so much on clothes and appearances.

44.   I learned to appreciate the little things more!

45.   More people need to learn the difference between needs and wants.

46.    I learned to look ahead to brighter things.

47.   Spending money isn ‘t as exhilarating as it used to be.

We Remembered How Important It Is to Reduce Deb

48.   Pay down debt.

49.   Pay off everything, then save.

50.   During Covid, I committed 100% to getting debt-free and followed Dave Ramsey’s seven baby steps.

51.   Save and pay off student loans.

52.   I am incredibly lucky to have benefited from the stimulus payments and dumped most of it into outstanding debt. I’m now on a much more solid footing financially.

Recommended: Creating a Debt Reduction Plan

We Learned All About New Ways to Work

53.   All the jobs that my managers insisted could only be done from the office were perfectly fine being done from home, with minimal resources allocated to make it comfortable. (I have a $300 desk, a $100 chair, a $100 monitor and a $50/month internet connection.)

54.   Balancing single-mom life and work from home.

55.   Our company cut pay and moved to a four-day workweek. We restored 100% pay, but kept the four-day workweek, which has been a remarkable change!

56.   Realizing that many of our jobs can be done semi-remotely.

57.   I now prefer working from home permanently.

We Took Whatever Positive Steps We Could

58.   I increased the cash I have on hand.

59.   I learned how much money I could save and invest by cutting back on dining and entertainment.

60.    Communicate openly and often, tighten the belt at times, and stay positive–things will be OK.

61.    I learned that my financial focusing and planning should stay the same after things reopen.

62.   Control what you can.

We Invested in Ourselves

63.   Invest in yourself and your skills. I spent the pandemic learning OpenStack.

64.    I learned new skills—how to cook and how to better coupon and save!

65.    Take mental health days.

66.    I enrolled in school full-time, took out school loans, and started a business (in the same field of my education) to make this life transition work.

67.   Meditate and radiate.

68.   I learned that I needed to declutter and create a capsule wardrobe.

69.    When I’m bored, I think of ways I can improve my space or a hobby I want to try.

70.   I learned the importance of having good credit and why it’s necessary to build it at a young age.

71.    Learn from other successful people. Read books that help you achieve the right mindset.

Recommended: 8 Steps to Build Credit Fast

We Kept Our Money Working

72.    Investing is important and worthwhile.

73.   I started investing on a monthly basis instead of waiting for a correction

74.   The experience taught me a ton to continue to manage my account through the volatility instead of burying my head in the sand. I successfully managed through it and made back all my losses plus more and ended 2020 with a gain. Doing great this year, too. I’ve just learned how to be a more confident and disciplined trader/investor than I’ve ever been before.

75.   Inflation hurts.

76.   When markets crash, don’t panic. Instead, I learned to buy into the crash. Likewise, keep sideline cash to continue to buy on big red days.

We Appreciated More

77.   How valuable a backyard is!

78.   We learned to figure out what we valued the most in the pandemic.

79.   Boredom was the worst of our problems, and that’s why I count my blessings.

80.    While I didn’t do takeout as much, when I did, I made sure to choose restaurants that didn’t typically offer takeout so it was more of an “experience” for me!

81.   I was glad I was able to save more.

82.   The lesson I learned is that Florida is amazing! I never liked living here growing up, but how everything was handled taught me to appreciate my state.

83.   I learned to appreciate the little things!

84.    Live life now.

We Found Out Why It’s Good to Diversify Your Income

85.    Multiple streams of income are a necessity.

86.   I had a significant pay cut with the same hours. I saved more, refinanced loans, and ended up coming out even despite the income loss from my primary employer. I learned how resourceful I can be.

87.    Side hustles are well worth the time.

Recommended: 25 Ways to Make Money Outside Your Day Job

We Valued Our Friends and Family

88.   Reach out to people as much as you can. Use Facetime and call.

89.   Family over work!

90.    Family over everything!

91.    We deal with the unemployment of multiple family members by moving forward as a family.

92.    I learned that family time is very important, and I took a closer look at the education of my kids as I realized what they were actually doing while supervising Zoom calls. I think it gave me time to think about their development and the importance of me taking an active role in their education.

93.    We witnessed many family members and coworkers pass away. It was really hard to move forward, but looking toward the end of the pandemic and planning for when we would see family and friends again kept us grounded.

94.   Stay connected to friends and family. It can get lonely quick if you don’t.

We Kept Our Eyes on the Future

95.    I have become more frugal and see how fragile the economy can be, so I’m more future- and savings-focused. My goal is to pay off debt, save more for retirement, and invest in real estate as backup income.

96.    Being laid off from my job helped me to see that there is no financial security within a job. I need to start my own business, keep saving, and let investment grow in stocks.

97.   We used the time during the pandemic to pay off high interest debt and save for a down payment on a house. It taught us a lesson to slow things down and really focus on what our goals are and the timeline in which we want to reach those goals.

98.   I moved across the country, got a new job, sold a house, bought a house, got a new pet.

We Didn’t Stop Managing Our Money!

99.   Stay calm and relax, but also don’t be afraid to take action.

100.   We were forced to save more, as there were fewer opportunities to spend. So we ended up investing most of what we saved. I was able to double my net worth over 2020. I feel extremely fortunate, and grateful to the investing books I have read recently and all of the companies and applications that have brought the democratization of investing to small investors.

101.   Saving will put you on the path to becoming a millionaire. Investing can help you get there.

102.   Don’t let the world stop you from getting that raise. Be strategic about timing and make the ask.

103.   Seize opportunities!

The Takeaway

Being prepared for anything means being on top of your finances. If there’s one overall financial lesson to be learned from the pandemic, it’s that you can’t manage your money if you don’t know what’s going on with it – consider opening a checking and savings account with SoFi.

SoFi Relay can help. We let you track your money, all in one place, at no cost. You get credit score monitoring, spending breakdowns, financial insights, and more to help you take control of your finances.

Learn More

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.


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ABOUT Jessica Branch Jessica Branch, PhD, is a New York-based journalist who has edited and written for such publishers as Consumer Reports, Hearst, Conde Nast, and Meredith, as well as a variety of mission-driven brands and nonprofits. She covers a wide swath of topics, including personal finance, health, food, and the arts. She still remembers her very first finance story, which was about what to do if an ATM shorts you--because a few months later, it happened to her!

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