As the workplace changes, so does spending

5 strategies to help you adapt whether your commute is down the hallway or the highway

By Shelly-Ann Eweka, TIAA Director of Financial Planning Strategy

At the start of 2020, none of us could have predicted the dramatic ways our work lives would change. From remote work to essential front-line workers, we're all trying to manage our work and personal lives in many new ways.

As workplace norms change, financial priorities do, too. I have some thoughts on actions to take to capitalize on savings opportunities and invest in your short- and long-term success through this shift.

Reallocate your spending plan.

With all the changes to how we're working now, your spending plan might also need an adjustment. When I lived in New York City, my monthly train pass was a big expense. Remote work can cut commuting expenses significantly, saving on mass transit or gas and parking. If you and your partner are both working remotely, consider whether you can get by with one car instead of two. And you're probably spending less on office clothes and lunches with co-workers. Look for ways to use those savings like boosting your retirement contributions.

Invest in your workspace.

Even if your commute is down the hallway instead of down the highway, it's a good idea to invest in the tools you need to be comfortable and productive. Find a spot you can claim as your workspace and set up the tools and equipment you need. I always advise investing in a good chair. If you're doing regular videoconferences while others are online, you may need to upgrade your internet service to accommodate more demand. Some employers will advise you on how to set up a home office or may even assist with expenses related to working from home.

Mind your well-being.

When you work where you live, you may find work taking over. To avoid putting in too many hours, which can lead to burnout, I schedule my "me" time on my calendar. I like to get my exercise in, so I include my morning walk with my husband. I also moved my office upstairs so I would have to walk up and down the stairs a few times each day as part of my "commute." You can spend some of the time you used to spend on the bus or in the car getting a little exercise. I even schedule a set time to log off for the night. Mapping your day this way can help you juggle work and family obligations.

Stay in the game.

Before the age of social distancing, networking opportunities were more common. Your employer may have also offered training or professional development opportunities to keep your skills sharp. Fortunately, those opportunities are still there if you look for them. Check with local business groups or industry associations, which may have free virtual events. I love to network and schedule calls and even "video lunches" with colleagues, where we eat our midday meal "together" remotely. Best of all, you can treat yourself with the money you save by not going to a restaurant. You can also take advantage of the many online learning platforms to up your skills, too. Check out the online training your company or industry association offers. If your employer offers tuition reimbursement or professional development allowances, the cost may be covered, too.

Think about the big picture.

Depending on how your work has changed, you may consider other changes, too. Last year, I moved from Denver, Colorado, to Charlotte, North Carolina, which reduced my cost of living significantly. Lowering your cost of living can give you more cash on hand to pay down debt, save for a big purchase, or boost retirement investments. And you can always go back to visit with a small portion of your new-found savings. I still love Colorado, so Denver is on my list of future vacation spots.

Remote work or new career opportunities may lead to new opportunities to change your life, adjust your spending, and move toward your goals. Now is a great time to reimagine your big-picture goals and start making a plan to move toward them.

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This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor's own objectives and circumstances.