With how rapidly things seem to change, many of us may find it challenging to prepare for next week, let alone next year. But it’s important to take time in 2020 to be sure you’re ready for 2021. As a business banker at Valley Bank in Alexander City, I have a few tips to share on how business owners and individuals might prepare for whatever’s ahead. 

Stay organized. This year, I assisted 140 clients in obtaining Paycheck Protection Program loans, and it was pretty easy to see that those that had their documentation in order and at their fingertips, moved through the process more smoothly than those that did not. Taking a little time each month to stay organized will help you be prepared for any emergencies while you take advantage of new opportunities.    

During financial good times, save for the bad times. Because so many people flocked to the lake, summer started early here, which meant a lot of businesses actually thrived during the spring and summer. When times are good, put more into savings, because no one knows exactly what’s around the corner. Ask your banker to help analyze and advise a savings and investment strategy based on the goals for both your personal life and business ventures.  

Collaborate on your planning and decision-making. It’s typical to see one party in a business relationship or one spouse in a marriage do all the financial planning. Now is a great time to make sure that everyone who plays a part in your finances gets on the same page. From sharing information on what you have and where it’s held to having online access to all of your accounts, be sure everyone knows what’s going on. This will save a lot of headaches down the line.

Develop a relationship with your banker. The last few months have taught us that a relationship with your banker has never been more important. Whether there’s a project you see on the horizon or an issue you’re presently experiencing, keeping an open line of communication with your banker allows them to provide value in any financial climate.  

Look for ways to shrink costs without cutting anything. Refinancing a mortgage is a good example of a strategy that may allow you to save money without tightening your belt. Rates are at historic lows, so ask your banker for a few refinance scenarios to review side by side. You might be able to shave years off what you’re currently paying with little to no change in your monthly payment.    

Know what you could cut or change if necessary. COVID-19 instantly trimmed expenses, such as travel and entertainment, from everyone’s 2020 budget, but take a look at what other costs could be expendable should the need arise. Maybe there’s a boat payment that you could cut if you had to. For businesses, take a look at your lease and see if you could get out of it or do a sublease. Take stock of your expenses and make note of what you could cut out if you suddenly needed access to more money. 

Kevin Speaks is a business banker and assistant vice president for Valley Bank in Alexander City. He specializes in commercial and small business lending and has been in the banking industry for 12 years.