The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to create uncertainty in our world and in the markets. As financial advisors, we can serve as a calm and steady voice to help our clients navigate challenges with their physical, emotional and financial health in mind.

The passage of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act offers a welcome injection of financial relief for some individuals and businesses owners affected by COVID-19. In our view, the key areas of interest for clients are the direct payments; waived penalties on early withdrawals from retirement accounts; suspension of required withdrawals from retirement accounts; increase of the maximum loan amount for 401(k) and other defined contribution retirement plans; and the potential availability of forgivable loans for small businesses.

It’s vital that financial advisors help our clients understand how these CARES Act provisions can help their financial situation in the short- and long-term. Taking a goals-based approach will help keep clients on track and allow financial advisors to deliver the human-centered advice and guidance that clients deserve.

Here are a few tips for financial advisors to help clients weather this storm.

1. Connect, albeit virtually, with your clients. By now, we've all implemented enhanced cleaning protocols, good hand hygiene and social distancing, but upon reflection, we probably should have called this physical distancing and social connection. As financial advisors, I am sure you are getting creative about how to connect with your clients virtually—through the phone, WebEx, secure text and online access. As people get creative to stay connected, I’ve been amazed by all the “spirit of caring” stories I've heard about how our clients and branch teams are showing their support for one another—delivering meals, using new technologies and, frankly, picking up the telephone.

Right now, your clients need to hear from you. Whether you connect over the phone, WebEx, secure text or online access, proactively reach out and let your clients know that their well-being is a priority. Inform them about the benefits of the CARES Act, the new tax-filing deadline of July 15 and ask questions about their current financial picture and whether their long-term goals have changed.

2. Help clients prioritize short-term needs so they can stay on track to accomplish long-term goals. Right now, understandably, many clients feel a loss of control. It’s our job to help them stick to the plan that reflects their long-term, goals-based approach. When we take time to understand what's important to clients and their families, we can develop personalized strategies and offer tailored solutions to build, grow, protect and distribute wealth.

The CARES Act offers opportunities to help our clients with their short-term needs. For example, the one-time payment of $1,200 individuals may receive can be used for an emergency fund. By putting it in a low-risk, liquid account, clients can have short-term savings available when they need it for a large, unexpected expense.

Clients also may be tempted to liquidate long-term investments earmarked for retirement to meet daily cash flow needs or create a sense of security. Help them understand how to exhaust other options first, including the CARES Act mortgage and student loan relief, before tapping into retirement savings. For clients who need to make a withdrawal, work with them on strategies to recontribute or pay back those funds over time.

3. Bring in additional perspectives to benefit your clients. I always recommend establishing a team of like-minded professionals with tax and legal expertise as a best practice to serve clients. However, having a strong team is an even higher priority now, as our clients likely will need tax-specific advice in the months ahead.

Encourage area CPAs or attorneys to work together with you to deliver value for individual investors and business clients. Using complementary skills and philosophies, we can help save clients time, money and resources while assisting them in planning for today’s financial and tax challenges.

In Conclusion
As financial advisors, we cannot control the market forces—or the global events that drive them. We can, however, provide a sense of calm and stability for our clients, using a goals-based approach to help them make sound financial decisions for both their short- and long-term needs.

Ken Cella is principal at Edward Jones.