Hope for the best, plan for the worst. If the COVID pandemic has taught us anything that “sticks,” we hope it’s that concept.

It’s especially true when it comes to growing, managing, and protecting your finances.

As we adjust to economic, societal, and business changes sparked by the COVID pandemic – and construct a “new normal” for ourselves and our families – we must be vigilant with our finances.

Thanks to the government-induced coma we’ve experienced over the past 16 months – as individuals and as a global society – we find ourselves navigating uncharted waters.

It’s impossible for even the brightest and most experienced analysts to predict what will happen when the economy finally stabilizes into its own “new normal.” Any predictions regarding how the market will adjust are pure speculation at this point.

There is one thing we can be sure of, though: As a nation, we have increased our debt to record levels that are nearly incomprehensible to analysts and laypersons alike.

We can’t overlook the tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic – the suffering, loss of security, and loss of life are beyond anything humanity has ever witnessed. We can’t ignore, though, the fact that the pandemic was also vastly expensive.

As citizens of the United States, we must understand that the government’s debt is our debt. These aren’t just meaningless numbers that politicians toss around – every citizen of the United States, no matter how wealthy or poor, owns a part of the national debt.

The question isn’t whether this debt is real. The question is, when and how will we be accountable for repaying this debt?

We’ll be learning the answer to that question in the upcoming months.

Make no mistake, though – we will pay for it in one way or another. It could be through direct means, such as increased taxation rates on personal income and assets. It could also be through indirect means, such as hyperinflation, increased unemployment, or the environment in which we live and work as American citizens.

So should we worry?

Of course not – worrying is unproductive and leaves us less able to thrive. But we should be prepared.

You’ll probably hear folks say that we’re “nearly out of the woods” regarding the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects on our society.

That doesn’t seem entirely accurate. I would phrase it more like, “we’re finally able to leave our respective ‘bomb shelters’ and rediscover the outside world.”

That doesn’t mean we can simply pick up where we left off before the pandemic hit – chances are, this isn’t possible anyway.

We must slow down and assess the damage that occurred while we were “underground.” There will be fallout for each of us to acknowledge and address, whether personally, economically, or socially.

There’s much work to be done, and each of us must be prepared to adapt to numerous changes. Some of those changes come in the form of opportunity; others come in restriction or giving up something we considered central to our lives.

By keeping our eyes open for opportunities while preparing for potential obstacles and setbacks down the road, we can consistently pursue our goals without putting ourselves at risk of damaging surprises.