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The COVID-19 pandemic has people worried for a number of reasons — chiefly their health, but also their financial futures. Millions continue to file for unemployment, and people all over the world are feeling heavy financial strain and the stress of job insecurity. The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report showed that the U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs as of mid-March, which doesn’t account for nearly 10 million additional jobless claims workers filed in the last half of March.
So, naturally, many people are starting to feel stressed about big financial aspects of their lives: How do you pay rent? What if you were hoping to retire soon? How can you keep your good credit score when you need some assistance to make ends meet? It’s a tense and ambiguous time.
While most things associated with the pandemic are out of anyone’s control, below are five tips that can help you take stock of your current financial situation and make the best decisions for the future.
1. Categorize your nonessential and essential spending, then budget accordingly
A well-planned budget can help you take control of your finances and use your money with purpose rather than spending it arbitrarily.
2. Build your emergency savings
It’s important to have emergency savings set aside to weather unexpected emergencies and avoid falling into debt if you have a disruption in income, even though now doesn’t seem like an easy time to save. Still, consider taking small steps to beef up that account. If you’re expecting a tax refund, plan on adding it to your emergency savings. Similarly, if you’re spending less than normal on gas, beauty services, gym memberships and entertainment, transfer the amount you would be spending to that savings account.
3. Seek out financial relief programs that are offering assistance to those affected by the pandemic
You may already have been affected financially, which makes regular scheduled payments difficult to keep up with. Organizations like CBC Federal Credit Union want to help by allowing you to skip a monthly payment on your auto, personal, recreational vehicle or motorcycle loan with no fee. CBC will consider granting you a skip even if you have already skipped payments within the last year. Your credit score will not be negatively affected.
4. Remember, 401(k) plans are long-term savings accounts
The recent ups and downs of the stock market are making a lot of people feel uneasy, as many employees have their retirement savings in 401(k) investment accounts. If you can, avoid the temptation to dip into these accounts to get by during these uncertain financial times. If you weather the storm and don’t touch anything related to your 401(k) — your regular contribution or the actual money in it — the greater the likelihood that you’ll be on track in the future and the value will go up again.
5. Contact utility companies, mortgage loan officers, etc., to learn about extensions for bills
If you reach out to companies, you may be able to pause a few bills and make life a little less stressful during the pandemic. For starters, check online whether your utility company has already announced exceptions for payments. If so, call up the company to tell them about your situation.
As COVID-19 continues to affect people’s lives and businesses, delivering the service and support customers need remains CBC’s top priority. To help address your financial needs quickly, CBC encourages you to access and manage your accounts online or over the phone at 805-988-2151. CBC is also part of the CO-OP ATM network, which allows members to access their accounts at nearly 30,000 ATMs nationwide. Further, if you are facing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, CBC has resources to help you protect and manage your finances.
Remember to be aware of fraudulent emails or phone calls, particularly in these challenging times. You will never get a message from a financial institution like CBC specifically asking for your username or password, or other personal details, such as your Social Security number or driver’s license number. Do not share your private information with any source you do not recognize or trust. When in doubt, call CBC to validate the communications you have received.
Uncertain financial periods will continue to worry people — and rightfully so. Even if you usually consider yourself financially stable, ambiguous times often mean almost everyone ends up a little out of their depth. But remember that this isn’t the first financial crisis, and it won’t be the last, and realize that adversity can also present opportunity.
Written by: Ladan Nikravan Hayes, for CBC Federal Credit Union