As the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, many of us are experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety, especially around finances. And while uncertainty can be scary, it’s important that we don’t let fear drive our decisions. We may feel like most things are out of our control right now, but there are ways to take back some of that control. We’ve compiled our 10 best tips to help people get through this difficult time.
Tips for getting through the uncertainty:
- Take a moment to breathe. Panic will only add to your stress and potentially lead to rash decisions. With everything that’s going on, it’s important we protect our mental and financial health as much as possible.
- Seek out a financial coach who practices financial social work. There are many non-profit organizations that offer free financial coaching. United Way can share a list of local organizations that provide financial coaching. These coaches can assist with immediate needs and provide introductions to other agencies for assistance with food and finances. Most importantly, they can help with developing a preparedness plan for the future. While short-term thinking will be necessary during the crisis, long-term thinking is more than a luxury.
- Check what support your employer is offering. Your employer might have policies or procedures in place to provide support during difficult times. Make sure you know what’s being offered and check in to see if any new policies have been added. You should refer to your employee portals/intranets or speak directly to your HR team. Salary advances, salary-linked loans, emergency funds, and other forms of financial assistance may be included alongside your Employee Assistance Program.
- Negotiate with creditors. During this crisis, many creditors are deferring payments and are creating reduced payment plans. Your financial coach can assist with calls and letters, if needed. They’ll also know where trade-offs can be made.
- Research what government aid is being offered. The government is responding daily to the crisis so continue to monitor the news for updates. As of this writing, Congress is trying to push a $2 trillion stimulus bill to provide aid to some Americans. Through this initiative, many Americans can expect to receive a check of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples. It includes $500 per child. We expect to know more later this week after a decision has been made. For more information on the stimulus bill, refer to this CNBC article.
- Know your travel rights. Many airlines are cancelling flights. If they cancel your flight, they should be providing full refunds – even for non-refundable tickets. Contact the airline directly for this. If you want to cancel your travel but the airline is still flying, check whether your airline will provide refunds, travel adjustments, or credits. For more information on flight delays and cancellations, refer to the US Department of Transportation website here. For other travel costs, such as your hotel, it’s more of a case by case issue so we suggest calling the hotel directly for help. Also, be sure to check your travel protection plans or travel insurance where applicable.
- Avoid payday lenders. This is easier said than done when a crisis leaves few choices – pay a bill or feed the family. But a predatory loan with exorbitant interest rates will only deepen the cycle of debt. Instead, speak with your employer (see tip #3).
- Review your spending. Write out what you earn each pay period, your regular monthly bills, and if you have any debts, including credit cards, overdraft fees, or payday loans. Then look for areas where you can cut unnecessary expenses and get cheaper deals. Remember to factor in the areas where concessions have been made and reallocate those funds to more pressing matters.
- Set goals and save cash. Wiggle room in the budget may be hard to find in the near term but building a behavior that sets aside even a small amount of savings will be important to embrace for long-term financial resilience. Financial distress impacts the way people think and can result in poor decision making.
- Still worried? That’s okay. We understand how scary the world may seem right now but things will get better. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You’re not alone, we’re in this together!