How do you protect yourself financially from the impact of COVID 19?: As the country focuses on the spread of the Coronavirus, communities across the U.S. are impacted by the closure of businesses, schools, events, churches, etc. And in a lot of cases, many people are quarantined. While these requirements are probably necessary it is causing people to have some major financial concerns. Even though many aspects of our personal financial life are out of our control right now, there are financial moves you can make to protect yourself during the short and long term.
How do you protect yourself financially from the impact of COVID 19?
Don’t Sell Your Investments Out of Panic
If you have watched the stock market plunge in March this has likely caused your 401(k) to decline as well. One thing you absolutely do not want to do is sell any stock-based investments right now out of fear. Selling stocks after a huge decline in the market is the worst thing you can do to your long-term financial goals. Remember, the goal of investing is to buy low and sell high. If you are panic selling, you are doing just the opposite. This is not the time to make emotional-based decisions when it comes to your stock investments. This isn’t the first time the market has dropped, and it probably won’t be the last.
If You Are Unable to Pay Your Bills Contact Your Lenders
If you have lost your job or even furloughed and can’t pay your bills, contact those that service your debt and let them know your situation. They may be able to offer you some options to help like waiving late fees or delaying or even skipping some payments. One of our tips includes asking to change the date of your payments, requesting a different payment plan, or even payment extensions. It never hurts to ask!
Don’t Over-Purchase Items
I’m sure you have heard all the stories about the run on toilet paper and other essential items. While it’s OK to stock up on some items in case you are isolated for a while, make sure you are not over-preparing. Only buy what is reasonable for you and your family. Also, don’t over-buy on credit. Using a credit card to overbuy can definitely do you more harm than good.
What Do You Do If You Lose Your Income?
Every state will vary in the programs they offer to help those families financially impacted by the coronavirus. Review your state’s unemployment programs to find out what works best for you. This link can lead you to your state’s unemployment policies to see if you qualify for any state or local assistance. (https://www.dol.gov/general/location).
Take Advantage of these Historic Low-Interest Rates
We now have some of the lowest borrowing costs in history so it may be time to take advantage of these low rates. The most significant example is with first mortgages. The fixed-rate mortgage rate is near a record low of 3.47% and some people may find an even lower rate. This downtrend may even extend beyond mortgages. If you currently have high-interest debt, you may want to consider looking into debt consolidation with a personal loan or other forms of borrowing like a home equity loan or auto loan.
Watch Out for Scam Attempts
Scammers are always looking for opportunities to take advantage of vulnerable or older adults, especially in times of emergencies like this one. Be very watchful of emails, texts, and social media posts that are promoting fake information or unapproved and misbranded products dealing with the coronavirus. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has tips to help protect you and your family from crisis-related scams. Social isolation for the older population can be a real issue. This could include an increased possibility that they would fall prey to scammers. Older adults and their family members should be aware of the most common types of scams. Boost Your Emergency Fund
It is suggested that everyone have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses ready to use in case of an emergency. I know times like this most people can’t think about bolstering their emergency fund, but you at least need to think about it. If you are one of the fortunate people whose income and work schedule haven’t been interrupted, you might want to think about saving more aggressively in your emergency account. And, if you haven’t received or earmarked your tax refund, this could be an outstanding way to use it.
Look for Ways to Cut Expenses
It’s always smart to look for ways to get your costs under control. Just make sure you don’t deny yourself too badly. Here’s one of my favorite ways to decide what costs I can cut back on. Print out your most recent bank and credit card statement and highlight all your expenses. Ask yourself “Did I really Need That”? If the answer was no, try cutting that out of next month’s expenditures. Some of the usual costs may not be practical right now, like cutting back on your cable bill or Hulu. If you are stuck at home, you may need that distraction.
Here’s My Takeaway
The best thing to do right now is taking a deep breath and don’t panic. We all know that fear and panic can lead to irrational thinking which can definitely lead to poor financial decisions. We are living in uncertain times, but we will get through all of this. So, make some educated and reasonable financial decisions and remember to concentrate on what’s really important – your health and the health of the people you care about.