It’s fair to say that we are all thinking about money at the moment. Let’s be honest—most of us don’t have 6 months, 6 weeks, heck, not even 6 days‘ worth of money saved up in our emergency fund—and nobody planned for COVID-19.
These are unprecedented times that we’re facing and there’s not a great road map out there for how to deal with all these pressures hitting at once. To help you get through this with some financial peace of mind, make sure you and your significant other are on the same page (no hidden accounts or, oops, forgot to tell you about that credit card), everything needs to literally be out on the table.
Start by figuring out what you have coming in and what you have going out. Once you have this down, then start looking at where you might need help with money during COVID-19.
I am going to start making some generalizations the rest of the way, but please reach out and communicate your individual situation with all of your financial life connections.
On the banking front, think mortgage, car loans, personal loans, credit cards (yep, all of them) and student loans. Definitely call them before you miss a payment if you can. They also might be able to defer payments—you’ll still have to make them, but not today. Think about bills that might be auto-drafting and decide if you want to cancel the payment. Your bank is there to help you. Call each and every credit card you have and ask them about how they’re helping people during this time.
A lot of utilities (think about your water, electric, cell phone, internet) want to help but you have to reach out to them. Ask about assistance programs, ask if they’ll defer a payment or two. Will they provide a wifi hotspot so you can get online access to work from home? Most utilities have suspended cutoffs for the next 30-60 days, but still, call them if you are having a hard time making the payment.
Also, please be aware of scams during this time. Please avoid any payday or cash advance loans. Call your bank first—they’re there to help you. Be careful with “offers” that come in the mail. Because… if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! If YOU can’t figure out a so-called debt relief “program” on a napkin then run for the hills.
If you get laid off or have already lost your job during this time, go file for unemployment. It won’t replace all of your income but it may be just enough to help you stay afloat.
During these uncertain financial times, please know you are not alone. Reach out to your bank, credit card issuers and utilities early and let them know your concerns. Make sure they know your financial situation so they can help you. Reach out to your friends so they can help and hook you up with other resources. You will get through this—you just might need a little help.