Whether you're one of the millions of Americans who recently lost their jobs or you're (naturally) feeling anxious about the economy after reading the news, there are steps you can take to assert your control over the situation and bring yourself some ease.
No, I'm not going to advise you suddenly to amass an emergency fund out of thin air or to lean on your retirement savings — that's just not realistic for so many of us. Instead, here are a few action items anyone can take no matter their income source or level of wealth, according to personal finance experts:
When speaking to financial experts, one piece of advice that I heard over and over again was cutting out unnecessary expenses — especially monthly or weekly subscription services you don't need. Removing a few dollars a month from your budget can set your mind at ease, and you can usually take these actions without leaving the house or even picking up the phone.
"Cut as many expenses as you can. Are there any streaming services, subscriptions or other expenses that you aren’t using? These expenses add up so eliminate the ones that you don’t use like you thought you would," Financial Coach Kelsa Dickey said. "If you share expenses with a significant other, have weekly meetings to talk about wants, needs and priorities so you stay on the same page."
If you're feeling in a pinch because of job loss or generally anxious about your financial standing, finance experts recommend first, decreasing any payments you're voluntarily making over your minimum.
"If you’re over-paying on your mortgage, consider dropping back to only our required mortgage payment. Instead, redirect those funds back into increasing your emergency reserves," Brandon R. Redman, Managing Partner at Securian Advisors NW suggests.
Many financial experts had similar advice on lowering debt payments.
"Stop paying extra to any debt and stock pile your cash for emergencies until things start to normalize," Dickey said. "Continuing to pay the minimums on your debt and putting anything extra to an emergency stockpile to cover any unexpected expenses."
Then, if you're still feeling stretched, reach out to your creditors and service providers to see if you can lower or defer payments.
"If the COVID-19 crisis has impacted your income, I recommend you immediately contact your lenders and utility providers to learn more about what options you have right now. Many companies have indicated they are willing to work with affected customers in deferring their payments without penalty," said Ricardo Arbona, myFinTect CEO and Financial Coach.
There are multiple ways checking in on your insurance can help you feel at ease. Not only can you check to make sure you're getting the best price on your coverage — you can also make sure you have the coverage you need to keep extraneous money from going out and to protect your family's future, according to Sa El, Co-Founder of Simply Insurance.
"Reviewing your insurance policies is crucial at a time like this because you need to know exactly what your policies will cover," he said. "You also should take advantage of companies giving discounts and check all of your current policy rates and do some comparison shopping. You need to look at Auto Insurance, Home Insurance, Disability Insurance, Life Insurance... Essentially, if you have insurance, check it and make sure you are getting the best deal."
Additionally, increasing your health insurance coverage and life insurance coverage may provide you with extra feelings of financial security for your dependents.
"A well executed estate plan can protect any heirs and also provide a person with the peace of mind of knowing that important decisions have already been made in the event of an emergency," David Reischer, Estate Attorney & CEO of LegalAdvice.com, said. "It is important to execute a 'durable power of attorney' document that authorizes a representative to make financial decisions on the behalf of the party and allows the attorney or a representative to manage their financial affairs in the event of a specified emergency."
Right now, many people are turning to online sources — like David's or Trust & Will — to make sure their mind is at ease when it comes to emergency financial planning.
Now is a good time to start thinking about other ways to make money to feel more in control of your financial fate. Many experts I spoke to advocated for selling extra things online (you could try eBay or Facebook Marketplace), picking up extra freelance work as industries seek more contract workers, or finding other streams of income.
"The income of many Americans has been impacted by this crisis and those that haven’t been impacted live in fear of losing their jobs right now. Considering the current situation we’re living, the best way to reduce your fears about the future and gain financial confidence is to start searching for opportunities," Arbona said. "I highly recommend you take advantage of this time to build multiple income streams and generate income independently to not depend fully on your employer."
Nicholas G. Muscat, Founder at NGM Group and Aussie Money Media, agreed: "Look to diversify your income sources where possible — consider things like working for food delivery services or gig apps."
This is a stressful time and reaching out for support from close friends or loved ones, even about your finances, is not shameful.
"Find a person with whom you can discuss your finances comfortably," Redman said. "Knowing that others are feeling the stress just like you can go a long way to helping be more comfortable financially in uncertain times."
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