Are you feeling anxious about your finances right now? You’re not alone!
In fact, a recent poll by USA Today found that Americans are currently more worried about their finances than their physical health.
We know that managing money and debt can be really stressful, and even more so while facing the tension and uncertainty of a global pandemic. It’s easy enough to fall behind during “normal” times, and even easier when facing income loss and job insecurity.
As we’re all taking precautions to protect our physical health, let’s apply that same preventive mentality to our financial health. Here are five steps to get you started:
1. Leverage government resources and find out what you’re entitled to. Emergency bills are rapidly being passed, and it might be hard to keep up. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and do some research. If you’ve been laid off temporarily but expect to resume work, you might still be entitled to unemployment benefits; plus, the recent coronavirus emergency relief package offers new paid sick leave and family leave benefits. We know it might be hard to get to the source and you may end up on phone calls with ridiculously long hold times. But a few hours of frustration will be worth it if you can tap into funds that will help prevent a downward financial spiral.
2. Reevaluate your monthly budget, particularly spending habits related to food, shopping, entertainment and transportation. Now is the perfect time to cut back on discretionary spending. There’s no need to blow your grocery budget by frantically stockpiling goods. To the extent that you can, focus on building your stash of key staples each time you get groceries delivered or venture out to the store. If you still have an income, but need to build or grow your emergency fund, stash away your newfound savings. If your income has been reduced or cut off completely, you might be able to leverage these savings to maximize those smaller paychecks or unemployment insurance checks. For more tips, see our guide on managing your debt and finances.
3. Talk to us, and take advantage of DC Credit Union products and resources. Unlike the megabanks, we’re committed to protecting the financially vulnerable — and let’s face it, many more of us are going to fall into that category in the months to come. If you’re worried you might not be able to make a loan payment, please talk to us! The sooner you talk to us, the more time we have to come up with a viable plan. If you simply need some personal guidance on how to navigate these challenging times, we’re here to help. You may not know, for example, that we offer skip-a-pay options for loans, overdraft protection loans, and payday alternative loans (visit our loans page for more details).
4. Evaluate all potential sources of credit. Using credit to cover basic expenses can be a slippery slope, but we know you might just need a little extra in the short-term to get you through. Instead of defaulting to maxing out your credit card, take into account other lower-interest sources — for instance, home equity lines or personal loans. We’re also offering a new Pandemic Relief Loan option that is interest-free for the first 90 days. A credit card can still come in handy, but if your interest rate is high and it’s unlikely you’ll be paying off the balance each month, it might be time to find a lower-interest credit card.
5. Refinance your mortgage loan, auto loan, and/or student loan debt. The less you owe on loans each month, the more you’ll have on hand to cover other essential expenses. Interest rates are at historic lows — now might be the time to reduce your monthly bills by exploring refinance and/or student loan consolidation options. We offer online loan applications for home loans, auto loans, and student loans so we can continue to process loans even if you can’t visit us in person. Plus, our loan officers are standing by to support you if you have any questions or need extra help.
We are actively rolling out new resources and services to support our members in the months to come, so be sure to pay attention to our emails and other communications. Don’t forget that you and your fellow members are owners of this credit union! Our health and success depends on you, and your financial health is our number one priority. Let’s wash our hands and get down to business.