There’s no denying that these are trying times, especially when it comes to your finances. With job-loss and failing investments on everyone’s mind, all of us could use some help.
Already, people have found ways to lift each other’s spirits. From a Facebook Karaoke group (aptly named Quarantine Karaoke) to celebrities reading children’s books to kids – we’re slowly getting through this together.
Well, Money Under 30 also wants to offer help to the community during these difficult times. That’s why I’ve created this financial guide that can help you make the most of your money right now!
The famous phrase from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Don’t Panic – is a mantra I have on repeat in my head.
So I’m repeating it to you.
Turning on the news, you’ll get conflicting stories. Some stations say it’s the end of the world and panicking is the only reasonable response, while others keep promoting the “stay calm” sentiment. I’m more apt to side with the latter.
Panicking doesn’t do much to help. So, rather than stealing a bunch of toilet paper and going on a high-speed police chase, read on for some tips to help you keep your finances in order during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Contact your lenders
If you’re having a hard time paying your bills, one of your first steps should be to contact your lenders. You can write a financial hardship letter that explains why you’re unable to make a payment at this time. Also mention what your plan is for being able to get back to making regular payments.
As the country moves forward, it’s likely that lenders – especially mortgage lenders – will be more lenient with customers who are facing financial hardship.
Talk with your employer
By now, most employers have told their employees what is being done to prevent a coronavirus outbreak at the workplace. For some, that means working from home, for others that means paid-time-off, and for a few, that just means better sanitizing practices in the workplace.
But, if you still have questions about paid time off, working from home, or anything else concerning your position at the company, talk to your manager or HR representative. They should be able to tell you what to expect during the next couple of months.
Use paid time off or sick leave
Thankfully, the U.S. government has enacted the coronavirus emergency relief package, which allows more workers to take paid leave from work. This package includes time off for employees who typically don’t have access to paid leave – like part-timers and gig workers.
Again, if you’re unsure if your employer is covered under this new bill, just ask.
Look into unemployment
Unfortunately, the coronavirus has caused a lot of folks to lose their job, or at least be temporarily out of work. In this instance, your best bet is to look into unemployment.
Getting unemployment is different depending on what state you live in, but the federal government is allowing all states to loosen their unemployment requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.
For example, you can now qualify for unemployment benefits if:
- An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
- An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
Again, the process for applying for unemployment is different from state-to-state – so find your unemployment office here.
See if you qualify for a stimulus check
If you’ve been holed up in your house, you’ve probably watched the news more than you ever have before (and probably way more than you ever wanted to). So, you’ve probably heard about the stimulus checks that may be coming your way.
I want to clear a few things up about these checks since there’s a ton of misinformation out there. First, it’s important to note that Congress is still working on the final details of the package, so exact amounts haven’t been determined. It’s likely that each adult who makes $75,000 or under, will get up to $1,200 in a one-time payment ($2,400 for joint returns). Each family will get $500 extra per dependent in the house.
There has been some concern that lower-income families will only get $600. But this issue is being raised by both Democrats and Republicans right now.
Checks will begin going out a few weeks after the measure is finalized. So keep your eyes on the news and your mailbox!
Keep building your emergency fund
If you’re self-isolating, you’re hopefully saving some money by not eating out as much. Now is the perfect time to throw that money into your emergency fund if you can.
As of right now, a vaccine for coronavirus is still 12-18 months away, which means there’s no telling how long the effects of coronavirus will last. Adding money to your emergency fund now can help propel you through difficult times.
Your next question is probably, where do I store my money to make sure it’s safe?
You’ll still want to find an account with a high APY, even though bank APYs have been dropping. I personally like the Discover Online Savings account, because it’s offering APY. Plus, banking with Discover is super easy. There’s no minimum amount needed to open an account, and there are no fees whatsoever. That’s what you need during times like these – easy banking.
Contact your financial advisor
Even though your financial advisor might be working from home, they’re still there to answer your money questions.
If a lack of work or a sudden drop in your investments is concerning you, reach out and come up with a plan. After all, that’s what you’re paying them for.
Look into personal loan options
With your finances in an uncertain state, there’s a real chance some of us will need to look for extra cash to pay the bills. Taking out a personal loan is one of the safest ways to borrow money.
For starters, you can use a personal loan for just about anything – but it’s always important to remember that you should only take out a personal loan if you’re really in need of some financial assistance.
Second, personal loans offer much lower interest rates than credit cards, which is usually the first source of financing people turn to. Personal loans also have more forgiving repayment terms than credit cards. You’ll typically have between three to five years to repay a personal loan, while credit cards only offer intro APRs for a year and a half max.
If you want to check your rates quickly, you can visit Credible. Credible will generate a bunch of personal loan rates for you in just a few minutes, based on your personal information.
Find products with the lowest APR
If a personal loan doesn’t make sense to you, or you don’t have the excellent credit needed to qualify for many of them, you’ll have to look into other products with low APRs.
Credit cards that offer 0% APRs may be a good option for some. These credit cards can allow you to make large purchases without having the cash to fund them right away.
Always pay down your debt before the 0% APR window closes, though. If you don’t, you’ll be saddled with a high-interest rate, which is exactly what you were trying to avoid in the first place.
One of the best 0% APR cards on the market is the BankAmericard® credit card. It offers 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles.
Plus the BankAmericard® credit card has no annual fee; in my book, you can’t beat that.
Don’t sell your investments
This goes right along with don’t panic. You’ll be in for a serious financial loss if you sell when the markets are down.
Investing is about long-term gains. At some point, this bear market we’re in will end, so if you’re planning on retiring 30, 40, or 50 years from now, your portfolio is going to recover.
During tragedies, most people ban together to try to make the best out of it. It’s been a few weeks since coronavirus really took hold in the U.S., and already people are figuring out a way to make things a little easier.
Free meal programs
Many schools are trying their best to keep up with school lunches, even though schools are closed. Many kids only have access to breakfast and lunch through school, so communities are trying their best to meet this demand.
Many of these meals are curb-side pick-up, and many of them also have meals for adults (at a small price).
GoFundMe was a very popular crowdfunding site before coronavirus, and now it’s being used to help those with the most need.
For example, a Washington D.C. group has started a GoFundMe to collect resources for those who are unable to go out and get them for themselves.
Take out a 401(k) loan (if you can pay it back later)
Taking out a loan from your 401(k) should be one of your last resorts, but it is an option. When you take out one of these loans, you’re borrowing directly from your 401(k). That means, if it takes you a long time to pay it back, you won’t have that money ready for you during retirement.
401(k) loans may be an easy route to take, but they do come with fees – so be aware of that when you read over the repayment terms. Also, if possible, repay the loan early. That way your 401(k) can start earning money for you again.
DO NOT use payday loans
Payday loans are marketed as an emergency loan for those who don’t have other means to pay for unexpected expenses. But there is never a good time to take out a payday loan, especially with so many alternatives.
Why are payday loans so awful? I mean, it sounds like a simple loan, right? You just pay it back on your next payday.
Yes, that is the basic principle of payday loans, but what conveniently gets left out of the commercials you see on TV is the fact that these loans come with insanely high-interest rates. Often those rates reach up into the 300% range.
Think about it. The highest interest rate you’ll typically see on a credit card is 27%, maybe a little higher. But imagine paying over 10 times that just for a small loan!
Pick up an online side hustle
Some of my friends have already gotten laid off from their jobs, with no promise as to when they may be considered for rehire. In response, some of them have done what any good Millennial would and have turned to the internet – this time – looking for remote work. And looking for any work that’ll also pay well and can pay the bills.
Finding a side hustle right now may be a bit of a challenge, but if you’re self-isolating at home anyway, why not put your time to good use?
Here are just a couple of ideas to get you started:
- Freelance – Whether that means writing, editing, designing, creating art, etc., the internet world is thriving more than the brick and mortar world right now.
- Start your own blog – Have a lot of ideas swimming around in your head? Write them down. You can start a free site on WordPress or Wix.
- Virtual assistant – With most office workers working from home indefinitely, becoming a virtual assistant could help fill up your time while you’re waiting to return to work yourself.
- Tutor – It’s not just the adults that are stuck at home, kids are too. There’s a growing need for online tutors while kids are out of school.
- Personal fitness coach – There are gym junkies that are stuck and home and going a little crazy. So now may be the perfect time to start that personal fitness YouTube channel you’ve been thinking about.
Look into cheap tax software (yes, you’ll still need to file your taxes)
While the IRS has extended the tax filing deadline to July 15th, you should still think about filing your taxes soon (don’t worry…I’ve been avoiding it, too).
Plus, filing now could give you a little extra cash in your pocket sooner rather than later (assuming you get a return).
Here are a couple of affordable tax software programs that don’t sacrifice top-notch features.
If you’re looking for a truly free option, Credit Karma Tax might work for you. They’re one of the only tax software programs that offer completely free filing for all filers. They have an easy to use platform that’s perfect for Millennial filers.
TaxSlayer is another affordable filing option and one I’ve been seriously considering thanks to their low-cost self-employment option, which is just $47 (a welcome deal compared to TurboTax’s $120 version). TaxSlayer also has a free version for super simple tax returns, a Classic version for $17 for those with slightly more complicated taxes, and Premium version for $37 if you’re looking for live support.
Do your research
Right now is the perfect time to get caught up on your reading. And while personal finance topics aren’t at the top of everyone’s reading list, taking the time to learn about your finances can help you be better prepared during uncertain times.
Luckily, you’re in the perfect place to get started! Money Under 30 has some great articles that can help you learn how to stay financially stable during the coronavirus epidemic. Here are a couple:
And if you want to brush up on your financial literacy in general, here are a couple of other posts to get you started:
Take advantage of free online activities
I’m very much an introvert, so self-isolation hasn’t changed my life all that much.
But for those who are used to going out every night, life suddenly got a lot more boring. Luckily, many companies and communities are offering discounted rates and entirely free options in the hopes of rallying us all together.
Here are some of the things on my to-do list while I’m stuck at home:
Most Millennials don’t remember much about the 2008 recession, so the suddenly hard-hitting economic effects of coronavirus have caught all of us off guard.
If you’re struggling financially due to job loss, failing investments, or for any other reason, the above tips can help you get through it.
Just remember: don’t panic.