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how to manage financial hardship

The COVID-19 pandemic that has spread across the world has brought with it, not only concerns for our physical health, but also our financial health. According to the Labor Department, 1 in 5 Americans has lost a job or seen a reduction in work hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic since the middle of March. If you are one of these people that has been negatively affected financially, we have some tips for you to manage the financial storm that you may be in currently: from taking stock of your current finances, to messages of encouragement from others who are in the same boat as you.

Take financial inventory

The first thing to do is to assess your current financial situation. This is as simple as making a list of your current expenses and any income you have at the current time, along with your total assets. Your expenses include the usual rent/mortgage, utilities, auto payments, gas, etc. Assets include any financial resource that is available to you during times of hardship. An example of an asset could include savings accounts, checking accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.

You will also want to review areas of your budget that you can cut back on such as a gym membership, lawn maintenance, take-out, or delaying any luxury items from being purchased.


Once you go through your finances, set up a temporary monthly budget and stick to it. You may have to cut back on expenses for a while, but that is only temporary. Modifying your budget during this time will help you stay afloat

Taking this important step will give you a clear idea of where you are financially and will allow you to determine what course of action you need to take. 
 

Explore your options for financial relief

During this time, there are numerous options that may help provide financial relief. The U.S. government has passed programs to help Americans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These programs include stimulus checks to be sent to every American, expanded unemployment benefits, 401(k) penalties waived, and mortgage forbearance.

  • Stimulus checks/CARES Act
  • Expanded unemployment benefits
  • 401(k) penalties waived
  • Mortgage forbearance

How to confirm if you qualify for a stimulus payment

If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably heard about the stimulus checks that should be heading your way. According to the IRS, eligible individuals will receive $1,200 or more. Two eligible individuals filing a joint return will receive $2,400 or more. Eligibility and amount received is based on the information filed on your tax return from 2019 or from 2018, if you have not yet filed for 2019. You will receive an additional $500 payment for each qualifying child you claimed on your tax return. To calculate how much you should expect, use this chart from the IRS.

For complete details regarding the one-time stimulus payment, we encourage you to visit the IRS website.

Monitor your credit for the next 12 months for free

AnnualCreditReport.com recently announced that it will be offering weekly credit reports from each of the main credit reporting agencies including Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Normally, consumers can request up to one free credit report every 12 months, but due to the recent economic situation, the credit bureaus are offering weekly reports for consumers to “help protect their financial health during the sudden and unprecedented hardship caused by COVID-19.” Under the newly passed CARES Act, lenders are required to report that consumers are current on their payments if their customers have requested relief opportunities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. By accessing their credit report weekly, consumers can be aware of what their lenders are reporting on their credit.

Avoid COVID-19 scams

Scams and fraud are running rampant in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. To make sure you don’t fall victim to any of the scammers out there, follow these best practices suggested by the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

  • Hang up on robocalls
  • Fact-check email addresses and websites offering information
  • Don’t click on links you don’t know
  • Research any charities or fundraisers that are soliciting donations for COVID-19 relief

Types of COVID-19 scams:

  • Treatment scams: scammers are offering fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments of COVID-19.
  • Supply scams: scammers are claiming to sell medical supplies that are in high demand online, over the phone, and in fake medical supply shops. When consumers try to purchase the supplies, the scammers keep the money and never provide the supplies.
  • Charity scams: scammers are claiming to solicit donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Most of all, stay the course and stay positive!

Staying positive during a financial hardship is not easy, but the benefits of staying positive far outweigh the opposite. So how do you stay positive? Here are just a few ways that you can give your mind peace during a difficult situation.

  • Establish a financial plan and stick to it. Worrying about how much money is going out when less is coming in can cause anxiety. Create a budget and stick to it until your financial situation changes to stay on track for your long-range goals.
  • Give yourself some grace. This is in no way your fault. No one could have imagined that this pandemic would have affected our economy in this way.
  • Practice gratitude daily by giving thanks for things that you may not have been able to take advantage of, such as spending more time tending to your garden or spring cleaning your home. 
  • Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Can you control how much supplies are at the store? No. Can you control if others follow social distancing rules? No. You can, however, control how much news you consume, your own social distancing, and how you spend your time at home.
  • Limit your intake of news. The news is full of negative stories during times of national emergencies and financial crisis. Do your best to limit your intake because too much could affect your day-to-day mood and how you cope in the situation.
  • Reach out for help if you need it. Friends and family are always there for you to lend an ear or offer a word of encouragement.

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