How to Handle Debt During an Economic Crisis

Financial advisers recommend that everyone should have six months of living expenses set aside. However, even in times of economic strength, many people live paycheck to paycheck. According to Forbes, almost half of all Americans don’t have any savings at all. When a crisis hits, this spells trouble for millions of people. The following tips show how to handle debt when faced with financial uncertainty during an economic crisis.

Housing

Regardless of circumstances, you should always pay rent or mortgage first. That’s because shelter is one of the most important needs. In times of natural disasters or other devastating events, contact your landlord, property manager or lending institution. They might allow postponement of one or more payments.

Utilities

Shelter doesn’t do much good if your utilities get disconnected. That’s why you should pay them right after the housing costs. In this context, utilities include electricity, gas, sewer and water. Remember that many utility companies offer payment plans or energy assistance programs. Don’t hesitate to contact utility providers to work out arrangements.

Car

If you have car payments, consider them a high priority as well. Even if you’re out of a job and don’t seem to use the vehicle, you’ll need it again once employed. Inquire with the appropriate lender about deferrals and late-fee waivers.

Insurance

Prioritize insurance payments in the following order: auto, housing, health and life. When you have a car and drive less during challenging times, check with the insurance company to see if you can get a lower rate. You might even be able to temporarily lessen the bill by adjusting coverage options.

If you lost health insurance along with a job, sign up for COBRA or use the healthcare Marketplace to obtain coverage. Individuals with little or no income can apply for Medicaid. Life insurance polices have grace periods, and some allow for reinstatement in the case of missed payments. You could also switch to a less expensive product, such as term life.

Cut Expenses

You might have to get rid of cable TV temporarily because it becomes a luxury in times of financial struggles. The same applies to Internet access, unless it’s needed for work. While most people have cell phones, the latest upgrade isn’t necessary when finances are tight. See if you can downgrade the existing plan to get by with the bare minimum. This might not sound appealing, but you can easily change to a better plan when finances improve.

Beware of Scams

When economic times turn tough, it brings out even more scam artists than usual. While creditors sometimes send out correspondence with helpful strategies, do your own research. Don’t click on links within emails because phishers often use sophisticated sites to construct malicious data. Instead, go to each creditor’s official website where they list any necessary information.

Monitor Credit Scores

Once a plan is in place, monitor credit scores regularly via a free online service, such as Credit Karma. This step is important because you want to make sure that creditors submit the correct information. This scenario especially applies when arrangements were established with banks, landlords and utility companies for late or partial payments.

When financial challenges arise, many people might feel embarrassed or isolated. However, economic crises affect many individuals, so it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. These tips will help prioritize bills and show how to manage an undesirable financial situation so that you can work towards a better future.

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