Maintaining Your Finances in Uncertain Times

The recent pandemic and quarantine forced numerous Americans to file for unemployment and face a loss of financial security. Many more found themselves unable to file but still losing money due to the loss of freelancing and commission work. With so much financial uncertainty looming in the future, people are increasingly desperate to identify sound strategies to alleviate financial tension in the future. If you are one of many who are struggling to maintain your finances during the recent hardship, consider adopting a couple of these strategies.

If Unemployed, File Straight Away

The first step for many is to file for unemployment insurance, but many Americans have failed to do so. There are many out there, especially minimum wage workers and part timers who worked multiple jobs, who feel they do not have the qualifications to receive assistance. Instead of waiting and missing your window of opportunity to file, it is important you complete the application for unemployment insurance as soon as possible.

To begin the process, the majority of states require the following documents:

A valid email account

A driver’s license or valid ID

Latest address

Your social security number

Date of birth

Phone Number

Bank routing number and account number

In addition to this personal information, you need the following from your former employer:

Last employer’s name

Mailing address

Phone number

Dates of employment

Reason you are unemployed.

If you are an independent contractor or are self-employed, you do have another option – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This is financial restitution offered under the CARES Act, and it is ideal for anyone who is a member of the modern gig economy. The catch is you still need to file for traditional unemployment insurance, so complete the process as soon as possible.

Reduce Spending

This is one of the primary steps offered by financial experts, analysts, and even regular people, and it is the hardest for families and individuals alike to do. The catch is not that people are unwilling to give up luxuries, but rather the people most affected by the current economic predicament are often those who are vulnerable and already lack luxury.

For example, people often talk about giving up going out to eat and spending money on trendy coffee. While this does help a certain demographic, there are many others who don’t have the funds to partake in such unnecessary enterprises. What is the average person supposed to do?

Many families have been forced to simplify their grocery list and focus on getting staples which are slowly coming back into stores. Cheap bread and peanut butter might not be much, but it is enough to fill hungry stomachs. Same with lunch meat and fresh produce, which has remarkably remained untouched during the mad grocery store rush.

People are also encouraged to cancel their subscriptions they might forget about until the bill comes. For example, it is better to not have Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and similar video providers if money is tight. Anything which is not essential should be cut if you are struggling to maintain your finances. Although $12 a month does not sound like much on paper, it can make a difference when it comes to paying the bills.

Tap Into Potential Reserves

The average American citizen is estimated to have less than $400 in savings, which means the majority are living paycheck to paycheck. However, when possible, financial experts recommend tapping into any potential reserves. This could mean pulling money from a current retirement plan, reducing a child’s college fund, or breaking out the change jar to cover small expenses around the home.

If you don’t have any reserves, you should contact your lenders. It is currently easier to receive support and a lenient payment plan if you have loans which are backed by the government. For example, many individuals with student loans have had their payments cancelled to avoid increasing the financial strain on people who are already stressed. Unfortunately, private lenders and investors tend to be less lenient and are not subject to the same oversight.

If you have a private lender, such as a mortgage through a bank, it is time to call and see if you can work out a payment plan. Some lenders have started giving 90 day breaks to the recipients of loans and mortgages. However, many are stipulating certain conditions, such as all of the money needs to be payed back at the end of the 90 day period. While a stay on payments will only be temporary, it can provide much needed relief for families and individuals who are strained.

Refinancing

The United States is facing one of the most serious economic downturns of the last century, with some calling it the Second Great Depression. If you are struggling to make ends meet and are currently paying one or more loans, now might be the right time to refinance. The Federal Reserve Board recently cut interest rates to zero in an attempt to stop a complete economic collapse.

When possible, you should reach out to your loan provider and contemplate your options. Because of the current state of the economy, many lenders are willing to consider lower payments. After all, some money is better than none.

The best loans to refinance in the current climate are a home mortgage and an auto loan. These are two of the greatest expenses for the average citizen, and reducing those payments can provide much needed cash for other bills, groceries, and potential medical expenses.

Consider a Temporary Job

This is a difficult step to take as many are worried about risking their health or that of their family by being potentially exposed to COVID-19. Unfortunately, if you are struggling to maintain your finances because of unemployment and a reduced workload, it might be time to consider a temporary position.

There are several major industries which are still hiring employees, especially as demand rises. Some are more at risk than others, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each with care. At present, the largest employers with open positions are grocery stores, delivery services, online learning centers, remote meeting and communication companies, and customer service.

If you would prefer to stay at home and have applicable skills, now is an excellent time to consider freelancing or remote contracting. There are numerous jobs which can be completed from home, including:

Writing

Content creation

Social media management

Accounting

IT work

Consulting

Data entry

Management support

Customer support

Data mining

Data visualization

Design

Marketing

Translation

Tutoring

Such positions often require some prior work experience and a solid internet connection. Jobs, both temporary and permanent, can be found through websites like Upwork, FlexJobs, Freelancer, and Bark. You can even choose whether you want to apply for jobs or would like clients to come to you.

Conclusion

Ultimately, maintaining your finances in uncertain times will require changing your habits and paying attention to where your money is going. The recent quarantine has been an upheaval for many and cause stress and anxiety. If you are concerned about paying your bills, consider following the steps above and focus on making legitimate changes to your spending habits.

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How to Handle Debt During an Economic Crisis  

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