It’s safe to say our financial priorities have changed as a result of COVID-19. With new, urgent concerns like safety and job security coming to the forefront of our minds, it makes sense to change your financial habits as well.
Fidelity Investments recently released a study surveying Americans on what they are worried about and how their financial plans are changing as a result. Their team found that 60% of those surveyed are concerned about finances and 62% are concerned about job security over the next six months. More so, these worries are impacting the ways that Americans are living, with 20% or more saying they’re experiencing a decline in healthy habits like sleeping, exercising or healthy eating.
In order to address concerns like paying monthly bills, decreasing student loan debt, and increasing retirement savings, Americans have adjusted their financial habits. For example, nearly half of those surveyed reported cutting back on discretionary spending, 44% reported increasing their emergency savings, and 15% reported investing more money into the stock market. Americans are even discussing the once-taboo topic of money more often, with 31% of those surveyed reporting they have more discussions about finances with family and friends.
So what quick pivots can you make to your finances in order to meet your priorities in light of COVID-19? While the recommended steps depend on your financial situation, here are a few suggestions:
1. Check up on your credit score.
It’s more important than ever to keep tabs on your credit. As the NFCC puts it, “During a situation like the current national crisis it is easy to overlook your credit, and it is also a prime opportunity for scammers and identity thieves to prey on unsuspecting victims.”
While checking your credit score and report can be intimidating, especially if you expect you won’t like the answer, it is important to know where you stand and how you can improve. And right now, you can get free credit reports weekly at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Many consumers are reporting that lenders are adding notes on their credit reports along the lines of “affected by natural disaster.” According to CreditKarma, this is a formality in case your payments are late but shouldn’t affect your credit score.
2. Look for quick ways to get cash in your pocket.
During this time of economic uncertainty, many experts recommend keeping as much cash on hand as you can. To increase your cash flow, try selling unneeded items, or pursuing a side hustle. For example, now is a good time to clean out your closets and list some stuff on eBay or Poshmark. In order to decrease spending, try cutting out unnecessary expenses, and cut back on monthly subscriptions.
3. Take advantage of employer benefits.
If you’re fortunate enough to still be working — and have an employer that offers benefits — take advantage of them. Think beyond just utilizing your employer’s 401k match options. Does your company offer perks like pet insurance, wellness stipends, or cell phone reimbursement? Make sure you are up to date on the latest offerings, and if not, consider chatting with your HR team.
4. Make some calls.
Spend an hour this weekend calling your bill providers and credit card companies and asking for any relief options. Can you get a lower interest rate? Can you haggle down your Internet bill? If you had travel planned that you had to cancel, call the airline and request a refund. Look for small ways to negotiate savings.
5. Beef up your resume.
Even if you still have a job, you should prepare for a potential job loss. One quick way to do this? Update your resume (and your LinkedIn page, if you have one). Take a moment to think about all of your recent work accomplishments and accolades, dust of your resume, and do some updating. It might also help to check out some recent job listings in your industry. Even if you don’t apply, you’ll find out what skills employers are looking for, which can give you a head start if your current job goes south.
If you’re worried about your financial wellness during this time, you’re not alone. While making moves to improve your situation can feel intimidating at first, you can break down each task into bite-sized steps.
Simplicity Bryan is deeply entrenched in the worlds of self-help, gratitude, personal finance, and organization. She’s happiest paddleboarding with her pup and storytelling with a purpose. You can follow her here.
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