While the news has been talking about COVID-19 and its health effects, I've been hearing from my circles an increasing amount of concern about what happens financially when hours are cut. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the sudden loss of a job or decreased hours could mean the difference between being able to pay your bills and buy food, or not.
The President said in his speech last night, "This is not a financial crisis. This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation, ". It may not be a national financial crisis at this time, but if you're paid hourly and they suddenly cut your hours, it may be a financial crisis to you.
In this article are six (6) things you can do if you find yourself in a personal financial crisis.
First, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to take care of yourself physically and put together and write down a medical plan of action should you or someone in your family get sick. Having a plan in place for times of illness will help ease your stress. Whether its Coronavirus related or something else, being prepared is key.
Do you have a designated primary care physician? Do you even have health insurance? If not, do your research and find a clinic that will take you if you should fall ill.
How much sick time have you accumulated? What are the medications you take? That information and anything else you think might be relevant should go into your written emergency medical plan.
Second, just as important (if not more important) you should have a written financial plan in place. What happens if they cut your hours at work? What happens if they shut down grocery stores? What happens if they tell you to work from home instead of going into the office? Are you prepared for that?
Even when American's aren't facing a pandemic, many American's are two paychecks away from being homeless.
Here's what you can do to put yourself in a better financial position in a time of crisis.
The Perfect Scenario
Ideally, to prepare for a personal financial crisis, you should have your consumer debt paid off, 3-6 months of monthly expenses saved, and a separate emergency savings account. For more extreme situations, Robert Kiyosaki suggests being prepared with 5 G’s: guns, gas, grub, ground, and gold/gems. That, however, is not typically how the majority of households are prepared.
Let's look at what you can do if a financial crisis hits when you least expect it.
Know Your Options
Know what assistance is being offered to you. In his speech last night, the President proposed additional sick pay and no co-pays for Doctor’s visits related to Coronavirus testing. Follow up with that initial information and do your research and see what's actually put into place. I’m sure updates will change daily so I won’t mention any specifics here. Be informed of the latest news concerning those topics.
You should also know what sick pay coverage you have with your current employer and how many sick days you’ve accumulated. Do you have supplemental insurance like AFLAC? See if losing work due to COVID-19 is covered.
You can write this down in your medical plan that I mentioned above, or you can write these things down in the financial plan you’re going to put together.
Know Your Numbers
How much money do you have in your savings and checking accounts? How much cash is readily available to you (what’s “liquid”)? If your hours are cut, you need to know what the minimum is that you need to earn each month to maintain your household. I'm talking about the bare minimum to cover a roof over your head, electric, water, basic phone for emergencies, food, transportation so you can work, and other necessities.
If you don’t already budget and don’t already know the exact amount you need for your monthly expenses, now is the time to make a list of these expenses. You can find a free budget worksheet and template here that will help you keep track of it all. You can put this worksheet with your financial plan.
A Quick Way to Save Money
If you’ve tracked your expenses and need to cut some things out to save money, cutting your subscriptions is a quick way to make your money stretch. That HULU, Netflix, Spotify, Blue Apron, beauty box, bark box, and all the other subscriptions out there add up each month. If you need to cut expenses temporarily, this is a quick way to save money in a crisis.
Back to the Basic
Pay your minimums. If you find that you’re in a predicament such as losing hours at work, losing your job, or somehow your pay was drastically decreased, consider paying only the minimum payments on your credit cards, student loans, mortgages, car loans, etc.
That goes against the debt repayment strategy and most of what I teach in Financial Foundations for Women, however, this is a strategy for decreasing your costs and shifting your income to other essential areas of your conscious spending plan in a time of crisis. This is temporary but sometimes necessary.
This does not mean that you skip, miss or are late on any payments. That will negatively affect your credit score and there may be other consequences like late fees that would cause more financial hardship if your funds are tight. You can go back to aggressively attacking your debt when you are out of your financial crisis.
If you need to call your debt servicers to see if they can work with you to lower payments or lower interest rates, that is an option too.
What About My Retirement Accounts?
Don’t panic. If you’ve watched your retirement accounts plummet over the last week, don’t panic. Take a breath, step away from the TV and the Newsfeed, and ride the wave. What goes up must come down (and it is), but it will go back up again.
Historically, stocks run in a 7-year cycle. The cycle is usually 7 years in a bull market and 3 years in a bear market. We’ve had an 11 (almost 12) year bull market. So this dip in the market, while spurred on by the current pandemic, is not a surprise to anyone who watches the market.
Remember, you don’t lose money unless you sell, so hold on to those stocks. The stock market crash in 2008 recovered in 18 months, and the stock market crash in 1929 took 4 years to recover. Hold tight. They'll recover eventually.
Cook at Home
Cooking at home instead of going out to eat can make your food budget go a lot further. If you can’t make it to the grocery store, having groceries delivered is an option. Even with the cost of the delivery added to the groceries, you'll still save money when you consider the cost of food delivery boxes like Blue Apron.
Cooking at home is typically less expensive than what you'd spend going to restaurants, and when you add to the restaurant prices delivery costs from services like Grub Hub or Uber Eats you'll definitely save money by cooking.
If you’ve lost hours at work and find yourself stressing about how you’re going to make ends meet this month (or next), then it’s time to get creative.
How can you make money with what you’ve got? Do you own your home? What about pet sitting on Rover.com? Could you babysit neighborhood kids? Now that schools are shutting down, those parents who are still going to work are in a predicament and will need childcare.
Can you mow your neighbor’s lawn? What about going grocery shopping or picking up medicine for your elderly neighbors?
Maybe you could make some quick cash by cleaning out your house and finding things to sell. You can use websites and apps such as Poshmark, eBay and Craigslist to sell clothes, electronics, or household items. Think outside the box and find that money, honey.
We’re in This Together
Whether your financial hardship is due to the current pandemic or unrelated circumstances, these are some things you can do to manage your money in a financial crisis. If you have additional ideas, please share them in the comment section below. We’re all in this together.