In regards to COVID, as a financial coach, I am often asked “Paula, what’s the news on the street? What are the concerns that you hear, and as a financial professional, how can I help?” As with past pandemics, we have high confidence that science will prevail. Until there is a viable vaccine, though, people are concerned with how they can keep their finances healthy.
Many people are still working – some virtually, others in-person while using Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”). Some, who are still working may be doing so, with reduced pay, reduced hours, or both. For those who are out of work, the situation is even more challenging. The hope of another stimulus seems to have faded away, and in most states, the extra $300 weekly unemployment benefit has ended. While unemployment benefits may be paying for essentials, there is no excess for emergencies; no ability to save for retirement or for the proverbial “rainy day.” The mere thought of saving is daunting because the debts are piling up. Financial stress is a real thing even in normal times – a phenomenon made worse by isolation, uncertainty, and other side-effects of COVID-related situational depression. Some sympathetic landlords and mortgage providers may have allowances for payment reductions, deferments, or waivers – but what if your lender/landlord isn’t one of them?
Among those who are still working, some are experiencing the new reality – indeed, the necessity – of reduced spending. All of our lectures about that emergency fund are really hitting home now. But going out to eat less frequently, and minimal socializing, provide more opportunities to save – even in these dire times. However, I still hear people asking, “How can I better position myself at this time?” “How much and what should I be investing in?” “Why are some of my investments still down, while others are still positive, YTD?” Of course, we know that investment markets are volatile, but understanding the complexities of different indices takes a deeper understanding.
“Should I refinance my mortgage?” “Should I sell my home now, and should I consider downsizing?” Interest rates are at all-time lows right now. If you qualify, this could be a great time to pounce. Run the numbers and compare, or let our team help you.
Others ask, “What can I do to protect myself from illness?” “Will my health insurance take care of my medical expenses if I do get sick?” These are very real concerns. With schools back in session in some places, cases are on the rise again. Be safe, wear your PPE, and take basic precautions (hand-washing, hand-washing, hand-washing!). Call your health insurance provider to inquire about coverage. Health insurance has been covering COVID-19 testing, and because of the ACA, there is no lifetime benefit limit. That said, you will still have co-pays or co-insurance.
Many wonder, “How can I help my family and others in need?” The gift of your time can be very meaningful to someone. Can you offer to watch their children while they polish up their resume or go out for an interview? Do you have resume-writing skills that you can offer to help them put one together? If they aren’t feeling well, can you make a casserole or some homemade soup? This can be a tremendous comfort to someone not feeling well. Or, maybe you can do some grocery shopping for them, so they don’t have to go out. There are all kinds of things you can do to help. Remember, many people in need won’t ask for help; it may be pride, or they may not feel comfortable asking. So ask them, “What can I do to help you?”
Additional questions include; “Is this a good time to do a Roth conversion?” Some older workers ask, “if I do get laid off, should I just retire early and start Social Security now?” These are all important questions, and our consultants at Financial Fitness for Life can help answer them, as well as many other questions you may have during these difficult times. Please feel free to reach out to our consultants by contacting Financial Fitness for Life at [email protected].
Paula Guerin, CRPC
Director of Education