Several months after the coronavirus crisis, the economic consequences are still being suffered.
Millennials, or those in their 20s and 30s, have accumulated considerably less wealth than previous generations at similar stages of life, and many older millennials suffered during the Great Recession only to face the current crisis a decade later. “They had already entered the job market at a certain disadvantage,” said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at Nerd Wallet. “This is like a double whammy.”
Whether or not you fall into that category, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic may have you worried about your financial stability. Here are some tips to help you manage your finances.
Rethink your spending priorities
If you’ve recently lost significant income, find out if you’re eligible for any unemployment benefits and, if so, apply, as recommended by Tripp Kelly, financial advisor and director of Sodium Advisors at Northwestern Mutual, a financial services company.
Then consider where you can save the most. If you can’t reduce your rent or mortgage costs, review your budget to prioritize those payments and other essentials like food and utilities, Palmer said.
If you are still working, his recommendation is to follow the following structure:
“It’s just a helpful way to make sure you’re preparing to be financially secure in the future,” Palmer said.
If you are seeking a graduate degree and tuition has become a significant burden, try negotiating with the university. Educational institutions are in a financial bind, according to Kelly, and may be willing to cut tuition or offer incentives to keep students enrolled.
Contact your creditors, if you have them
Many companies and institutions have emergency programs to help debtors through difficult times. If you’re having trouble paying off student loans, your mortgage, or your credit card debt, call your creditors and discuss your payment options.
“Financial accommodations are generally available right now,” said Amy Thiemann, director of consumer credit education at Transunion, a credit reporting agency. “Lenders, like consumers, understand the difficulties that are happening in the economy.”
Whatever you do, do not let your debt pile up. “The worst thing you can do in a difficult financial situation is just let it build up and not face it from the start,” said Dr. Choukhmane.
Start an emergency fund
If you’re still working but don’t have an emergency fund, start one. The economy is still precarious, so it’s best to plan ahead as much as possible. “We always talk about saving for a rainy day,” Palmer said. “This is the rainy day.”
In an ideal world, you should save three months of expenses, he added. If that’s not feasible, save as much as you can, in case you need something to fall back on in the future.
Normally, you should avoid dipping into your savings, but “now we are in a situation where perhaps that is not clear,” said Dr. Choukhmane.
Build a new set of skills.
Struggling to find work? Try to learn new skills or get qualifications that will help you in your job search. You can enrol in online courses, some are free.
The most expensive option would be to apply for a graduate degree. If you’ve been unemployed for some time, you may have less to lose and more to gain by returning to the classroom. Due to low-interest rates, this is a better time than usual to apply for student loans. The investment may be worth it if you previously worked in an industry that has been drastically disrupted by the pandemic and are looking to switch to a career with greater options now.
Or you can acquire new skills by taking on a part-time job through platforms that offer options for specific tasks. Regardless of the jobs you take on, having that experience will show potential employers that you remained productive during the crisis and expanded your resume, Dr. Choukhmane said.
Get ready to buy your own home
Low credit rates also occur in the real estate sector, so if you are thinking about your future and building wealth, it is ideal that you consider purchasing your own home. The thoughts that only people over a certain age can become homeowners, or that it takes a lot of capital to do so, are in the past. Now there are even options for those who do not have a down payment on their house.
When in doubt, ask for help
Managing your money can be stressful, especially when the world is recovering from a global health crisis. It can be tempting to ignore your bank statements or credit score when you’re in a financial rut but fight that urge. “Monitoring your credit is an important fundamental principle in managing your financial and credit well-being,” Thiemann clarified.
Not sure how to make these decisions?
Contact a knowledgeable financial advisor or relative who can help you get your finances in order. “All it takes is one question,” Kelly said.