Managing Your Finances During a Pandemic
The Corona Virus continues to spread across America, and as it spreads it creates feelings of uncertainty and stress especially when it comes to your finances. There are steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family now and in the future. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers excellent advice and can help citizens work through this crisis. Remember we are all in this together!
If you cannot pay your bills on time, contact your lenders early to let them know your situation. If you fall behind on your bills, it will affect your credit. Credit card companies and lenders may be able to offer you some options to help you. This could include waiving certain fees like ATM, overpayments, and late fees, as well as allowing you to delay, adjust, or skip some payments.
When contacting your lenders, be prepared to explain:
- Your current financial situation
- How much you can afford to pay
- When you’re likely to be able to restart regular payments
- If you are struggling to pay your mortgage, be prepared to discuss your income and all expenses.
- Auto lenders may have options to help. They may be able to adjust your due date, allow you to skip a payment, offer a new payment plan or extension.
- Student loans may offer delayed or reduced payment programs, but you will still incur interest. Contact your student loan servicer to discuss your options. If you have a federal student loan, contact your servicer about potential options available for repayment.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it may be worth spending the time with either a housing or credit counselor to understand your options. These trained professionals provide advice for little or no cost, and they will work with you to discuss your situation, evaluate options, and even help you negotiate with your lenders and servicers.
HUD-approved Housing Counselors can discuss options for paying a mortgage loan or reverse mortgage loan. Other options may include a forbearance or modified repayment program.
Reputable Credit Counselors generally work for a non-profit organization and can advise you on all of your money and debts. They help you to develop a household budget based on your income and expenses. Be aware of any credit counselor who wants you to pay a fee upfront!
If you currently have a debt in collections, contact them to see if you can negotiate a workable solution for repaying what you owe.
Check your credit to make sure that statements are accurate and that any delinquencies are being reported correctly. Credit reports and scores will help you to have financial opportunities in the future.
If you lose your income, many state and local governments offer a variety of programs for those who are financially impacted by the coronavirus. Check out the possibility of getting unemployment benefits and look for local resources to assist with food and other necessities.
Older Adults may qualify for special benefits from the government. Visit benefitscheckup.org for more information.
Watch out for scams! Scammers look for opportunities to take advantage of people especially older adults. Be extra cautious of emails, social media posts and selling fake coronavirus test kits and products. The FTC and the Food and Drug Administration have cautioned consumers to be on the lookout for sellers of unapproved or misbranded products. Especially if they say it prevents or treats the Covid 19 virus.
Older adults are an easy target because they tend to have savings set aside and are polite and trusting of others. Social isolation is already an issue for older adults and can lead to a host of other issues, including an increased likelihood of falling for scams due to a need to connect to others. This issue could grow in response to virus prevention tactics like social distancing and quarantines. Phone calls and video chats can help older adults and their families connect during this period where health officials encourage limiting contact.
Older adults, as well as their family members, should be aware of common types of scams, as well as how to prevent and report them. Scams are starting to pop up especially ones targeted at seniors.
Stay safe and healthy, we will get through this!
Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/