Tips to Strengthen Your Finances During the COVID-19 Pandemic
While many things have changed in our COVID-19 world, there are some basic financial principles that will always remain true. Take a look at how you can expand your financial knowledge.
Create a Budget.
Everyone needs a budget. No matter what the situation — natural disaster, college tuition, a wedding or retirement — you need to be aware of where your money is going. Creating a bare bones budget in this pandemic will show you how much money you absolutely need to have for the month and how much extra you can work with. Here are the essential steps to take with a new COVID-19 budget:
Cut out the nonessentials.
It goes without saying. Keep the old car running rather than purchasing a new one, touch up your roots at home (or rock the gray hairs!) Eating out, entertainment and travel have been suspended so that once-disposable income can be funneled into savings. Consider opening up a Popular Bank savings account to automatically deposit a specific amount to build up your emergency fund.
Stay on top of your minimum debt payments.
Paying down debt is always wise whether you’re taking the snowball or avalanche approach. For the time being, consider putting your debt repayment plan on hold, saving that money and once the economy is more certain, get back on your debt repayment schedule.
Renegotiate your existing services.
Consider your cell phone or cable charges. These are items that are always good to review — at least once a year — but even more so now. Can you bundle services? Switch providers for a better rate? It never hurts to ask.
Ask Creditors, Financial Institutions and Others for Help.
If you need financial assistance, pick up the phone or go online to ask your lenders, financial institutions, landlord and service providers to see if they offer any hardship assistance. That could be a credit limit increase, adjusting your payment schedule, waived fees or more. Popular Bank customers can learn more about financial assistance options by visiting our COVID-19 information center.
Other resources can help decrease financial stress during the pandemic:
- As part of the CARES Act, federal student loan payments will automatically stop from March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2020 (but you can still make payments if you choose)
- Many cities, counties, states and the federal government have temporarily suspended eviction actions
- The United Way’s 211 helpline can direct you for assistance with essential needs, such as housing or food in your area
Understand Your Credit Score.
The two most common credit scores are the FICO and the VantageScore. FICO Scores are calculated using many different pieces of credit data in your credit report. This data is grouped into five categories: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and credit mix (10%). It’s important to note If you were current on mortgage payments before asking for forbearance, it will continue to be reported to the credit agencies as current; if you were delinquent prior to forbearance, it will continue to be reported to the credit agencies as delinquent.
Review Your Insurance Coverage.
Life, home or renters, and vehicle insurance are all important pieces of your financial picture. Can you negotiate lower rates if you’re not driving as much now? How much life insurance should you have in general? Popular Bank’s Insurance and Annuities can walk you through the different types of insurance and annuities available to help safeguard your financial future.
Consider Your Investments.
While everyone’s situation is different, the concept of asset allocation investing can be beneficial. Consider it as the opposite of “putting all your eggs in one basket.”
Take a Look at Your Retirement Savings.
What are the IRS rules for contributions and withdrawals? Should you access your funds early due to COVID-19?
The CARES Act allows account owners under the age of 59 ½ to take an early distribution of up to $100,000 per person in 2020 in their 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, and Traditional IRAs without paying the 10% penalty tax. This is a temporary provision and subject to certain conditions.
Additionally, the Act suspends the mandatory 20% tax withholding requirement that applies to early distributions. This is a temporary provision and subject to certain conditions.
What are Your Health Insurance Options?
If you are furloughed or are reduced to part-time hours, you may still be covered by your employer. If you are laid off, you may opt for COBRA coverage or a state or federal-sponsored Affordable Care Act coverage.
Plan for the Future.
Even though we are in a financial holding pattern, life will still go on. Think about your long-term goals to fund a college education, a home purchase or a plan to pay down debt. Popular Bank offers a number of consumer accounts and educational planning tools to help you moving forward.
How Can You Use the Stimulus Money?
Under the CARES Act, taxpayers making up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income will receive $1,200 checks, and $500 for each child. The same rules apply for married couples who file returns under $150,000.
Sure, an unexpected boost of $1,200 may seem like a reason to splurge on stay-at-home-induced online shopping. But if you don’t need the funds to meet basic needs, consider using the stimulus money to increase your emergency fund savings or pay down debt if your budget allows.
These are uncertain times for everyone. Popular Bank is here to help. Learn more about personal finance options on our website.
Investment and insurance products and services are offered through INFINEX INVESTMENTS, INC. (“Infinex”). Member FINRA/SIPC. Popular Investments is a unit of Popular Bank. Infinex and Popular Bank are not affiliated. Products and services made available through Infinex are not insured by the FDIC or any other agency of the United States and are not deposits or obligations of nor guaranteed or insured by any bank or bank affiliate. These products are subject to investment risk, including the possible loss of value.