As many of us continue to stay home to do our part to flatten the curve and limit the spread of COVID-19, we are still adjusting to our new “normal”. Virtually every part of our lives has been affected by the pandemic, including the economy. While we cannot control the fact that many stores, restaurants and other businesses are temporarily closed and the market is volatile, we can control our personal finances. Whether by adjusting spending or being more mindful, there are some simple ways we can manage our money and help us maintain some control over our finances during these uncertain times.
Remain Objective & Focus on Your Personal Economy
Since the market has been a bit of a roller coaster these past few months, it might be tempting to sell stocks or switch investments. However, it is important to remember that investments are typically set up for long-term goals and not short-term gains. If you are feeling very anxious about your current investments or portfolio, it’s important to talk to your financial advisor before making any drastic decisions. Instead of focusing on the overall market and other aspects of the economy we cannot control, it might be more beneficial to focus on your own personal budget and household finances.
Review Your Emergency Savings Fund
An emergency fund is money set aside to help in the face of unexpected circumstances, such as an accident, loss of income, or a home repair. These savings can assist in both small and large unplanned expenses that come up and are not part of your usual bills and spending.1
Even when not dealing with a global pandemic, it’s a good idea to make sure you have adequate savings or an emergency fund if you don’t already have one. Since we are currently living through a situation that has the capacity to affect every individual’s health or job status, making sure you and your family have enough in case of an emergency is one way to stay proactive and prepared.
Be Aware of Scams
Unfortunately, during a crisis such as this, we also see an increase in scams that capitalize on the fears of the vulnerable. It is important to be aware of the various scams that are prevalent during this pandemic.
- Scam #1: Emails Offering Information About COVID-19
Make sure to keep your eye out for emails that claim to have information about the coronavirus pandemic – especially if they’re offering this information in exchange for personal information. This is an easy way for scammers to lure someone in, since most people are isolated at home and worried about the pandemic.
- Scam #2: Suspicious Links
If you receive an email from a friend or business with a link or attachment that is unexpected or out of the norm, consider contacting the sender before opening the link. If the link is from a scammer, the link could download a virus or malware onto your computer or device.
Key signs of a suspicious email may include:
- Poor grammar and misspellings
- Lack of specific information (your name, account info, etc.)
- The messaging has a sense of urgency
- Sender’s address is different than usual
- Scam #3: Phone Calls & Texts
Even though you may be more inclined to answer all incoming texts or calls during these times, be cautious of what calls and texts you’re responding to. Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers or those coming from suspicious country or area codes. If you do answer the phone and it’s a robocall, do not press any numbers or say anything into the receiver.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are using this opportunity to offer fake items over the phone including:
- Medicine to cure coronavirus
- Work-from-home opportunities
- At-home test kits
When it comes to scams relating to the current pandemic, you should treat every “quick fix” opportunity as something that’s too good to be true. As of early April, the FDA has not approved at-home test kits, and a vaccine, cure or preventative drug has not been put on the market.2 Scammers may also try to advertise that they’re selling in-demand items such as cleaning products, toilet paper or masks – be sure to take caution if it’s not from an authorized seller or place of business you’ve frequented prior to this time.
- Scam #4: Stimulus Checks
With the recent passing of legislation in multiple countries, many people have become eligible to receive financial assistance in the form of checks or rebates and with . With some people eager for their money, they may be less likely to question potential texts, emails or phone calls about government assistance. Remember to use the same caution you would with any other email, phone call or text when it comes to receiving any type of communications regarding government money.
During this time of heightened fear, anxiety and vulnerability, it’s important to remain wary of any potential scams. Your personal and financial information are always at risk of getting into the wrong hands, so it is extremely important to educate and inform yourself in order to prevent falling victim to any of these dangerous scams.
Review Your Budget
Whether you’re reassessing your current budget or starting fresh, begin by breaking down where your money goes when it comes to housing, food, transportation, health, personal/family, financial and miscellaneous. Even if your job status has not changed and your income remains steady, you should still review your monthly budget, cutting unnecessary costs and taking advantage of any extra money. The lack of restaurants, bars and stores to visit may mean you now have greater disposable income. If you find yourself with any extra money, you might consider increasing your retirement fund or 529 plan contributions or adding to your emergency savings. You might also decide to donate to those in need, such as food banks or groups supporting hospitals and health facilities, which could all use extra funds during the crisis.
Stay Informed Regarding Available Resources
In response to COVID-19 in the United State, the CARES Act was passed to help families and businesses affected by the pandemic. This bill includes extended unemployment benefits, healthcare aid and one-time stimulus checks for individuals with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 (single), $150,000 (joint), or $112,500 (heads of household).3 The tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15.
As we continue to confront this global emergency, there are many things we can do to stay both physically healthy and financially prepared. To better understand your options and benefits, you should reach out to your workplace or a qualified professional. If you have any other questions relating to your personal finances or concerns about your financial situation during the COVID-19 crisis, please contact us. We are here for you and we are all in this together!