10 Ways to Improve Your Personal Finances After COVID-19 Quarantine
While the country waits to see if a second wave of the coronavirus will happen, businesses are starting to reopen, and people are beginning to return to work. Even though there may be a resurgence of the coronavirus in the future, many Americans are ready to return to normal life. However, life may never be precisely the same again.
According to Pew Research, 33% of Americans report that their finances have been negatively affected by pay cuts or job losses resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. That number is even more troubling for Hispanic households, with 49% reporting job losses or pay cuts due to COVID-19. No matter how the coronavirus has financially impacted you, there are some things you can do to ensure your finances are strong and healthy for the future.
Financial Wins You Can Achieve Today
Before you put the coronavirus quarantine behind you, check-in with your personal finances and ask yourself these 10 questions to accomplish some big financial wins.
1. Did You Get Your Stimulus Check?
If you got your payment and spent it on living expenses, that is a financial win. If you haven't received your check, see if you qualify and collect your payment on the IRS website. You may need to reference your 2018 or 2019 tax documents or your bank account information.
If you have yet to receive or do anything with your stimulus check and don't need it for dire expenses, Kyle McCann, a certified financial planner, recommends putting the money in savings. He recommends investing the money only if you have a comfortable emergency fund.
If you're in a more financially stable situation, you could donate the money to a local or national charity. You could also use the funds to help achieve the following financial wins.
2. Are You Behind on Your Debt?
If you're having trouble tackling your credit card debt or car loans, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau recommends contacting your creditors and negotiating a plan for paying your debt as soon as you're able. Many credit card companies and other creditors are working with consumers during this time. When you speak with your creditors, ask about the following:
- Changing your payment due date
- Requesting a payment plan
- Getting a payment extension or deferral
- Refinancing your loan
- Negotiating a payoff
3. Is Your Auto Insurance Offering a Rebate?
A variety of car insurance companies are offering rebates during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Car and Driver, the companies offering premium rebates include Allstate, Geico, Progressive and State Farm. If you haven't received a rebate, give your car insurance company a call to see if your policy received a cut. Typical rebates are anywhere from 15% to 25% depending on the insurance company, so it’s well worth looking into.
4. Have You Pulled Money From Your 401(k)?
While it can be tempting to pull money from your 401(k) or reduce the amount you're contributing, unless you're in a dire situation, it's a financial win to leave your 401(k) alone and continue to make contributions to it during this uncertain time.
If you decide to pull money from your 401(k), you could be subject to a penalty unless it's for a corona-virus related expense as outlined in the CARES Act Stimulus Package. If you could use extra money now, consider temporarily lowering your contributions. Just be sure that when you get caught up, you start contributing to your 401(k) again.
5. Did You Expand Your Emergency Savings?
The tried-and-true steps for saving money don’t change during a pandemic. From creating a budget to working with a financial advisor, educating yourself on how to save money doesn’t cost anything. According to McCann, the general rule of thumb is to have between three and six months’ worth of bills in your emergency savings. But with the future uncertain, you may want to lean more towards the six-month mark.
6. Can You Refinance Your Home Mortgage for a Lower Interest Rate?
Refinancing your home is a financial win that could save you a lot of money now and in the future. There are various mortgage relief programs currently in place as a result of COVID-19, but these are temporary. For permanent savings, refinancing your mortgage into a lower interest rate could save you hundreds of dollars monthly, and thousands of dollars on your mortgage over the length of your loan.
7. Can You Pay Down Your Student Loans?
Even though all payments on federal student loans have been suspended through September 30, 2020, making your payments during this time is a financial win because it goes directly towards your loan principal. You could be saving hundreds of dollars in interest payments by putting money towards your student loans during this time.
If you aren’t able to make payments on your student loans right now, use this time to catch your breath and get caught up or ahead on other bills so you can start paying on your student loans again at the end of the summer. That’s a win, too.
8. Have You Opened a High-Yield Savings Account?
Even though savings rates have been affected by COVID-19, putting your money in a high-yield savings account can earn you interest on your savings at a higher rate than a checking account or a traditional savings account. If your finances have changed, you may need to rework your savings strategy, but continuing to save money, even if it's a small amount, is a financial win that will keep your finances healthy.
9. Did You Create a Budget?
If there's ever been a time to create a budget, it's now. As we head into an uncertain economy where prices have changed, incomes have dropped and we don't know what lies ahead, sticking to a strategic spending plan can keep you out of debt and spending within your limits.
The four steps of creating a budget are:
- List your income and expenses.
- Pick a budgeting method and track cash flow.
- Adjust income and spending to meet your financial goals.
- Keep your budget flexible.
10. Are You Aware of Financial Scams?
When times are rough, financial scams are high. Being scammed out of your stimulus check or getting tricked into believing you're getting a coronavirus-related grant is definitely not a financial win. Being aware of some of the most common financial scams related to the coronavirus can protect you and your family. Be on high alert for:
- Scams that offer vaccines, cures, air filters or home test kits for COVID-19
- Scams for fake coronavirus charities
- Scams of a stranger calling and claiming a loved one is in peril and needs you to send money (unless you hear it directly from your loved one)
- Scams that target your Social Security benefits
Start Implementing These Financial Wins
Life will go on after the coronavirus, and when the world reopens, having healthy personal finances will make it easier to navigate the future. Whether your personal finances could use some relief assistance or you're fortunate enough to build your financial wealth during this time, using these financial wins to check in with your money will have you heading into what comes next with your bank accounts and wallet prepared.
About the Author
Sara East is a content marketing professional and a writer for MoneyGeek based in Reno, Nevada.
- Chuck Grassley, United States Senator. “CARES Act Retirement Provisions FAQ.” Accessed May 15, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Beware of scams related to the coronavirus.” Accessed May 15, 2020.
- International Revenue Services. “Get My Payment.” Accessed May 15, 2020.
- Pew Research. “COVID-19 pay cuts, job losses hit Hispanics more than Americans overall.” Accessed May 15, 2020.
- United States Treasury. “Personal Finance and Consumer Protection - Steps for Quicker Financial Relief | US Department of the Treasury.” Accessed May 17, 2020.
- United States Treasury. “Act fast if you can't pay your credit cards.” Accessed May 15, 2020.