A global crisis like COVID-19 makes people anxious in so many ways. Aside from general, health-related concerns, people are also worried about whether or not they can stretch their budget to last over weeks or months of irregular spending and working. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ease the anxiety about your finances. And you don’t even need to leave your home for them!
To secure your finances during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, consider making the following money habits a regular part of your life:
1. Closely monitor activity on your accounts
One of the first things you should do is secure your personal information online. In times of crisis, there is bound to be confusion, and people’s focus tends to be on survival, mental health, and other immediate concerns. As a result, things like bank or credit accounts often become lesser priorities. This may leave individuals open to identity theft and other scams.
A crisis is a good time to start incorporating better habits about security online. Routinely change your account passwords and check the transactions on your online banking accounts for any unfamiliar purchases. If possible, you can ask your credit card provider if you can have a security freeze on your account, so scammers cannot use your information to apply for credit.
2. Check your credit reports for inconsistencies
Make sure your credit reports are accurate, so you can identify any fraudulent activity. Cross-reference your credit listed on different credit bureaus like Equifax and TransUnion. There is so much personal information on these reports; they have details on every loan you’ve applied for in the past six years, how much you owe, and even the details of your payments.
If there are distortions in these numbers, it can affect your credit score and how eligible you may be for loans in the future. Credit reports are not infallible, and it isn’t unheard of to spot errors ranging from simple clerical ones to serious misrepresentations. If you find that your report does not add up, dispute the information with the credit bureau where it appeared.
3. Make a financial plan specific to this time
When a crisis hits, people can react in extreme ways. Some take hypervigilant stances and put rigid austerity measures on their finances. Others become anxious spenders and rack up a large bill trying to make themselves feel better. Planning is important, especially during times of uncertainty. Putting together a budget helps you anticipate your expenses without giving in to hysteria.
A budget also helps you pay all your bills on time. This should be your first priority, whether or not you are working through a difficult period. It may be difficult for some people, but try to at least meet your minimum debt payments. You can also contact your utility providers and see if you can work with more flexible options for your monthly bills.
4. Seek out financial advisors
A credit counselor may be what you need during this difficult time. Counselors can offer advice on debt management so you can repay your debts without worrying about daily needs. People who are worried about their investments should talk to specialists like the fund manager of their bank or their company’s 401(k) representative; this makes it possible for them to get advice informed by experience.
You can also speak with your lenders. Many of these companies are putting policies specific to COVID-19 in place, which will help customers meet their payments without needing to pay unnecessary late fees. They may also temporarily lower interest rates or freeze payments for the time being. Data reported to the lenders—especially when it comes to pandemic-related circumstances—should not cause your credit score to go down. Check with your lender about how legislation on the COVID-19 affects your payment terms.
A global crisis can be difficult to process and requires people to operate as normal even with so much uncertainty. Being aware of your financial situation and taking steps to maintain or improve it will help you get through this period. Professional counsel can also give you the perspective you need to make serious decisions in a timely manner.
At Nava Ventures, we aim to help empower people to live their best financial lives. If you are searching for a better way to bank that gets you on a budget, track your debts, increase your credit score, and plan for your future all on your phone, join our wait list! Get in touch with us for more information.