These are challenging times. We are beginning to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, with folks getting vaccinations and also with people getting back to work and school. We at MSA don’t want you to just survive, we want you to thrive as things improve.
It’s a perfect time to assess and to take charge of your money. As you create a plan, work with an MSA Money Coach. Their hope and goal is to help you enjoy a healthy financial life with your loved ones.
What could a healthy financial life look like?
Let’s start with the basics of building financial wellness. Plus, let’s reflect on some of the lessons you may have learned this past year that can be valuable take-aways for the whole family.
Make a Realistic Budget & Stick to It
The first step is to build a realistic budget. The old saying, “Don’t live beyond your means,” really rings true. Basically, it means to spend less than you make. It seems simple, but many folks are living paycheck to paycheck, barely meeting basic bills.
If you cut your budget down to only purchasing “needs”, then when things ease up, try to stick to that budget to free up more money for savings that may have been put off. Even look at the little luxuries, like cutting down on lattes or meals out with friends. Think of planning “potluck” dinners at home with friends and still have the joy of getting together, which is what really counts.
Challenge your kids to come up with some money-saving ideas that they can help with. You will be teaching them valuable lessons.
Build an Emergency Fund
We all know that emergencies happen: the car needs new tires, extra health costs come up, there’s a loss of income, or the washer breaks. Ideally, save 5-10% of your net income; however, due to today’s circumstances, even that much may be difficult, so adjust the number to what your budget currently allows.
Adapt to Change
This year has taught us that life will always throw us curveballs, and you can’t be ready for all of them. If you have kids, it’s important to let them know that you are resilient as a family and will handle anything that comes your way. If needed, adjust and seek the help and support that you need.
Do Not Go Further in Debt
Try not to go into debt. If you’ve used a loan to consolidate credit card debt, consider locking up your credit cards until the debt is paid off. Major purchases should be given careful consideration, especially if the purchase is to be financed.
Reach Out to Creditors If You Experienced a Job Loss
Creditors – including banks, utility companies and others – would generally rather work with a client who is proactive and upfront about their financial situation. Do not avoid those tough conversations. Creditors are more likely to work to renegotiate your debt if you give them a heads-up first and don’t wait for them to contact you when you are in default. Working out a payment plan can also help reduce the risk of damage to your credit report.
Renegotiate or Cancel Expensive Cable, Internet, & Cell Phone Packages
Every provider of these services would rather negotiate a lower monthly price with an existing customer than lose you entirely. Consider canceling a service that you can do without.
Negotiate with Your Landlord for Rent or Utility Relief
Most landlords would rather take a little less during difficult times to keep a good existing tenant than to take a chance on a new, unknown tenant.
Contact Your Lender Regarding Mortgage & Student Loan Forbearance
Find out whether you qualify for any programs by reaching out to your lender. It’s important to understand the terms moving forward regarding how you will resume paying the debt you owe.
Consider Working from Home Part or Full Time
The pandemic has changed the way the world is doing business. You can save time and money by working from home. It is worth broaching the subject with your employer. Travel costs, wear and tear on a vehicle, eating lunch out, professional clothing, are all expenses that can potentially be reduced.
Beware of Fraudsters & Scammers Trying to Capitalize on Someone Else’s Misery
It happens every time a disaster occurs, and it is happening now as swindlers prey on unsuspecting people. Avoid any “get rich quick” scheme promoted online.
Review Homeowners & Car Insurance Packages
If you are no longer using your vehicle to travel to work, you may be able to change your insurance coverage. This can reduce premiums significantly depending on where you live.
Reflect on What You Learned During These Tough Times
Hopefully, you and your family are coming out of the hardship that hit our country and our world. It’s a good time to reflect on some of the lessons you and your family may have learned. The biggest one is understanding how important your family and loved ones are and the worry this situation has caused. Getting your financial life in order can help reduce some of your stress. We, at MSA, are here to help. Call a compassionate, nonjudgmental Money Coach today.
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