It seems like right now we’ve all had to press pause on different areas of our life. For some, that may just mean staying at home, limiting activities and interactions. For others, that pause comes with more serious implications—like job layoffs, which have created a whole new set of difficulties that many were unprepared for. No matter what you’re going through, now’s the time to come together with your family to discuss a plan.
Take a look at your finances and consider any nontraditional sources of income—such as stimulus checks and credit card rewards—that can be helpful right now. Depending on your situation, there may be actions you shouldn’t take and some you should do without question when it comes to funds like these.
However the money may be coming in, here are a couple tips to keep in mind.
Take the Time to Make a Plan
As a Membership Outreach Manager at Navy Federal, I often remind members, no matter where they’re at in life financially, it never hurts to take a step back and reevaluate. The key is to avoid making any hasty decisions and, instead, take inventory of your financial stability.
All families have different priorities, and this is truly the time to talk them out. Use whatever extra cash you have carefully and deliberately. Determine how much money is coming in, figure out what bills absolutely need to be paid and take a look at how much you have in savings.
If finances are a little tight right now, focus on using that money for any necessities like groceries, prescriptions and utilities. Make sure you and your family have what you need to get by before making any additional purchases—that’s priority number one.
I grew up in a home with my depression-era grandparents, which had a tremendous influence on me. They were not wealthy people, but they learned to ensure they had savings by making do with what they had. Through them, I was able to learn saving money and conserving your resources can go a long way.
If you lost your job and have no cash to pay your basic monthly bills, check your financial institution’s website or mobile app for possible relief options. Many institutions, including Navy Federal, are offering members assistance where possible.
Save for a Rainy Day
I remember the old advice my grandparents would give, to “save for a rainy day”— which is a saying that will always ring true. For many of us, that rainy day is here.
If you have basic necessities covered with some funds left over, take a close look adding that leftover amount to any emergency savings you have stored away.
While most financial planners recommend keeping three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved up, that can be difficult for many families. Set aside what you can—if any at all—and put it into a high-yielding savings account. It’s especially helpful during uncertain times to have something squirreled away, no matter how nominal it may feel—every bit counts!
Cut High Interest Rate Debt
Now is also a good time to take care of any high interest rate debt you might have. Retail credit cards and dealership auto loans often come with high interest rates—and high-interest debt compounds quickly. If you have the financial flexibility, pay off these debts to prevent them from becoming a financial burden.
If you’re struggling to make payments, check with your financial institution to see if they’re offering any assistance such as loan extensions or waiving late fees. Little things like refunding late fees can be a big help for families who may be going through a tough time. While in the traditional sense it’s not seen as extra cash, it’s a way for families to reprioritize their financial needs in a way that makes sense for them.
If you don't have an immediate need for the stimulus check or other incoming funds right now, don’t feel like you have to spend it. You can just as easily put it aside so it’s readily available for unanticipated expenses. More than anything at a difficult time like this, peace of mind goes a long way.
Anne Marie Ferdinando is a member outreach manager in the membership division at Navy Federal Credit Union. She has been working in financial services for 30 years, the last 20 of which have been with Navy Federal.