The COVID-19 outbreak has spurred an economic crisis as well as a health-related one. Millions of Americans are now unemployed, frightened, and wondering how they’ll pay their bills in the coming weeks or months. And while it’s a scary time to be living through, there are a few moves you can make to protect yourself financially.
- Boost Your Emergency Fund (if possible) – Having emergency savings is crucial at all times, but it’s especially important during periods like this, when unemployment is rampant and economic uncertainty abounds. A solid emergency fund is one with enough money to cover three to six months of essential living expenses, and right now, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to hit the higher end of that range. If you’re still working, use your paycheck to pad your savings — especially if you don’t have three months of expenses in the bank.
- Leave Your Stock Portfolio Alone – The stock market has been swinging lately, and while it may be tempting to cash out investments to avoid further losses, doing so will only lock in any losses you’re already looking at. Rather than go that route, remind yourself that if you sit back and ride things out, the stock market is likely to recover in time. That said, you don’t have to leave your stock portfolio alone if what you’re doing is buying more stocks. Now’s a great time to invest in quality companies whose stock is on sale, so if you’re good on the emergency savings front, you can use your spare cash to add to or diversify your portfolio.
- Keep Putting Money Away For Retirement – When the prospect of unemployment looms over you, you may not give a hoot about what your finances will look like 20, 30, or 40 years from now. But just as now’s a good time to add to your stock portfolio, so too is it a good time to keep funding your 401(k) or IRA, provided you’re financially able to do so. The money you invest in that account now can be used to score discounted investments that could grow exponentially over time.
- Apply For a Home Equity Line of Credit – Even if you’re still working today, you never know whether the ongoing crisis will force you out of a job. And if you’re already unemployed, it could take quite a long time to secure a paycheck again. As such, having access to extra money is crucial, so if you’re low on emergency savings but own a home, it could pay to apply for a home equity line of credit. That way, you’re not borrowing money you immediately accrue interest on, as would be the case with a home equity loan. Rather, you’re giving yourself the option to borrow as you need to.
A final thought: The most important thing to do now is take a deep breath and resist the urge to panic. Panic leads to irrational thinking, which leads to poor financial decisions. The COVID-19 pandemic is a terrible and frightening situation. There’s uncertainty surrounding how long the outbreak will last, how bad it will get, and many other variables. But we will get through it. So make some smart and rational financial decisions and focus on what’s really important — your health and the health of the people you care about.
Backman, Maurie. “5 Smart Financial Moves to Make During the COVID-19 Outbreak.” The Motley Fool, 7 Apr. 2020, www.fool.com/retirement/2020/04/07/5-smart-financial-moves-to-make-during-the-covid-1.aspx. Accessed 7 May 2020.
“Coronavirus and Your Finances: Here’s How to React.” The Ascent, 13 Mar. 2020, www.fool.com/the-ascent/banks/articles/coronavirus-finances-how-to-react/.