Five Financial Steps to Take Right Now to Protect Your Money
With no immediate end in sight for the health and economic crisis that has overtaken the U.S., we are hearing from many people that they are worried about how they will manage expenses. People are experiencing layoffs, complete job loss and reduced hours and are unsure of how to react to upcoming bills. In an effort to assist those affected by this crisis, American Financial Solutions has put together this list of steps to take to survive these times.
Request a copy of your credit report.
The beginning of a crisis is a good time to request a copy of all three, major credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com or another consumer site. This does two things:
- Provides a record of how you have paid your debts prior to an economic crisis.
- Opens the opportunity to easily add a statement to your credit report stating you are experiencing an economic hardship.
Switch to an Emergency Budget
- Identify your critical expenses and look for areas you may be able to reduce spending like cable or internet services.
- Review bank statements for services you may not need. Think about expenses like music or movie subscriptions, subscription boxes, genealogy services and more.
- Also think about ways in which you may be able to increase income during this time. Side jobs or selling unused household items may be an option. There are good tips in our article Making Money from Home. You can also find a wealth of budgeting tips and an interactive budgeting tools on our website.
Identify Resources in Your Community and Apply for Help
Sometimes people will hold off seeking assistance because they unsure how long a financial situation will last. However, the longer you wait, the more dire circumstances may become. Charities, non-profits, government agencies and commercial businesses are attempting to provide a variety of support services and it is important to let them know what support is necessary. To find services in your area, dial 211 or visit 211.org online. You can also access a national list of resources on our website.
Waste no time reaching out to the creditors you owe before payments are missed – credit cards, car loans, mortgages, etc. Many creditors are trying to put programs in place to assist their clients during this unprecedented time. When contacting your creditors:
- Call the number on your statement. Avoid links in emails or providing information to someone who calls you. Unfortunately, we know unscrupulous people are already posing as creditors attempting to convince people to make payments now or provide banking information to secure future payments.
- Explain your situation – tell your story - and let the creditor know what you can do and what you need:
- Make partial payments for a period of time,
- Put payments on hold,
- How long you anticipate this situation may last (it may be indefinite or unknown).
Keep records of the conversations and any agreement that is made with the creditor. In many cases creditors may send a follow up email or letter outlining how they will help during this time. Designate that correspondence as important.
Get Professional Financial Assistance from Nonprofits
Contact a financial expert at American Financial Solutions (AFS). We can help with making tough financial decisions during this time. AFS is a non-profit credit counseling agency that provides budget, debt and credit assistance to people nationwide.
Published Mar 25, 2020.