Don’t ignore these difficult lessons, or assume that you don’t have to worry because “this will never happen again”. Instead, face these realities head-on and take concrete, proactive efforts to safeguard your financial future.
1. Keep an Emergency Fund
Last year has taught us the significance of an emergency fund in a brutal way. You never know when you’ll suddenly be without a stable income or face an unexpected expense.
So the first order of the day is getting that emergency fund. Ideally, you’ll want to aim for 3 months’ worth of basic expenses.
Next, it’s time to cover a cardinal rule of money management: Your money should never just be sitting around. That means you’ll need a place where your money makes money. You won’t find that in a safe or under your mattress, and a standard savings account won’t help you much either. (0.06% is nothing. $0.06 a year in interest? Come on, now.)
That’s where Aspiration comes in. With their debit card, you can earn up to 5% cashback and 16 times the average interest rate! Just open a free Aspiration Spend and Save account.
Aspiration is FDIC-insured and uses military-grade encryption. Basically, this means that your money is perfectly safe, no matter what happens.
2. Make Sure You Have Life Insurance
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a boom in life insurance purchases. More and more people are realizing they’ll need it at some point. Insurance companies have seen up to a 30% increase in policies sold, and for good reason.
People are suddenly grappling with a lot of difficult questions. How will your family cope without you if you’re the breadwinner? How will they pay bills? Go to school? Keep their home? Life insurance can solve all of these problems, at least while your family gets back on their feet.
Many people are unable to visit a doctor for a variety of reasons, and social distancing is not the least of them. If this is you, try a no-exam life insurance, like this one from Bestow.
Your application takes just a few minutes, and costs as little as $16/mo. You’ll get peace of mind without scheduling a medical exam or even getting up from your sofa.
3. Start Investing
2021 turned out to be a difficult one, but some people prospered as a result of their investments. Two examples:
• A share of Amazon stock costs $1,900 at the start of 2021, and it’s projected to cost $3,250 by the end of 2021.
• A share of Tesla stock cost $96 at the start of 2020, and it’s expected to go to $705 in the future.
The best time to start investing is right now. You can’t go back in time and invest in Apple in 2004. You can start investing with Robinhood today with as little as $5.
Robinhood is great for new investors, because there’s no commission cost. You can buy and sell stocks without any restrictions.
Best of all? Robinhood gives you a free share of stock when you download the app and fill in your info (which takes only a few minutes). The stock is randomly assigned, so the value can be anywhere from $2.50 to $200 – a perfect booster to your portfolio.
4. Keep Track of Your Credit Score
In 2020, the pandemic may have reduced your credit score. If you noticed this, there are a few likely culprits:
- Late payments on credit cards
- “Maxing out” credit cards to account for missing funds
- Missing payments on private loans or your home’s mortgage
Federally backed loans – whether that’s a mortgage or a student loan – don’t necessarily have to reflect on your credit, but there are a couple of “catches”.
First, you’ll need to ask to have the “ding” on your report removed – it won’t happen automatically. Even if you ask, there’s no guarantee that your request will be approved.
You’ll also need to know exactly what changes to your credit score are due to the pandemic.
Credit Sesame is a fantastic way to keep track of your score. Credit Sesame displays your credit score, investigates your credit reports, and notifies you of any changes. You’ll even get tips on how to boost your credit score. Oh, and did we mention this is all for free???
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Asking for financial help can be scary. There are people out there who take a lot of pride in never accepting “handouts”. Even if you’re not one of these people the American culture of individualism means you probably don’t feel comfortable asking for financial help, anyways.
If you’ve been laid off or your hours have been reduced due to the pandemic, reach out to everyone you pay a normal bill to. You can contact your lenders for loans, credit cards, your mortgage lenders, even utility companies, and cell phone, internet, and cable companies and let them know the situation you’re in.
This may prevent your account from going to collections, and they may be able to work with you on payment plans once you get back on your feet.
They might ask for proof of being laid off or reduced pay, but that should be easy enough to provide. You’ll never know if you don’t ask, and asking can make a huge difference – pandemic or no.
6. Shop Around and Look for Discounts
During the hectic stress of 2020 and 2021, surprisingly few people took conscious steps to spend less. You may have tried tightening your grocery budget, or cancelling memberships to your gym, but that’s not all you can do.
For example, when was the last time you checked on your car insurance? The recommendation is that you shop around for insurance every 6 to 12 months or so. It’s not exactly a glamorous or pleasant thing to do. So (understandably) it slips our minds… and costs hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in the process.
That’s why we recommend Insure. Insure helps you compare insurance prices with no fuss. All you have to do is plug in your ZIP code and age, along with some other helpful info. Then, Insure’s algorithm shows you all your options for insurance.
The best part? People who use Insure save an average of $489 each year. That means taking about 5 minutes to use Insure this month could instantly save you about $40. Not bad!
A Lesson Learned, A Lesson Lived.
The biggest takeaway from COVID? When life is difficult, we learn to cherish the small things.
A neighbour who posts signs in their windows, a long-lost friend who reconnects via video chat, seeing a fresh flower on a daily walk… these have nothing to do with money, but they got most people through the long periods of isolation and uncertainty.
The lesson on a positive outlook and living the simple life (COVID hobby bakers, rise up!) are things we’ll carry with us even when the memory of the pandemic is in the distant past. The financial lessons are the same – especially if this is the first time you’re taking a hard look at your money.
For more help managing money, budgeting, investing, and more, subscribe to Penny Calling Penny’s newsletter! You’ll get tips, tricks, and more blogs like this delivered right to your inbox.