April 30, 2020
On my new Suze Orman Women & Money app (which you can get FREE through Google Play and Apple App stores), I recently polled users on what was their biggest money worry. Unemployment was the top concern. I can’t say I am surprised, given the millions of people who have recently lost a job due to the current crisis, and the millions more who worry they may be next.
I understand the fear, and the anxiety. I am not going to tell you the road ahead will be easy, but I will tell you that you have the power to keep walking one step at a time toward a better future. And I insist that you stand tall. You are strong, you are wise, you are capable. This is a setback, wrapped inside a global disaster, that has nothing to do with your skills, your character, or who you are. It happened to you. Don’t let it define you.
Here is your action plan:
Don’t give up trying to file for unemployment insurance. I know it is frustrating to not be able to get through to your state’s unemployment office. Try to be patient; the sheer magnitude of the newly unemployed has created a logjam. If you have yet to get through, keep at it. Once you do file, your benefits should be retroactive to when you were let go, not when you got through to the unemployment office.
Make the most of the $600 a week in extra unemployment money. Congress authorized each unemployed person to receive an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits (the federal government is paying for this). I want you to focus on only paying your essential bills. And just the minimum due.
Check if you can suspend or reduce any bill payments. If you haven’t already, you must, must, must, contact every lender and every business you have accounts with and ask if they will suspend or reduce what you owe for the next few months. Many mortgage lenders must offer households impacted by the coronavirus crisis the ability to stop payments for up to six months. Some car lenders are willing to suspend payments. And you should be asking your credit card issuer if your minimum due can be reduced; even better, ask to have the interest rate reduced for a few months. You may not get a positive response from everyone, but unlike the last financial crisis, there are more banks and lenders and credit card issuers offering help. But often you need to ask to get a break.
Take an online course. At some point, the economy will start to open up. I want you to use the time you have right now to think about what skill you could add to your resume that will help you when you are ready to look for your next job. There are tons of free, or inexpensive online courses to pick up some office skills you’ve been meaning to upgrade. Or a certificate program you know will help your resume shine when it is time.
My heart goes out to each and every one of you who have lost a job. I know it is not easy. I know it is scary. I also know that the only way to combat fear is to take action. Building your work skills is a fantastic way to focus on your next chapter.
Answer Yes or No to the follow statements.
I pay all my credit card bills in full each month.
I have an eight-month emergency savings fund separate from my checking or other bank accounts.
The car I am driving was paid for with cash, or a loan that was no more than three years, and I sure didn’t lease!
I am contributing at least 10% of my gross salary to a retirement plan at work, or I am saving at least that much in an IRA and/or regular taxable account.
I have a long-term asset allocation plan for my retirement investments, and once a year I check to see if I need to do any rebalancing to stay on target with my allocation goals.
I have term life insurance to provide protection to those who are dependent on my income.
I have a will, a trust, an advance directive (living will), and have appointed someone to be my health care proxy.
So how did you do?
If you answered yes to every item, congratulations. If you are working on improving on a few items, I say congratulations as well.
As long as you are comitted to truly creating financial security, I applaud you. If that means you are paying down your credit card balances, or are building up your emergency fun with automated payments, that’s more than fine. You are on your way!
But if you found yourself saying No to any of those questions, and you’re not working on moving to Yes, then I want you to stand in your truth. No matter how good you feel, you have some work to do before you can honestly know what you are on solid financial ground.