A Pandemic of Financial Fears

Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

There’s a lot of fear right now. I’m not in the medical field so I can’t do anything besides washing my hands and social distancing to reduce that. But here at TDS we are in a position to help keep your financial fears to a minimum.

A recent survey from MyBankTracker.com about Americans biggest financial fears during this time indicated that 36% do not have financial concerns. Of course, that means that 64% do have some concerns/fears.

And that’s understandable. If we’re fortunate enough to be working, we all know someone who has lost their job. I just spent 20 minutes on the phone with a friend who lost their job because of the virus. Among the concerns for health are some real concerns about our finances.

But there are things that you can do if you’re worried about meeting your financial commitments. Let’s look at some of them.

First, recognize that lenders don’t want to call in your loan. Like the rest of us, they’re hoping that this works itself out soon. So most, especially if they’re smart, will be willing to work with you.

For instance, Bank of America is allowing customers and small businesses to request loan deferments. That includes credit cards, mortgages, overdraft fees, home equity loans, auto loans and business loans. (source: BankOfAmerica.com) I expect many other lenders to follow suit.

Don’t be afraid to talk with them. Be honest about your situation. They’re aware that many will face financial troubles. And, it’s in their best interest to work with you.

Think of another example. Your landlord. They don’t want to start eviction procedures. That costs money. By the time they’d evict you, this could be over. And, even if they could evict you, how hard would it be to find a new tenant now? Ask them if they can give you some time to catch up after you return to work.

And, don’t think that their answer today is the final word. Many things are changing fast. Businesses are dealing with situations they never faced before. As new information becomes available, new policies are put in place. Your landlord may have a mortgage. Once he understands that his bank will give him some time, he can extend that time to you, too. So today’s “no” could be “yes” next week.

You’ll also want to check out Benefits.gov. You’ll find help including where to find benefits, unemployment resources, healthcare resources and help for your business.

The stimulus package will give most of us a little leeway. There are some rules that you need to be aware of. First, it’s a tax credit based on your ‘adjusted gross income’ level. If you use an accounting firm, you’ll want to contact them for all the details. Too much to cover here.

Another thing to consider with your income taxes. Congress extended the deadline for filing. And your CPA is happy about that. (At least my wife the CPA is!) But if you expect a refund, you’ll want to file sooner rather than later.

Finally, a couple of personal notes. I’ve been involved with personal finance since 1982 when I joined Smith Barney as a rookie broker. I’ve seen many financial upheavals – the market crash of 1987, the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2001, the real estate collapse of 2008. This is a little different than all of those.

But there is one thing that they have in common. As an economy, we survived and recovered from all of them. Yes, many people were hurt. And, here at TDS we want to help minimize the pain. One way we do that is through our newsletters. You can subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher here or if you’re nearer to or in retirement you’ll want to get After 50 Finances. We’ll do our best to help you get through this financial crisis.

On a separate personal note, since I started TDS in 1995, we’ve always focused on your financial affairs. Primarily how to ‘live better…for less’. But I realize that we’re not one dimensional. There’s more to life than money.

For many of us, our faith or spiritual life is important. Especially in times like these when we’re more focused on the big questions of life. Regular readers probably know that I’m a Christian. My faith is a key ingredient in how I’m facing this crisis. If you feel that you’d like prayer or just want to unload, you can send an email to pastorgary@homefellowshipchurch.com and let me know what’s on your mind and your heart. I’ll do my best to respond individually.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

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