By: Anissa Wright
While our tenacious desire for things to return to normal sooner than later has been recently dashed by the latest news reports, it serves as a stark reminder that we need to remain steadfast in making smart financial decisions as best we can during this unprecedented time. COVID19 is not only attacking the physical health of people across the globe, but their financial health as well. However, we are not without resources to fight back. Here are six smart money moves you need to make now in order to protect yourself from the nefarious effects of the virus as well as the insidious attacks of hackers looking to take advantage of the situation.
Prepare and Organize your financial records: Collect all of your financial information and place them in a single location that you and a trusted loved one can easily access in times of an emergency. These documents include:
1. Power of Attorney, Will and Directive to Physician
2. Life insurance. Consider a life insurance policy review. Be sure that you have
enough coverage to protect your family financially should the worst occur. Many times, consolidating several policies into one can be much cheaper.
3. Credit reports: Be sure to get your credit reports from all three agencies and do a
thorough review, looking for any inaccuracies or evidence of identity theft.
4. Logins and passwords. Secure your account logins and passwords in a safe
place along with the rest of your financial documents. If you are married, definitely do this together as a couple. Being on the same page is critical to keeping a financially sound plan in place.
File your taxes. An extension for tax filing has been extended to July 15th. Not only that, many Americans will not have to pay a filing fee. Don’t pay a dime to file your taxes until you read this.
Capitalize on new income opportunities. Big box and grocery stores are hiring daily to fill the demand for stockers and deliverers. Unsurprisingly, online opportunities to make money are booming as well. Take advantage by checking out these awesome side hustles.
Search for unclaimed property. You have seen this pop up in your email a hundred times. You just never had the interest or time to research it further. Now you do. Every year people leave thousands of dollars in unclaimed property for the state to hold. You’d better go get yours!
Contact creditors and mortgage lenders.The Federal Housing Finance Agency has instructed mortgage servicers to allow the forebearance of mortgage payments for many home owners. Find out if you qualify for relief. Contact your bank and credit union to see what programs are available to assist you and your family during this time. They have a vested interest in seeing you ultimately pay off your loan, so most creditors are eager to help.
Consolidate credit cards with zero interest rates. Many credit cards offer a zero percent interest rate on balance transfers. CreditKarma allows you to see what types of offers you would most like qualify for. If you have a large balance, this is a wonderful way to sidestep the racking interest on cards that you can now afford to only pay the minimum balance on.
Protect yourself against identity thieves. Desperate times bring out desperate people. And they don’t care if you are feeling the pain from COVID19 either. Hackers are looking for easy ways to steal your money while you are caught up in the toilet paper buying frenzy. Consider putting a freeze on your credit to stop fraudulent accounts from being opened in your name. These freezes can be temporary and a life saver if attacked by an online hacker. Here’s how you can do it.
Navigating this new world of COVID19 has called for drastic changes in all of our lives. However, we are a resilient people. By making smart decisions, praying daily, and keeping a clear focus, we can come out on the other side better than we hoped.
Anissa Wright is a family finance advocate that focuses on helping middle income families build strong financial houses.
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