Learn What to Do if You Are Facing Financial Hardship Because of Coronavirus

With the coronavirus pandemic causing many workers to miss work, understanding your financial choices is more critical than ever.

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While financial gurus may advise you not to check your investments in a volatile market, that may not be a concern for many Americans, given that over 80% of employees live paycheck to paycheck and many households think it would be tough to handle an unexpected $400 bill.

Losing shifts or being laid off during this period may aggravate many Americans’ already tight financial situations. Here are eight actions to consider if you don’t have an emergency fund and are trying to make ends meet during these unpredictable times.

1. Make immediate contact with creditors.

Suppose you’re worried about being unable to pay your credit card bill. In that case, student loan debt, or utilities in the future months, the National Consumer Law Center recommends contacting your creditors as soon as possible and requesting hardship concessions.

This could involve putting payments on hold (as a last resort because interest continues to accumulate) or making interest-only payments. Banks such as Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo ask consumers experiencing financial trouble to call them to see what they can do.

Credit unions are also providing aid and lending assistance. Furthermore, you may be eligible to enroll in a hardship plan, which may result in lower interest rates or fees and penalties for some time.

Many utility companies, including significant suppliers like ComEd, Duke Energy, FirstEnergy, and PSE&G, provide energy bill assistance programs that may allow you to postpone payments until later.

If you have student loans, speak with your servicer to learn about your choices. If you have federal loans, consider forbearance – interest is presently being eliminated for the length of the crisis — or enrolling in an income-based repayment plan, which might reduce your monthly payments to zero or less.

2. Develop an “emergency” budget.

The NCLC also suggests drafting a “leaner” version of your regular budget, which is prudent regardless of whether you are currently experiencing financial difficulties. But it becomes much more critical if your hours are reduced, or shifts are canceled in the following weeks. “Make a list of all your present obligations,” the NCLC suggests.

“Circle the things you want to save money on so you can see how much you could realistically save if you halt subscriptions, limit travel, and cook cheap meals at home.”

3. Think about getting a personal loan.

According to Lending Tree, personal loans typically range from $10,000 to more than $20,000, with terms ranging from three to five years. They can be helpful to in times of financial instability.

They are available via banks, credit unions, and internet lenders such as SoFi and Payoff. The lower the interest rate you will be offered on a loan, the better your credit score. According to LendingTree, the average APR offered to applicants with credit scores above 760 is just under 10%.

This is much lower than the average credit card APR of 17.08 percent, making a personal loan a better option for emergencies than a credit card. It would help if you looked into what different lenders offer to compare interest rates and other loan parameters. If you currently have a relationship with a bank, it may be able to offer you more favorable conditions.

If you own your home, you may also be able to obtain a home equity line of credit and borrow against the value of your home. However, this technique has some drawbacks, such as upfront expenses and potentially high-interest rates if you don’t have a decent credit score.

4. Select the lowest-interest-rate product.

You may be forced to use a credit card if you cannot obtain a personal or home equity loan. Use the card with the lowest interest rate to save on interest when paying off your account. Even a few percentage points can save you significant money in interest payments. One option is to look for low-interest offerings, such as a credit card or a line of credit with a 0% APY for a set period (typically 12 or 18 months).

This will offer you some wiggle room if you have problems meeting your financial obligations in the coming weeks. Again, folks with higher credit scores are more likely to qualify for better discounts, so if you have a low score, use the cards you already have before asking for a new one and perhaps getting denied.

5. Send letters of temporary difficult

According to the National Consumer Law Center, if you are experiencing difficulty paying your mortgage, your first step should be to seek a legal representative’s assistance. You can then send hardship letters to lenders, such as your mortgage company, to determine your choices.

6. Take advantage of community and government aid programs

Currently, the government is working to put laws in place to assist cash-strapped Americans amid the crisis. However, communities and local and state governments already provide a wealth of additional resources. Food banks are one resource (consider donating to one if you are not experiencing financial difficulties), and some groups can assist with costs such as utilities.

In these circumstances, places of faith will also assist. If you contact your local government, they should be able to provide information on where to discover these groups. Social media platforms like Facebook are a fantastic way to start your search for community groups.

7. Make use of retirement funds

You may also be able to access your retirement resources. However, financial counselors advise that this should be the last choice. You can withdraw your Roth IRA contributions tax and penalty-free (but not investment gains).

If you don’t have a Roth, you may be able to borrow from your 401(k) (k). You will escape fines this way but have to repay it with interest within five years. There are numerous disadvantages to taking this route:

You will forfeit any potential investment development for the term of the loan, and if you do not repay the loan within five years, you will be required to pay taxes and other penalties.

If you leave work or are fired before the loan is repaid, you must refund the entire amount within a few months to avoid penalties. Avoid payday loans at all costs. Avoid payday loans, also known as cash advances, if possible.

These loans are simple to obtain and can be helpful in times of great financial stress, but they are pretty costly. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the national average APR for a payday loan is about 400 percent. Even a high-interest credit card has a lower APR (between 12 percent and 30 percent ).

These are also highly exploitative and can trap borrowers in debt. They are designed to be paid off in one considerable amount, usually within two to four weeks of being created. You’ll be charged with penalties and costs if you can’t repay it. You’d be better off accumulating credit card debt than taking out these loans.

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