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- The COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns have prompted millions of Americans to reassess their finances.
- When my state shut down, I did a deep dive into my own financial plans and realized the pandemic was presenting me with an opportunity: With no financial peer pressure, I could save more than ever.
- If you’re in the same position, consider paying down your debts more aggressively, saving for a future bucket-list trip, or looking for a new job if you hate your current position. Now is the time to tackle your most unsexy money goals.
- See Business Insider’s picks for the best high-yield savings accounts »
I will never forget the second week of March 2020 for as long as I live. It’s the week that the City of Denver and the state of Colorado shut down everything because of COVID-19. The ski resorts, casinos, and small businesses were shut down, and we were all sent home, reeling in shock. This wasn’t what I planned for.
Then people began to lose their jobs, be tasked with working from home, and, in many cases, educating their children, too. As a contentious Congress scrambled to create a lifeline for millions, we soon realized that we were dealing with a Black Swan event and that change was coming, whether or not we were prepared for it.
Having experienced the trauma of dealing with a family member’s joblessness during a similar time and supporting us both on my barista wages, I’m empathetic to the financial stress that many people are experiencing at this time. With this in mind, I would like to share how this unexpected crisis can be a wake-up call for your financial goals.
If you’re thinking about paying off debt, saving more, or making more, COVID may be the unexpected time to kickstart those goals.
The pandemic has provided unexpected financial clarity
Many people had no idea they were living on the financial edge until they were under threat of losing their job to the pandemic or had lost their job already. For many, the ability to cover monthly expenses — or at least make minimum payments — was a non-issue until dealing with job instability or job loss. Over 44 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the month of April alone, and many financial institutions reported drastic changes to consumer behavior that were a direct result of quarantine orders and fear.
Sitting at home with nowhere to go encouraged many Americans to look through their finances and reassess. Some people were saving thousands on childcare, gas, and work-related expenses, while others were spending more on groceries and digital entertainment. Millions decided to bulk up their savings accounts.
In my case, COVID made it clear to me that I was smart to pay off a massive amount of debt in the years prior to the pandemic. I started my debt payoff process in 2012 and had simplified my financial picture significantly by 2020. I also found myself going through my insurance policies, financial plans, and budget line items to make sure that my financial obligations made sense during this time.
The COVID crisis became the unexpected kick in the butt I needed to reevaluate, rethink, and jumpstart financial goals that I had dragged my feet on, and I heard the same sentiments from my friends. I began considering how many of us could kickstart our goals during COVID-19. One thing is clear: Stay-at-home orders and shutdowns mean we’re facing virtually no financial peer pressure, so now is a unique moment to focus on our savings and other financial goals.
Reconsider your job, debts, and income streams
If you’ve hated your job for the past five years and feel underpaid and underappreciated, now may be the time to start quietly searching for a new role that pays you more and has a better title or scope of work.
Do you have several debts that you’ve been paying the minimum on for years? Now may be the time to pay them off without worrying what other people think about how you’re managing your money. In fact, a genuine lack of financial peer pressure has created the perfect opportunity to take care of the unsexy financial goals that many of us drag our feet on.
Save and plan for future trips
Americans are limited in their travels right now, especially to the top 10 countries we love to visit and enjoy. While this is super frustrating for many would-be travelers, this inability to travel presents an opportunity.
Now is the perfect time to start saving towards that epic trip that you’ve dreamt about for so long. No one will judge you for not going out and spending money. In fact, most of your friends will completely understand why you’re choosing to play it safe. So save your cash instead.
Pandemics really suck. If you’ve been personally affected by illness, job loss, or lowered income, continue the process of managing your energy, emotions, and personal strength.
If you’re out of work, you may have received extended federal unemployment benefits or a PPP loan. If and when a second stimulus bill becomes law, don’t hesitate to take advantage of those benefits — we all need support right now. If there’s a second stimulus check, which seems likely, consider putting it towards a future goal if you don’t need it right away.
If you have the energy to explore the ways that you could leverage this moment financially, take the opportunity.
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