As a mother, daughter and banking executive, I can honestly tell you that COVID-19 is impacting every aspect of my life. And I’m sure this unprecedented time is affecting yours, too.
Of course, our biggest focus is protecting our health and the health of our loved ones. But for many people around our country, the impacts of economic lockdowns are real. Many have faced the sudden loss of a job and there is a lot of uncertainty about what the next weeks and months may bring.
We can focus on what we can control when it comes to our financial health and needs. So, I want to share 5 things we all can do today during these uncertain and challenging times:
- Make a list of bills and creditors you’ll need help from.
If you can’t pay every bill on time, you’re hardly alone these days. Make a list of the creditors you’ll need to alert, including your car loan company, your credit card company and your mortgage company. See if they’re allowing customers to delay payments or if they’re waiving fees. Many companies – including mine – are working with customers who tell us they can’t make their payments.
Start by looking at companies’ websites— many have made it simple to opt into relief programs, and hold times on the phone may be very long these days. Also, check if your credit score will be affected if you participate in any assistance programs.
2. Assess sources of cash and credit.
Knowing how much is available on your credit cards and bank accounts will give you a sense of what you’ll be able to draw on, if needed. This reality check may not be pleasant, but it is necessary.
3. Track your spending and adjust your budget.
We may be spending on things we didn’t expect, but also saving involuntarily on other regular expenses. For example, I miss getting my hair and nails done, and going to my favorite restaurant. So, track everything you’re buying – and everything you used to spend on. That’s called adjusting our budget. Or maybe creating one for the first time.
4. Monitor and protect your credit.
Certain actions you take now can drive your credit score up or down more than others. Get your arms around the most important ones. There are many free tools that can help you track your credit score every month. Keeping an eye on your score is critical if you’re considering applying for a loan or credit card in the near term or refinancing your mortgage to get a lower interest rate.
5. Be on the lookout for scams.
Whenever a crisis strikes, you can be sure that fraudsters will come out of the woodwork. Stay up to date on the latest scams by checking out the Federal Trade Commission’s advice. Triple-check ANY social media message, email or solicitation you get, especially if it mentions COVID-19 or your government stimulus payment. Also, know that if Chase or other big banks ever reach out to you, they won’t ask you for confidential information like your name, password or PIN. Check in with your older loved ones too, since our parents and grandparents tend to be targeted by bad actors.
Go to www.currencyconversations.com to join the conversation.
Thasunda Brown Duckett has served in leadership roles at Chase for more than 16 years and is now the CEO of Consumer Banking.