personal finance

The Importance of Good COVID Finances, and How to Get There

There are actually a couple of positive financial side effects of the pandemic, one analyst says

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Six months in and the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has put a lot of strain of consumers. 

Business closings, pay cuts and job losses over the past six months have forced some to run up their credit cards, borrow from their savings or even raid retirement funds to make it through. 

"This is a good time to reset, time to reflect," says Jeff Cutter of Cutter Financial Group.

He says there are actually a couple of positive financial side effects of the pandemic. Savings rates are at an all-time high and consumer credit card debt is down. 

"People are taking responsibility for their debt and paying that down, which is very good," says Cutter. "Create a ladder approach. What I mean by that is: put the emphasis on the debt that has the largest interest and continue to pay that off first and then take the next one and next one and next one and, I promise you, in a series of months to a year, you'll have control of this."

Whether you're heading to college online or by the hybrid learning model this fall, it's crucial to make sure higher education is still affordable. Consumer Reports offers some advice on how to get additional financial aid even if some deadlines have gone by.

Cutter says the pandemic should have opened everyone's eyes to the importance of having an emergency fund that ideally covers three to six months of expenses. Now is the time to start one or replenish your fund if you depleted it. Even if you have to start small. 

"Consistency is critical," says Cutter. "If you start saving five dollars a week, great. Test yourself next month and try 10. If you're putting away 100 dollars a week, great. Next month, test yourself, try 150. Always push yourself, but the number one thing is to be consistent."

If you're struggling to make ends meet, Cutter says creating a budget and scrutinizing your finances is critical to helping you see where your money is being spent. 

"If you find yourself unemployed, if you find yourself in a challenging time financially, it's okay," says Cutter. "But get control of your budget, get control of where your money is going, that is the most important thing, is have control as far as where you money is going. It will get you through this pandemic."

Once your savings are in a good place, Cutter recommends taking a look at your investments and retirement planning. He says you should understand the behavior of your investments and implement changes if you aren't comfortable with how it behaved in March, when the pandemic started. 

"This is the time to get prepared," says Cutter. "This is the time to learn where the pitfalls in your process is and then seek out advice from folks who can help mitigate those." 

And don't forget about holiday savings. Any little bit of money you can put away weekly will help offset the costs at the end of the year. 

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