Over the last few weeks, our everyday normal has been turned upside down with more and more people beginning to feel financial strain. Too many aspects of our lives contain uncertainty right now. Consider these tips to help you create some stability within your finances.
SECURITY (AVOIDING FRAUD)
Security and safety are of even greater importance during these times, so how can you protect yourself?
Beware of Scams
Fraudsters thrive during adverse situations, and now is no different. Macy’s, the Catholic Diocese, and even your own HR Department are being imitated to gather sensitive consumer information. Protect yourself by asking questions and trusting your gut. If you are still unsure or an offer seems too good to be true, call the bank! Get our opinion on the situation. Unfortunately, we deal with this every day and are trained to detect the signs of fraud.
It is good practice to change your passwords on a regular basis, never using the same one for multiple online accounts. This is a perfect time to strengthen your online security. Use a mix of special characters, numbers, and letters when creating a new password to make it almost impossible for a hacker to crack. Don’t forget multi-factor authentication! Creating a two-step login process for online platforms creates that extra layer of security that will deter would-be hackers and will hopefully cause them to move on.
I can’t stress enough the importance of account alerts. Through the bank’s mobile app, you can be notified of activity on your account in real-time. It’s easy to set-up and could save you money and headaches. Any of our bankers can walk you through the process of setting this up.
The bank offers both online and mobile banking technology so you can check your accounts anytime, anywhere. Even though you may be stuck at home not spending money, it is still extremely important to monitor account activity. If a transaction doesn’t look right, call us right away! We would much rather work with you to determine if activity is fraudulent than see you lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars. We are here for you!
The world may seem like it has stopped, but your monthly payments have not. It’s encouraging to see commercials from automakers and others offering payment assistance, but it’s important to understand all your options.
Start by figuring out exactly what is due each month on a loan or credit card. Some people like to pay more each month to reduce the amount of interest paid or the duration of the loan. During times like these, it’s quite possible the extra funds you’ve been allocating towards loan payments could be used more effectively elsewhere. Reduce your payments to exactly what is owed and use the additional money to pay other bills or even save it. Your banker can assist you with adjusting any automatic payments you have in place.
Interest Only/Minimum Payments
Whether it’s a Home Equity Line of Credit, Personal Line of Credit, or a credit card, you may have the ability to pay a much smaller amount each month. It’s common that these loan products require a small minimum amount due. With credit cards, you will incur interest charges if you don’t pay the balance off but paying a little extra over time may be better than not being able to pay the bill at all. Lines of credit are a little different in that the minimum due on each billing statement is the interest on the principal balance. Paying just this amount saves you in finance charges but doesn’t reduce the principal owed. While this doesn’t sound helpful, it’s important to remember that the extra funds can help in other areas. When things improve and you feel more confident financially, you can make larger payments to catch back up. Your bank lender can further explain these options.
While no one ever wants to defer a loan, there are times when it is the best option to avoid being in a dire financial situation struggling to pay bills. From student loans to auto loans to mortgages, many companies are offering deferral options. By exercising this option, you are reducing your monthly financial obligations while you work to strengthen your finances. Payments are not erased during this time but rather, are paused. The duration of the loan will be extended but the positive side of this is that you get to worry a little less in the present day. The bank has several individuals that can discuss this in greater detail.
Whether you are feeling financial strain or not, it is crucial to be smart in preparation for what tomorrow brings. Easy adjustments can be made to increase financial reserves.
Tax Refunds/Stimulus Checks
This pandemic escalated during a time when many were anxiously awaiting their tax refund checks. It’s common to hear of people splurging with the extra money, but this year is a little different to say the least. Everyone needs to be thinking practical first. Instead of spending your refund on a fun item, perhaps put the money away for a rainy day. Hopefully, you won’t need to touch it, and later when things get easier, you can splurge when it is time to stimulate the economy. Speaking of stimulating the economy, let’s not forget about those stimulus checks starting to arrive in bank accounts. While it feels like free money, it is important to utilize it for necessities now or save it to spend at businesses when the economy reopens.
In a previous blog I discussed how important it is to know your monthly budget to save any excess income for times like these when things are a bit tougher. If you are fortunate enough to be working full-time and are seeing extra money in your bank account, save more! Put a little extra away every month so you have it for either an emergency or that new home purchase you have been considering. We can’t spend on entertainment now so why not put those funds away. Trust me, you will be happy you did!
Perhaps you were considering retirement or have been making plans for the future. Unfortunately, the current markets have wreaked havoc on investment accounts. Scary, I know, but use the resources at your disposal to ease those fears. Your financial advisor can use their expertise to help answer many of the questions you have. Allow them to explain where the markets have been, where they are currently, and where they are going. Our financial advisory department has a team of experts that provides us with updates, and it helps to hear them explain trends. Touch base with them to hear these messages, as well, and rest assured that things will get better.
My last major point doesn’t really fit into the above categories, but I feel it is worth mentioning. Support local! It is trying times like these that our local businesses rely on us to help keep them going. Whether it’s your favorite restaurant or your go-to local boutique, each and every one of them needs your attention now. We are stuck at home and may be cooking a lot more than we normally do, so why not take a break and order from your favorite spot. A little bit of effort now goes along way to making our entire community’s future look bright.
The ultimate saying of this pandemic has been, “Alone, together.” Sticking together will get us through the Covid-19 pandemic and will lead us to a healthier, happier time. Stay strong and stay kind!