How to Prioritize Bills During a Financial Crisis

Our vibrant, animated country has basically been put on pause. Busy streets are now empty and previously crowded malls are eerily vacant, as millions of Americans shelter in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

If you have been affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be getting worried about incoming bills and wondering where you’ll find the money to pay them. Let’s take a look at what financial experts are advising now so you can make a responsible, informed decision about your finances going forward.

Triage Your Bills

Financial expert Clark Howard urges cash-strapped Americans to look at their bills the way medical personnel view incoming patients during an emergency. “In medicine it’s called triage,” Howard says. “It’s exactly what’s happening in the hospitals right now as they decide who to treat when. You have to look at your bills the same way. You’ve got to think about what you must have.”

Times of emergency call for unconventional prioritizing. Clark recommends putting your most basic needs, including food and shelter, before any other bills. It’s best to make sure you can feed your family before using limited resources for other bills. Similarly, your family needs a place to live – so mortgage or rent payments should be next on your list. And continue down the line after that. If you are not sure that you can make full payments on your other bills, call that particular lender or company as soon as possible. Many are offering extended grace periods without penalties during this time.

Housing

It’s one thing to resolve to put your housing needs first and another to actually put that into practice when you’re working with a smaller or no paycheck. The good news is that some rules have changed in light of the financial fallout of the pandemic.

President Donald Trump announced he’s instructing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to immediately halt “all foreclosures and evictions” for 60 days. This means Americans will have a roof over their heads for at least the next two months, no matter what.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency also offered payment forbearance to homeowners affected by COVID-19, allowing them to suspend mortgage payments for up to 12 months. These loans, provided by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, account for approximately 66 percent of all home loans in America. Some lenders are allowing delayed payments to be tacked onto the end of the home loan’s term, while others will collect the total of missed payments when the period of forbearance ends.

In the state of New Jersey, a 90-day grace period on mortgage payments should also be provided by most financial institutions. Details can be found here.

If you are having trouble making your mortgage payments right now, talk to your lender about your options before making a decision. Suspending your housing payments during an economic shutdown can be a lifesaver for your finances and help free up some of your money for essentials.

If you’re a renter, be open with your landlord. “Consumers who are the most proactive and say, ‘Here’s where I stand,’ will get a lot better response than those who do nothing,” says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, CEO of AsktheMoneyCoach.com and author of “Zero Debt.” Your landlord should also be willing to work with you.

Transportation

When normal life resumes, many employees will need a way to get to work. Missing out on an auto loan payment can also mean risking repossession of your vehicle. This should put car payments next on your list of financial priorities. If meeting that monthly payment is impossible right now, communicate with your lender and see if they offer skip-a-payment or a deferment program during this time.

Household Bills

Utility and service bills may be another area of difficulty right now. First, don’t worry about shutoffs. Most states in the U.S. have outlawed utility shutoffs for the time being. Second, many providers are willing to work with their clients. Visit their websites or give them a call and check to see what kind of relief and financial consideration they’re offering to their consumers at this time.

Unsecured Debt

Unsecured debt includes credit cards, personal loans and any other loan that is not tied to a large asset, like a house or vehicle. When it comes to these loans as well, consumers are advised to communicate with their lenders about their current financial reality. Credit card companies and lenders may be able to extend payment deadlines, waive a late fee, or occasionally allow consumers to skip a payment without penalty.

Have you been affected by COVID-19 and are having trouble making your First Financial loan payments? We are here for you! Click here to learn more about your options and fill out an online request form.

Article Source: CUContent.com

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