How Credit Counseling Can Help When You are in a Financial Crisis

A personal financial crisis can take different forms. Losing a job, having your work hours or income reduced, facing a huge medical expense, and having your identity stolen are just a few examples. Many times, these situations can lead to larger problems, especially mounting credit card debt. If you find yourself in a financial crisis, you should know that credit counseling is an available resource, and it could be the perfect solution to help you recover. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how credit counseling can help.

Talking to Someone

We know that financial stress can impact your mental health, and many people find comfort and relief by talking about their concerns with someone else. Credit counseling pairs you with someone who is willing to listen and ready to help you move toward your goals. No, a credit counselor isn’t a therapist, but credit counselors are known for providing comfort in difficult times. Your credit counselor will approach your situation with understanding and empathy, and give you space to voice your financial regrets, concerns, and goals.

Trusting an Expert

A credit counselor isn’t just confidant; he or she is an expert trained in helping consumers overcome financial difficulty and make a plan for their future. There is great peace of mind that comes with working alongside such an expert. When you are in “crisis mode,” you may not have the time or mental energy to get bogged down in the details or pull yourself by the bootstraps to achieve financial recovery. The great thing about credit counseling is that you don’t have to. You get to put your financial situation in the hands of an expert and educator who can guide you toward your desired outcome, help you create a structured plan, and teach you new financial strategies and behaviors along the way.

Reviewing Your Credit Report

Your credit report is an extremely important financial indicator, because the information it contains affects your credit score. Unfortunately, mistakes are far too common in credit reports and many go unnoticed. If you are going through a financial crisis, you will want to keep a close eye on your credit report to make sure it does not have errors holding back your score. You will also want to watch the data on the report over time as a sign of your progress paying down debt.

Walking through each line item of your credit report with a credit counselor can reveal errors, highlight areas to work on, and give you the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about how credit reports and scores work.

Exploring Numerous Solutions

Sometimes you have a general problem and aren’t sure what the best solution is. Money inherently works this way. For example, if you are having a hard time paying rent, credit card debt might actually be the bigger underlying problem. If you could free up some cash away from your credit card bills, rent would be easier to make. That’s just one example. The good news is that credit counseling helps identify the major issues and identify your best solutions.

For some, housing really is the main issue. In that case, a credit counselor can point you to a housing counselor to explore options for how to keep your home. Alternatively, maybe your credit card debt makes you a good candidate to consider a Debt Management Plan. Or, maybe your financial strain is best addressed by some minor tweaks to your monthly budget. Your counselor can explore all of these solutions with you and even connect you to local resources in your community in cases where doing so would be helpful.

Simplify Your Month-to-Month Routine

If you opt for a Debt Management Plan, you will receive numerous benefits. One benefit that is particularly helpful is that your month-to-month routine will become much simpler. By making one monthly payment to cover all of your credit card debt, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of keeping track of multiple bills. Simply make one payment to the credit counseling agency, and you’re covered for the month. Not only that, but the DMP will put an end to those pesky creditor and collection calls, which are the last thing you need when you are in an already stressful situation.

Getting Started is Easy

If you are in a crisis, you may not have much time and energy left in the tank. Thankfully, it is very easy to get started with credit counseling. Sessions can be held online or via telephone (or in-person if you prefer). All you need to do to prepare is gather your basic financial information, including a list of your expenses, recent paystubs, and your credit card statements. You can read more about what to expect, or get started here.

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The Mental Impact of Financial Stress and Tips for Dealing with COVID-19 Impacts

A recent poll from the National Endowment for Financial Education shows that 88 percent of Americans are experiencing financial stress as a result of COVID-19. That does not come as much of a surprise, given the way in which the pandemic has created widespread uncertainty and significant economic fallout in such a short time. Financial stress revolves around money, but it is a form of stress and therefore both a personal finance and mental health issue. If you are experiencing stress and anxiety about your finances and are concerned about the future and making ends meet, consider the following tips and resources to preserve a positive outlook.

Establish a Routine and Consistent Self-Care

Most of our routines have been upended in recent months, which can certainly contribute to stress. However, many have referred to life after COVID-19 as the “new normal,” which means that it provides an opportunity to create a new routine. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness explains, “daily habits and routines can help you feel more in control of your own well-being.” To feel most in control, try to preserve as much of your pre-COVID routine as possible. This means trying to find time for the activities you used to do and trying to keep as much consistency in the timing of those activities as possible.

Make sure that your routine includes time to exercise, ways to eat healthy (i.e. adequate time to plan for grocery shopping and cooking), and a healthy sleep schedule. A routine that includes each of these should help you retain a sense of normalcy and limit stress. In addition to these basic elements of a routine, consider building in time for relaxing activities. These could include yoga and meditation, stretching, extra time with pets or kids, or even just a personal hobby that you enjoy. If you have the capacity and desire to take on a new challenge, consider learning a new skill through one of the many online educational platforms. That, too, could be a positive distraction and provide a benefit to your resume.

Your routine should absolutely include a budget, too. Having a plan for where your money is going can ease your anxiety and provide some sense of predictability. As you plan a daily routine, consult the COVID-19 guide from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which provides in-depth tips and considerations for handling this difficult time.

Access Available Resources

One of the silver linings of this pandemic has been the rapid response by many individuals, organizations, and governments to provide assistance to others. Make sure that you are aware of these resources and take action when needed, because they may provide the help you need. If you feel overwhelmed by looking for or applying for resources, consider asking a friend, family member, or even a credit counselor for help.

Online Therapy

Talking about your financial stress can make it better, give you peace, and help you develop a plan for moving forward. You can speak with a qualified professional from the comfort of your own home. There are many therapists who offer this service. Consider contacting local professionals in your area. They may be able to work remotely with you now, and then hold face-to-face sessions when restrictions related to COVID-19 are lifted. Alternatively, there are remote-only services available, like Talkspace.

If you are not interested in one-on-one therapy sessions, you might consider joining a group online for people who want to share their experiences of dealing with COVID-19. Talkspace has a free Facebook group; NAMI also has free online community discussion groups. The NAMI Guide also provides a list of several other online communities that may be worth considering.

Lastly, for a completely go-at-your-own-pace option, there is an app called COVID Coach. Though it is being marketed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is available to and designed for everyone. The app is a self-care tool designed to provide coping mechanisms during COVID-19, and to allow users to track their progress.

Government Programs

Make sure that you are aware of government programs passed in response to COVID-19. These include the economic impact payments and expanded unemployment benefits. If you need to take action to access these benefits, make a plan to do so. You do not want to miss an opportunity for help when it is available. These programs can also be sources of stress if you are confused about how to apply or if there are delays in processing. Find a friend or family member to help you navigate the programs and to be a sounding board for any questions or frustrations.

Friends, Family, and Community Groups

Connections with friends and family matter now more than ever. Just because you cannot be physically together does not mean you cannot have meaningful conversation and connection virtually. Call, text, or email friends and family to see how they are doing regularly. They will appreciate you thinking about them, and you will get peace of mind and comfort from knowing how they are doing. Now that video calling technology is so easy to use, you can even Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime together, not just to talk but to do a variety of activities (eating dinner, watching a favorite TV show, etc.). In addition to friends and family, be sure to maintain connections with community groups. These could include your church, an organization where you volunteer, or something else. Find ways to stay involved and in conversation with the people at these places. It will help preserve a sense of consistency.

More Help

If COVID-19 has impacted you and caused increased financial stress, know that you are not alone. In fact, you are in the large majority. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. A few important resources that you might like to have handy are the NAMI Covid-19 Guide, tips from the CDC on Stress and Coping, and a dedicated page on COVID-19 issues from the American Psychological Association. Each of these provides important tips for creating healthy routines and seeking help from professionals if needed. Of course, if you also want specific help with your financial situation, including a plan to manage high-interest debt, we invite you to contact a credit counselor for a one-on-one counseling session.

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Should You Access Your Retirement Funds Early Due to COVID-19?

One of the long-standing rules of personal finance has been that you should not take funds out of your retirement account early except as a last resort. The question now is whether the COVID-19 crisis has created a “last resort.” In other words, does it make sense to dip into retirement savings now? The CARES Act has temporarily changed the rules about accessing these funds, making it more favorable to do so before you are of retirement age. Let’s take a closer look at the changes and the considerations that should go into any decision about accessing retirement funds early.

Normal Rules for Distributions and Loans

There are generally two ways to access retirements funds early. You can take the money out of the account (a distribution) or you can borrow money from your account (a loan). Normally, if you take a distribution from a retirement account before you are 59 ½, then you will pay income tax on the distribution and be subject to a 10 percent penalty (or a 25 percent penalty in the case of distributions from a SIMPLE IRA within the first two years of participation). However, note that there are exceptions to this rule.

Distributions are available from any retirement account. However, loans are more limited. Loans are not available on any IRAs or IRA-based accounts. The IRS explains that loans are only available on “profit-sharing, money purchase, 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans,” though not all plan administrators offer loans. Borrowing from a 401(k) or similar account is normally limited to $10,000 or 50% of the vested account balance, whichever is greater, with a cap of $50,000. You pay interest on a 401(k) loan, but the interest returns to your account. The biggest cons to using a 401(k) loan are that you may miss out on investment growth due to taking your money out of the market, and you may default on the loan, which could lead to the loan being treated as a distribution. For a good primer on these loans, read this article from Credit Karma.

Loans and distributions can both be disastrous to your retirement savings by triggering severe consequences in the form missed portfolio growth, increased tax liability, and penalties. That is why most financial experts warn against tapping into these funds early if you can help it.

Important Changes Under the CARES Act

These are not normal times. Anticipating that many Americans will be strapped for cash, the government changed the rules for early retirement distributions and 401(k) loans under the CARES Act. Here are some additional important details and further explanations about the law to keep in mind.

Early Distributions

Which retirement accounts are covered?

The option to take a distribution without paying a penalty applies to all retirement accounts.

Who can take a penalty-free distribution?

To avoid penalty, the distribution must be taken by a qualified individual. This covers someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has a spouse or dependent who tested positive. It also covers someone “who experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off or having work hours reduced due to such virus or disease, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to such virus or disease, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to such virus or disease, or other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury (or the Secretary’s delegate).”

How big can the distribution be?

The limit for penalty-free distributions is $100,000 per individual across accounts.

What time period is covered?

To avoid penalty, the distribution must be taken between March 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

How much will you pay in tax? How can you limit your tax liability?

This will depend on your tax bracket. However, the act allows you to spread the tax payment over three years. It also allows you to repay the money to an eligible retirement plan to avoid the tax liability.

 

401(k) Loans*

How much can you borrow?

The CARES Act increases the cap from $50,000 to $100,000.

What time period is covered?

The increase in how much you can borrow is in effect until September 23, 2020.

How much tax or penalty will you pay on the loan?

There are no taxes or penalties on the loan, but you will pay interest, which is returned to your account.

Does the law change payment obligations?

The law allows affected individuals to delay repayments for up to one year.

*Be sure to consult with your plan administrator to understand fully the terms of a potential loan and the impact of the CARES Act on such a loan.

Should you take a distribution or loan?

The CARES Act provides a unique opportunity to access your retirement funds with less financial penalty than usual. However, these new rules do not address the other main disadvantage of early withdrawals: limiting your investment growth over time. Timing the market, or predicting when investments will hit their peaks or bottoms, is practically impossible. The initial market response to the COVID-19 crisis has been negative, and markets may still be in the midst of a downturn. This means that your portfolio may be quite a bit lower today than it was even just a month ago. Cashing out of your retirement now may mean you take a loss or miss out on upcoming market rebounds. It would strip your funds of their growth potential

Withdrawing or borrowing from your accounts is still a last resort. Do not borrow from your retirement just because you think it is a rare opportunity to do so. You should only take money out of your accounts if you need the money for a financial emergency. Even then, consider the following funding sources instead, and then only return to the idea of taking your retirement money if the other options are not feasible.

Alternatives

Stimulus Money and Tax Refund

Make sure you have taken the necessary action to get your stimulus check. That money may help you meet your goals and eliminate the need to borrow from your retirement. The same is true for a tax refund if you have not yet received yours.

Emergency Fund

You have this fund for a reason. Consider using it now if you are in a bind. Consider growing it too. Now is the time to cut extra expenses and put more toward your savings for future uncertainties.

Personal Loans

Personal loans often provide better terms and interest rates than credit cards, especially to people with good credit. If a small personal loan can hold you over in a pinch, it may be a better alternative.

Of course if you are struggling and are unsure where to start, a certified nonprofit credit counselor can help you sort through your options and provide financial guidance that can set you up for success, now and in the long-term.

 

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FAQ: Student Loans and COVID

The COVID stimulus package (CARES Act) has several new actions to offer relief for student loan borrowers. For most federal student loan borrowers, principal and interest payments on federally-held student loans have been suspended through September 30, 2020. During this time, interest will not accrue.  Here’s what you need to know.

Do I need to formally apply to get the remission?

There is no action required from your end. Your federal student loan will automatically be suspended for all interest and monthly payments due between March 13 and September 30, 2020. You will receive a written notification to the effect from your federal loan servicer around mid-April. Please ensure that your contact information is current with your servicer.

What happens if I continue to make my payments towards student loan during the suspension period?

If your financial situation allows you to continue making payments, any payment you make during the suspension period (March 13 – 30 September, 2020) will be applied to the principal. This will help repay the loan faster since the interest rates for the remission period are set to zero for all federal student loans.

Is interest and payments suspended on all student loans or does the remission rule only apply for certain selective type of student loans?

The suspension of payments applies to most of the student loans that are held by the federal government. It is estimated that about 92% of the total student loans are owned by the U.S. Department of Education. The benefits authorized by the CARES Act do not apply to

Federal student loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program provided by commercial lenders
Perkins Loans held by the institution or school
Private (non-federal) student loans owned by banks, credit unions, or other private entities.

However, creditors of many non-eligible student loans under the CARES ACT are offering extended forbearance options. You’ll need to contact your loan servicer for details. If you are not sure who is your loan servicer, you may find out by using the tools provided at Federal Student Aid website. If you have a private loan you may check your credit report for the loan servicer details.

I have heard of student debt relief scams, what should I be wary about?

If you ever get a call asking for a fee to help you get remission on your student loan, be aware that this is a scam. The federal government does not ask for any fee for forbearance under the COVID stimulus package.

If my loan does not apply under the stimulus package relief what should I do?

For loans held by commercial banks, schools, or private creditors, please contact them directly and explore if they have any interest and(or) payment suspension options available.

Despite the support allowed under the stimulus package, given my current income the student loan debt will remain unmanageable moving forward beyond the stimulus package suspension period. What should I do?

If you have a federally owned student loan, the Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plans can help reduce your monthly payment amount. One of the following income-driven plans may be right for you:

Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE)
Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)
Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan)

If you are facing hardship and are unable to meet your student loan repayment commitments, you should contact your loan servicer and ask if you are eligible for a 90-day forbearance for borrowers facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. This will not affect your credit score. For Perkin loan borrowers, the schools can provide forbearance for up to 90 days. In addition, some of the private borrowers are waiving late fees and reduced payment options which are worth exploring.

Will I be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. The qualifying employers are Government organizations at any level (U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal) and Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. You also have the option for loan consolidation of all your federal owned loans under PSLF. Check your eligibility here.

I am in default on my federal student loan, am I eligible for remission under the stimulus package?  

CARES Act has suspended all interest on student loans including those in default through September 30, 2020. Also, the collection of defaulted student loan payments has been ceased.  These provisions kick in automatically for federal loans. For private defaulted loans contact your loan servicer for options. You may also consider loan rehabilitation or loan consolidation for your federally held student loan. Learn more about these options here.

When do I need to contact a nonprofit financial counselor?

If you are having issues paying your student loan, the NFCC and its agencies can help you. You may speak to a nonprofit NFCC® Certified Student Loan Counselor about your options. You get a one-on-one, comprehensive review of your finances and a repayment plan that works best for your situation, especially while COVID-19 brings in additional uncertainties and the traditional approaches do not work.  Contact a student loan counselor now.

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Eviction and Foreclosure Suspension for Homeowners Facing Difficulties Making Mortgage Payments

The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic will require sacrifices but losing the roof over your head should not be one of them.   The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Mortgage Letter 2020-04  dated 18 March 2020, announced a freeze on evictions and foreclosures.  This will protect more than 30 million Americans who would now be at risk of losing their homes as the corona virus outbreak ravages the economy and causes a reduction in hours or even job loss for millions of American workers.

Here’s what you should know:

The HUD order will apply to homeowners with single family mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the FHA.  A single-family mortgage is for a home that is usually occupied by the owners of that property and their family members. Multi-family properties are typically investment properties and do not fall under this new order in place. Also, bank and private investor-owned loans are not within the limits of the HUD guidance.

In line with the HUD announcement Fannie Mae , Freddie Mac  and FHFA propose the following relief options

Providing mortgage forbearance for up to 12 months,
Waiving assessments of penalties and late fees,
Foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers are suspended for 60 days( till May 17, 2020),
Suspending reporting to credit bureaus of delinquency related to forbearance,
Offering loan modification options that lower payments or keep payments the same after the forbearance period.

To find out if your mortgage is owned by either Freddie of Fannie, you may search by inputting you address at their respective loan lookup tools.

Many states have also announced similar programs. For instance, in California four of the major national banks, state –charter banks and credit unions have agreed to a 90-day forbearance on mortgage payments for those affected by COVID-19. New York has banned evictions outright until further notice and Maryland has followed suit.

How do I access mortgage relief?

Borrowers are recommended to apply through their mortgage servicer. The servicer will decide whether the borrower qualifies for the assistance and how they would repay the missed payments. In many cases, the missed payments are moved to the end of a mortgage, so it could extend the payoff date. Alternatively, servicers sometimes ask for a lump-sum payment.

In this fast-changing landscape, it is best to get professional advice to help manage your mortgage payments during this Covid-19 downturn. Although, these new federal measures will help many, they do not apply to the more than 80 million renters across the nation. If you have questions about how to manage your finances and make ends meet during this time, contact a nonprofit credit counselor today!

 

 

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How to Build Savings While in Debt for America Saves Week #ASW2020

In honor of America Saves Week, one of the themes this week was to save for the unexpected and build an emergency fund. Here at the NFCC, we really encourage building an emergency savings fund so that individuals have some cushion to prevent them from going further in debt when unexpected expenses pop up.

This week we had a Facebook Live event and answered several questions around the topic of saving while in debt. Below are the quick answers. For more in depth answers please check out the video linked below.

How much should you have in an emergency fund?

Ideally, you should save three to six months’ worth of take-home pay.

How can you save without hindering paying off your debt?

By having a plan. Be sure to always pay yourself first. Have a set amount that goes directly to your savings and then budget for your debt payments.

How does paying off your debt help with your savings?

Paying off debt helps you save in two ways. It saves you money because you are not paying as much interest each time you decrease the amount you owe. Also, once your debt is paid off you should put all of the money you had budgeted for debt into savings so that your strategy after paying off debt is to save, save, save.

Where should people keep the money? What types of accounts offer the best interest rates?

Money for emergency savings should be kept somewhere easily accessible so that if an emergency arises, you can get the money quickly. If you are building a savings for a home down payment, a car or just for retirement, consider other savings options with higher interest rates such as a money market account or a certificate of deposit account.

Should people be putting money in retirement savings while they are in debt?

Yes, if possible, people should not delay saving for retirement while they are paying off debt. The longer you can contribute to retirement, the more time the money has to compound interest and grow.

How can nonprofit credit counseling help people with a budget and building up their savings?

A nonprofit credit counselor can help you come up with a plan that works for you, to pay off debt and reach your savings goals. Each session is uniquely tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

What is America Saves?

America Saves is campaign managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America that is focused on motivating, encouraging and supporting low- to moderate-income households in their goals to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth.

You can check out the live event to learn more by watching the video below! If you have any topics you’d like for us to cover in coming up #FinancialFacts chats, comment on the video with those ideas!

 

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Three Conversations You Should Have Right Now Regarding Coronavirus and Your Finances

The rapid spread of the latest coronavirus, COVID-19 has already impacted the financial lives of millions of American households and shows no signs of diminishing any time soon. Where does this leave you and your family in terms of your financial preparedness for the potential economic downturn? Have you reviewed your ability to manage on reduced work hours or to survive a layoff? What does that mean in terms of your current financial obligations like rent, mortgage, auto loan, credit cards and utilities? Successfully managing your available resources requires open lines of communication with everyone who has a stake in your financial health.

Here are three conversations you should have right now in order to minimize the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Your Family

Open and frequent communication about finances can help make a crisis much easier to manage among family members. Even if you are the only one in your household, it is important to review your savings and fine tune your budget based on your current needs and future goals. Your personal savings will play an important role in an emergency but having an emergency spending plan will help you make that savings go farther. Work with everyone in your household to determine what is necessary and what expenses can be cut. Discuss which alternative budgets will work best and consider going off script to develop the best plan for your unique circumstances. For example, the popular 50/30/20 rule may work well during normal times, but the 30% recommended for entertainment and other discretionary expenses would not be appropriate during a time of belt-tightening.

Your Employer

The prospect of having work hours cut or eliminated can add a tremendous amount of stress to an already unsettling situation. Job stress resulting from these unknowns can have a detrimental impact on how you manage through difficult times. Make sure you understand what options are available for the continuation of employment and any income adjustments that may result from staffing changes. Knowing those details can help you anticipate when you will need to implement changes to your household budget. The discussion should also cover your benefits and their status if employment is terminated or hours are cut. When possible, make use of your Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) to receive counseling and access to other support services that can help you manage during times of economic disruption. Also keep in mind that there are some industries hiring to meet additional demand as more people adapt and shelter in place. If loss of income seems imminent, explore ways to generate a supplemental income stream with an employer or in the gig economy.

Your Lenders and Utilities

Being proactive can make a big difference when dealing with all sorts of financial obligations ahead of a crisis. There are already lenders and service providers offering special assistance for people with questions about managing bills during the coronavirus pandemic. It is likely that there will be an increasing level of guidance as the virus continues to impact more communities. When you are certain that your wages will be reduced or eliminated, contact each of your financial obligations to make them aware of the situation. Be honest and as detailed as possible about how the change will impact your ability to pay your account. Even if they offer special recommendations in response, always ask if there are other options for you to consider. The more informed you are about your choices, the more likely you will find the most appropriate solution. Sometimes these discussions can be overwhelming, and you are provided a lot of information to process. It is reasonable to ask for some time to consider your options and review the information, and you should also request to have details provided in writing by text or email.

There is no shame in reaching out for help in a time of need, so don’t hesitate to contact a nonprofit credit counseling agency for guidance when you feel confused or overwhelmed. Trusted agencies like those affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) have been helping people overcome financial challenges since 1951 and are here to help you no matter your circumstances.

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Creditors Response to COVID-19, Coronavirus Pandemic

Here is a list of the top creditors and their offerings during the Coronavirus pandemic: 

Bank of America

https://about.bankofamerica.com/promo/assistance/latest-updates-from-bank-of-america-coronavirus

As the economic situation evolves and you continue to monitor your personal finances, Better Money Habits has information and know-how that can help you make more informed decisions.

For questions or advice, we’re here for you. Visit a financial center to meet with a specialist, call your Financial Advisor or Contact us.

Chase

https://www.chase.com/digital/resources/coronavirus

If you need help…

… with your accounts or payments, please call us at the number on the back of your credit or debit card, or on your monthly statement.

Capital One

https://www.capitalone.com/coronavirus/

We also understand that there may be instances where customers find themselves facing financial difficulties. Capital One is here to help, and we encourage customers who may be impacted or need assistance to reach out to discuss and find a solution for you.

Should you find yourself in need of assistance, please contact us.

Wells Fargo

https://www.wellsfargo.com/jump/enterprise/coronavirus-response

Wells Fargo is committed to helping customers experiencing hardships, including from the COVID-19. If you’re in need of assistance, call us at 1-800-TO-WELLS (1-800-869-3557) to discuss options available for your consumer lending, small business, and deposit products.

Citi

https://online.citi.com/US/JRS/pands/detail.do?ID=covid19

Should you be impacted by COVID-19 and need our support, we’re here to help. Effective Monday, March 9, 2020 for an initial thirty days, contact us for assistance with:

For Retail Bank Customers: Fee waivers on monthly service fees; waived penalties for early CD withdrawal.
For Retail Bank Small Business Customers: Fee waivers on monthly service fees and remote deposit capture; waived penalties for early CD withdrawal; Bankers available after hours and on weekends for support.

In addition, we have always on assistance programs, including:

For eligible Credit Card Customers: Credit line increases and collection forbearance programs.
For eligible Mortgage Customers: A range of hardship programs through our service provider, Cenlar FSB. Please contact them at 855-839-6253 (M-F 8:30am – 8pm ET, Sat 8:30am – 5pm ET Monday to Friday 8:30am to 8pm ET, Saturday 8:30am to 5pm ET).

Discover

https://www.discover.com/

If you have been impacted by COVID-19, our team is here to help.

Contact us any time online, by mobile app or phone.

 

*List will be updated as we have more information.

 

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How to Stock Up Wisely, Emergency or Not

Concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated COVID-19) mean more of us are doing what we probably should have been doing all along: washing our hands more frequently and thoroughly; staying at home when we’re sick; stocking up on food and supplies in case that stay becomes extended.

People who may have been exposed to the new coronavirus or who get sick with COVID-19 may be advised to stay home for as long as 14 days to keep from spreading it to others, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s led many people to wonder if they could manage for two weeks at home without a run to the grocery store.

Stocking up shouldn’t mean panic-buying cases of toilet paper at the nearest warehouse store, of course. But keeping a reasonable supply of shelf-stable food and other supplies on hand makes sense for all kinds of emergencies, from natural disasters to stretches of unemployment.

At the same time, it’s important for your wallet and your community not to hoard stuff you don’t need. You can spend a small fortune on N95 masks, for example, but those are better reserved for the health care workers who can help those who become sick enough to need treatment. Likewise, there are companies selling emergency food kits with a decades-long shelf life, but those may include stuff you or your family just won’t eat. That’s a waste of money and food.

A better approach is to create a two-week cache of food based on the “store what you eat, eat what you store” principle that I detailed in “The Emergency Fund You Can Eat.” The basics:

Write down two weeks’ worth of meals. Consider what your household would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner during that period, including mains, side dishes, beverages and desserts. Include snacks and treats that could make a potentially stressful time a little easier, as well as foods that could help someone with flu symptoms, such as broth, herbal tea, ice pops and electrolyte drinks.

Adapt ingredients, as necessary. In a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake, utilities including water, fuel and electricity could be disrupted, so it’s important to have alternative cooking sources, such as a camp stove, as well as an emergency water supply. In a disease outbreak, utilities likely won’t be interrupted, but you may not have ready access to perishables or have the energy for elaborate meals. (Restaurant and grocery delivery may be an option, but that can get expensive if used for every meal.)

Shop and store. Once you have your ingredient list, shop using coupons and sales to minimize the additional cost. Find storage, preferably where the food won’t be forgotten.

Use and replenish. About once a week, create a meal using your stockpile, starting with the stuff closest to its expiration date, and then replace what you’ve used. In that way, you’ll rotate through your two-week stash of 42 meals in a little under a year.

It’s smart to have a similar approach to other necessities, including hand soap, disposable facial tissues, toilet paper, diapers, pet food and litter, household surface cleaner, laundry and dish detergent, and hygiene supplies. Figure out how much your household is likely to use each week, and keep at least a two-week surplus on hand.

Likewise, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that you regularly check your prescription drug supply, and keep nonprescription drugs and medical supplies on hand. These can include pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, and vitamins.

Liz Weston is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @lizweston.

The article How to Stock Up Wisely, Emergency or Not originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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5 Steps to Prepare Yourself Financially for the Uncertainty of Coronavirus

The coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread and is now considered a pandemic. People are scrambling to gather essentials for their homes and are on high alert wondering how this situation will continue to evolve and what effects it will have on the economy, work and the coming months. Unfortunately, it’s unpredictable how exactly everything will pan out but one thing’s for sure, is it is wise to prepare.

As we prepare for more school closings, businesses and mandatory working from home, here are some steps you can take:

Contact your creditors as soon as possible. If you anticipate the inability to make your monthly credit card payments, it’s important to open that line of communication. Ask for temporary hardship concessions like interest-only payments or forbearance.
Keep priority obligations on track. First and foremost, it’s important to pay your rent or mortgage. If you experience loss of job or income, be sure to maintain open communication with your creditor or landlord.
Develop an emergency spending budget. This is a leaner much stricter version of your budget. Pause all “fun budget categories” like dining out, extracurricular activities, anything that is more of a want than a need. Set a realistic budget for utilities and food expenses. Make a list of all your current obligations. Circle the things that are wants so you can see how much you could realistically save if you pause subscriptions, limit travel and make affordable meals at home.
Identify community resources and if there are any government assistance programs available. Government officials are still working through what options and if there will be opportunities for health care reimbursement established in the coming days. Communities agencies may help with food banks, temporary assistance with utilities, etc.
Reach out to a nonprofit financial counselor to find ways to eliminate debt and reduce financial obligations. Debt is often the roadblock that keeps people from being able to establish financial stability. According to CNBC, the biggest hurdle that is causing people to live paycheck to paycheck and preventing them from building an emergency savings fund is debt.

If you have limited resources and not much in a savings account, you are not alone. About 40% of Americans say they don’t have $400 available to cover unexpected bills. With so many living paycheck-to-paycheck, even missing one paycheck could lead to financial struggle.

Now is a good time to prioritize paying down debt to the best of your ability because interest rates are typically highest for revolving lines of credit. To do so, The NFCC is here to help! Our nonprofit credit counselors are on standby to help you strategize and figure out the best way to make it through this uncertain financial season. Amid trying to stay healthy and manage your households, it’s important to not have the worry and stress of debt.

Get a financial checkup today!

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