Protect Your Finances in Hard Times

By Ann Lloyd, Student Savings Guide

It’s been almost a year since many of us have felt truly safe. We’ve been beset by a global pandemic, civil unrest, and, amidst it all, financial uncertainty.

We have limited control over those first two elements. We can wear masks and socially distance to shield ourselves from the coronavirus, and we can do our part to find common ground and exercise compassion when dealing with our fellow citizens. But somehow, things still feel largely out of hand.

We might feel overwhelmed by financial demands, too, and some factors may be beyond our immediate control. But we can still take steps to find firmer financial footing and work toward a more secure future — even in an unsettled present. 

Weather changes in your employment

For many, the employment picture has become a major source of stress and uncertainty during the past year. Many businesses have closed, and a survey of Yelp data showed that 60% — a majority — had closed down permanently. Unemployment claims hit a five-month high in January 2021.

You may have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the pandemic, and even if you weren’t, your job description may have changed. Maybe you started working from home or saw a reduction in hours. Or maybe you had to assume new duties as your company stretched its staff’s capacity amid downsizing.

In light of these changes, it’s important to expand your skill set to keep yourself relevant. Ask your employer about cross-training opportunities, and bolster your all-around proficiency by seeking out online courses and how-to videos. Look for side jobs and contracting work, too: The “gig economy” has grown by 15% since 2010.

If you’re in a traditional job, check in with human resources about changes in job status or duties that might be expected in the near future. And don’t be afraid to ask for information about financial assistance, wage investment programs, retirement options, and insurance packages that are available through your company.

Get proactive with your finances

Take stock of your overall financial picture with an inventory of everything from your budget to your retirement plan, from your insurance to your bank account.

There are plenty of financial management tools available to you, ranging from banking apps to budgeting software and beyond. For example, in uncertain times, managing and maintaining your credit is critical. You’ll need a credit cushion now more than ever. Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free credit report each year. Take advantage of this opportunity so you know where you stand.

If you find yourself in difficult straits, pursue opportunities for government aid. Two rounds of stimulus payments have gone out to qualified taxpayers. If you haven’t received yours, you can check its status and how to proceed via this IRS site online. 

Do some research and be aware of your options. There’s also other tax relief available, such as filing deferments and economic impact payments. Check into unemployment insurance and student loan relief, if they apply. 

If you’re a renter, know your rights, and whether you’re protected by a government moratorium on evictions. Check with lenders to see whether they’re willing to be flexible on your debt by allowing you to skip or delay scheduled payments. Ask your bank to waive ATM fees, late fees, and overdraft penalties.

Scrutinize your insurance

Insurance is important during the best of times, but it’s even more critical during times of crisis.

Take account of all your coverage, whether it’s home, health, or automobile insurance. Some insurers offer discounts for bundled coverage; see whether this might work for you. Study your policies to make sure they don’t overlap and you’re not paying too much as a result. Know what needs different types of policies serve, and how health and car insurance coverage differs by situation.

There are other types of backups you also might want to consider. If your livelihood depends on electricity, you can’t afford to lose power. A backup generator is a modest investment that can keep you operating in uncertain conditions.

Protect your retirement

When you need to tighten your belt, it’s tempting to stop paying into your 401(k) or other retirement account. But don’t let uncertainty in the present threaten your future. It’s never a good time to pull the plug on retirement savings — but you can take this opportunity to reassess the kind of saving you’re doing.

Check with your employer to see whether your company is offering, or planning to offer, new options that fit your situation better. Consult your financial adviser for expert advice, so you can be sure of your future, even if your present seems uncertain. If you’re nearing retirement, your adviser can tell you how feasible it would be to call it a career — and when.

The past year has strained our economy as a nation, and our individual finances, as well. But even amid the stress and sorrow of civil unrest and the spread of a deadly virus, there are things we can do to minimize the impact of national and global crises on our lives. 

As we look ahead, we can take action to keep our ship afloat as we right our course and sail toward a brighter future.

6 Important Things To Consider When Building Your Dream Home

Building your dream home is one of the most important moments in your life. Besides being a significant moment, it is also one of the biggest investments in your life, and you want everything to be perfect. Building a dream home takes a lot of planning and smart decisions, and it is important to get on the right track early on. That’s why we made a list of 6 important things to consider when building your dream home. Read on to find what they are.

Future Plans

Many factors go into consideration when building your dream home. The most important factor is you of course, and your lifestyle. Do you have any plans for the future? Where will you be in five years? Are you planning any significant changes in your family life? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself before deciding what kind of house you want to build. It may not be a good time to build a house if your career is subject to change – like relocation. If you are planning a family, you have to take into consideration that you will need more rooms for a family home. This means building a larger house or building with plans to make additions easily to it. Future plans are a big part of house building, so take them into consideration.

Financial Situation

Finances are often dictating our lives and decisions, including building your future home. There are several routes you can take. You can make your home from your savings; get a loan from a bank or a mortgage. Remember that many banks give out loans easier if you are married, as they see a safer situation with two incomes and two credit scores. Calculate all possibilities and see what you can afford. If possible, try not to come to close to your budget, as it often happens that building a home can create unexpected costs. For unplanned expenses, make sure you set aside money to act as insurance.

Hiring the Right People

Building a home is a long process, sometimes even a year or more long. To make sure everything is going as smoothly as possible, pay attention to who you are hiring. Architects, builders, designer – everyone is an important piece of the puzzle, and they have to click perfectly for everything to work. Interview as many of them as you need until you find the perfect fit. You will be working closely every single day for the foreseeable future, and you need to be on the same page and communicate easily. Ask for referrals and to see their previous work – even try to get in contact with their previous clients to get their opinion. Take your time with this decision.

Plan Before You Start

Every decision in the building process should be planned before the start. Plan out as much as you can and decide on as many parts as you can before all the work starts. Once the foundation and frame of your house are in place, it all goes faster from that point. If you are prepared and already made the necessary decisions in advance, you won’t have any problems. Some things to consider before starting the build are deciding on the colour/pattern of all the tiles, the colour of walls, moulding, floors, colour schemes, decorating theme etc.

Land and House Type

There are many options to choose from when deciding to build your home, from where you would like to build to how it’s going to be built. Some options include building on an empty plot, tearing down and rebuilding a new home, etc. House can range from custom homes to prefabricated homes and semi-designed homes. Do your research to find the best fit for you. If you need any help, professionals like new home builders or building company can help you in making the right decision.

Furniture Placement

Before the building process starts, you will make a plan of your house with the architect. Even at this stage, you should do a consultation with a designer to choose the most important furniture and elements. Furniture layout is important if you are building from scratch. Can the furniture you want to fit in the living room? Do you have enough space for all the cabinets? Maybe you can change the plan of your house to fit everything, but there is a bigger possibility that you will need to pick out new furniture. If you plan everything simultaneously, you won’t encounter big hiccups.

Conclusion

When building a home from scratch, something unexpected always can happen. Plan as much as possible before you start, and make sure you have a good team on your side. The right architect and builder will make everything work as smoothly and professionally as possible. Listen to your gut, and make the decisions that are right for you.