The new pandemic caused by the new COVID-19 coronavirus has gotten very serious, very fast this past week.
A lot of people are trying to react to these events and prepare for the unknown, from self-quarantine to stock market drops.
Even last week, a third of Americans were leaning to a more conservative money management style, found our recent survey. But you might be wondering what more you can do, and where you can funnel worries into productive actions.
Taking the following actions can help you feel more in control and financially prepare for tough decisions you could face in the coming weeks as the world fights the new coronavirus.
1. Know your options for work
Whether workers become sick, have children out of school and now at home, or simply can’t work remotely, disruptions to work are a big issue.
With so much unknown, it can help to nail down what you do know so you can make a contingency plan and know what options you have. If you haven’t gotten updates from your employer already, ask for the latest sick leave and work from home policies.
For self-employed workers and hourly employees (like me), not working could mean going without income. In these cases, it’s even more important to know your options and have a plan to cover those gaps in pay.
2. Buff up emergency savings
Even if you can’t work, you still have to live. Which means paying your bills. Ensuring you can get through any interruptions to your paychecks or income means having a lot of cash on hand.
Cut unnecessary spending to boost your emergency savings balance. If some expenses dip due to social distancing, such as eating out, scoop that money into your emergency fund. Consider pausing efforts to other money goals, like investing or paying off debt, to keep more cash available.
Lastly, if you already have a well-funded emergency fund — give yourself permission to use it. These are exactly the emergency situations that you’ve been saving for.
3. Stash some extra necessities
Having cash on hand is important, but it’s not the only necessity in life. Maintaining a stash of extra essentials can ease a lot of worries. So take stock of the basics you have at home and what you’d want to have more of if you had to self-quarantine for up to two weeks.
For example, you might want to double-up when buying non-perishable foods (don’t forget food for pets). If you rely on prescription medications, see if your doctor will let you prefill an order. Other important items include over-the-counter medicines, toiletries, hand soap, and disinfecting cleaners.
Reminder: there’s no need to go into full-on prepper mode. Picking up a little extra at a time is enough to keep you stocked without wiping out stores’ supplies. You can also check out the Center for Disease Control’s suggestions to get your household prepped.
4. Watch for financial assistance for COVID-19
Policies of local governments, creditors, and service providers are already changing to account for the impacts of the new coronavirus pandemic.
In San Francisco, for example, the property firm Veritas (and the largest landlord in the city) opted to suspend evictions for residents unable to pay rent due to the pandemic. And President Donald Trump announced that federal student loan interest will be waived, in Friday’s state of emergency declaration.
I’ve even seen this — my mortgage lender sent a mass email stating that it’s prepared to work with customers impacted by the current pandemic.
The situation is still developing so it’s not totally clear what kind of accommodations various companies can and will provide. But if you get in a tough financial spot, reach out to your landlord, lender, or service provider to ask for assistance and accommodations for this hardship.
5. Don’t touch investments
Your 401(k) is like your face right now: the goal is not to touch it. Almost as scary and uncertain as the pandemic is its effects on the economy and stock market volatility.
But try to fight the panic and resist emotion-driven selling or investing. No one knows exactly where this will end. While we just experienced one of the biggest single-day stock market drops, the next day the Dow had already surged 1,200 points — up 5.3%.
History has shown that the market recovers and grows over time, so stay focused on your long-term investments over these short-term drops.