Pandemic-Induced Goals?

The current period of job loss and reduced income has affected people in different ways. The result? Different households face different financial challenges at this point. Whatever your situation, now is s a good time to assess your financial situation, evaluate your priorities, and take steps to improve your situation as necessary. If you’d like some help, your local ISU Extension financial educator is available to work with you, providing free, non-commercial information and a sounding board as you make your plans.

  1. Some of you have been living with seriously reduced income – and still are. Your task has been to find every possible way to reduce your expenses and/or find new income and make use of new resources, including public assistance if you qualify. You must communicate with all of your creditors, but avoid making promises you cannot keep. If returning to something like normal looks unlikely, you may need to consider major lifestyle changes.
  2. Some of you lost income for a while, but are now back to an income you can live on. It is likely that you got behind on bills, built up credit card debt, and/or depleted your savings during your crisis. Strong focus on repaying those debts and building up emergency savings will get you ready in case of an unexpected expense or another loss of income. Careful examination of your spending choices will help you regain equilibrium and then build a strong cushion.
  3. Others of you had stable income, but have realized that if you did lose income, you would be in a very difficult spot. Facing the reality that you lack basic financial security can motivate you to build up savings and pay down debt. Start by cutting your living expenses so that your regular monthly expenses are 10-25% less than your income. Putting the extra funds toward savings and expedited debt payment will build you a cushion that will bring peace of mind and make your life easier if/when hardship strikes.
  4. Still others have stable income, and have felt secure that even if you did have a cutback, you would be okay. In your case there is no obvious need for change, but it’s wise to maintain control of your finances through good planning. You may wish to build an even stronger savings cushion, after seeing others struggle with lost income for six months or longer. As you build savings, seek out accounts that pay slightly higher interest while still providing ready access to your funds.
Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Disaster! Be Prepared

September is Disaster Preparedness Month.  The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the anticipation of Hurricane Irma are sobering reminders of the importance of being prepared.  Here in the Midwest, hurricanes are not part of our reality, but we are at risk for other types of disasters, many of which strike suddenly with little or no warning.

In a disaster, safety is first priority.  We need to be prepared to quickly evacuate from a fire or seek shelter in a tornado, for example, and have a way to stay warm if a winter storm causes an extended power outage.  Ready.gov is a central site for information on how to be as fully prepared as possible; they have many useful publications related to specific needs, as well.

There is a second aspect of preparedness that also deserves our attention: we need to be prepared for recovery.  This includes:

  1. Having insurance coverage that meets our needs, and reviewing it every couple of years to make sure it is keeping up with changes in our situation;
  2. Creating and updating a household inventory (typically via photos or video) to assist in filing insurance claims;
  3. Keeping irreplaceable documents (birth certificates, military records, property titles, and more) in a safe deposit box;
  4. Having copies of key documents and information stored away from our home – perhaps with a friend or family member in another community, or in secure cloud storage.  This includes insurance policies (or at least policy numbers and contact information), financial account information, most recent tax return, along with key medical information (including vaccination records) and contact information for both professional and personal contacts.  Pet vaccination records matter too.

The list above is NOT all-inclusive, but it’s a good starting point.  I am reminded that it has been a few years since I took household inventory photos — I’m going to update that this weekend.  What are you going to do?

Want more info? University of Minnesota Extension houses an award-winning disaster recovery toolkit (available for free download) and some related resources.

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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