3 Money moves for the pandemic
Especially if you work in a helping profession/frontline job
The pandemic is challenging everyone to keep costs down and prepare for the unexpected. I think this is especially true for those of us in helping/frontline jobs.
As someone with 25+ years in education, I have made some financial missteps. I have also learned a lot, and built some equity and savings. Here are my three best financial tips:
1. Bank at a credit union.
This may be the best benefit I have gotten as a result of working for the state of North Carolina. We have an excellent state employees’ credit union. When I need something, they actually help.
You may not be a government employee, but if you look you can probably access a credit union that does not require a particular affiliation. As of this writing, I have a checking account ($1/month), a money market account (paying higher than average interest), a Roth IRA and a car loan with my credit union.
This advice to use a credit union may seem boring, but when it comes to banking, boring is better. You don’t want to look at the news and realize your own bank hurt your credit score by opening unauthorized credit cards in your name.
That can happen. Just saying.
2) Use a Roth IRA as a savings vehicle, not just for retirement, but also for your child’s college expenses and family emergencies.
Whatever is in a college account in your child’s name will be quickly vacuumed up by the financial aid process.
If you put your money in a Roth IRA, however, it is still available to use for college expenses penalty free if you need it (because Roth deposits are made post-tax). However, if your child gets a full scholarship or enlists in the military or does one of many other unforeseeable things, your Roth IRA account will still be there for your retirement or for emergencies.
3) Explore unconventional housing options.
Housing may seem like a fixed expense, and it’s going up all the time, but I think there is more flexibility than most people realize.
How far are you willing to flex for affordable housing? Are you willing to live in a small town in the West or South, where your service salary will be even smaller, but where you may be able to buy a house for under $100K? Through owner financing, I bought four acres in rural NC. At first I lived in a used house trailer, but after I got married we refinanced and built a house.
Be sure to understand all of the fine print if you buy through owner financing. It is not the best path for everyone, but arguably buying this land was the only big financial decision I ever got right. (Now we have a lot of equity and I’m anxious to sell, but that is another story…)
Buying a house may not be the right decision at all, depending on your circumstance. For several years of my life I did some amount of work in exchange for housing. When I was in college I was a live-in babysitter for a year. After I moved to North Carolina, I lived in an apartment attached to a horse barn in exchange for caring for the horses.
If you look there are situations like this available all over the country. Granted, it’s much easier to be flexible in this way if you are single and childless.
Here are some other possibilities: Live-in elder companionship. Long term house-sitting situations. Service opportunities that come with housing, such being a park ranger or the supervisor of an educational camp. Co-housing with people who are in a similar stage of life.
“Homesteading” in a city where you can purchase a house at a very low cost, provided you do the work to rehab the house. Working for a private school or religious organization that provides housing. Renting a house trailer instead of a “real” house — this difference alone can save thousands a year.
One caveat: It’s usually NOT a good idea to purchase a house trailer and put it on a rented lot. A trailer depreciates like a car, so only buy a trailer if you are also purchasing the land under it in an area where land is appreciating in value.