Protecting Finances Has Even Greater Importance in the New World
For most people, today’s world is like the one they remembered from the not-too-distant past. Good financial advice several years ago still holds true.
James L Katzaman
For most people, today’s world is like the one they fondly remembered from the not-too-distant past. Good financial advice several years ago still holds true, although more than a few persons might have fallen out of practice.
U.S. News credit card expert and consumer finance analyst Beverly Harzog, along with money specialists from consumer credit reporting company Experian, put a premium on protecting and maintaining finances no matter what the occasion. There are always lessons to learn and refresh.
“It’s a good idea to revisit your budget if you plan to make changes in your spending or your income has changed,” Harzog said. “If you developed good money habits during the pandemic, keep them. If you fell into bad habits — it can happen to anyone — work to get rid of them.”
Review changes that worked. Then assess how to maintain those changes.
“I had a big emergency fund and was also employed,” Harzog said. “So, I did fine during the pandemic. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start today. You can begin small, but add to it as often as you can. It will help you survive a money crisis.”
The Ask Experian blog recommends “revisiting your budget and considering changes that could protect your money if you’re coping with or preparing for a monetary emergency.”
Even in the most dire of times, good habits emerge worthy of keeping.
“I stopped eating out, which was my biggest budget buster,” Harzog said. “I did stay within a restaurant budget, but now I’ve lowered that amount and added the difference to my savings. I became a really good cook last year.”
Habitually Check Credit
Positive habits include saving money, paying down debt, checking your credit reports and scores and more. You can access your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus for free at Annual Credit Report.com.
Experian also offers free access to your Experian credit report and FICO® score.
Newly acquired bad financial habits should be cast adrift.
“I fixed a few bad habits last year,” Harzog said. “It’s easy to get complacent and forget to frequently review your budget. I did that a lot last year to adjust my spending patterns. It helped me stay on track.”
According to Experian, people cope with stress and unpredictability in different ways. You may have turned to retail therapy and done more online shopping than normal during the pandemic. You also might have taken on more credit card debt to preserve your cash flow.
For those facing an uphill battle with debt after the pandemic, the Ask Experian blog suggests ways to pay down credit cards.
If your financial portfolio was battered by volatility, look at the performance of fixed or indexed funds that protect principal during that same period. You might want to tilt more in those directions.
“Remember that investments are long term,” Harzog said. “Don’t panic if your portfolio isn’t doing well. Consult with a financial advisor so you make informed decisions.
“Never make emotional decisions with your portfolio,” she said, citing advice from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Experian recommends asking these financial questions:
- When reviewing your finances, look at your budget. Is it allowing you to stay within your means?
- Review your retirement savings contributions. Did you have to alter them at all?
- How is your emergency fund?
If you were a bit frugal, you might have stashed some relief funds to jump start or replenish emergency funds. That will help ease budgeting because you will need to allot less into those pools each month.
“I’m fortunate that I don’t have money issues from the pandemic,” Harzog said. “For anyone who is dealing with it, rework your budget and talk to your creditors.
“If you can’t make payments, ask them to work with you,” she said. “Know how much you can contribute each month before you call.”
The Ask Experian blog states if you think you might be late on payments, contact your lenders as soon as possible to see if there are programs in place that might help.
Pandemic or not, it’s always a good rule to not spend more than what you have. Balance short-term excesses against long-term regret every time you look at dwindling financial statements.
“Retail therapy only feels good while you’re doing it,” Harzog said. “When you get the bill, it feels pretty terrible.”
Budget With a Purpose
According to the Ask Experian blog, a budget lets you live within your means while achieving financial goals. Budgets give money purpose, which could help you navigate social situations.
Emergency funds are visible examples of paying yourself first. Whether it’s 2, 6, 10 percent per paycheck or more, start with least noticeable amounts and build from there. That creates good saving habits that will pay off when you least expect.
When building your emergency fund, try to reduce unnecessary spending. The Ask Experian blog suggests setting the fund as a line item in your budget. Start small and build from there.
Wise investments give you peace of mind knowing that you won’t need to panic when the economy rears its ugly head.
An Experian article states, “Investing can help you put aside money for retirement, grow your savings and build wealth for the long term.”
More immediately, your credit score opens the door to better deals with lower interest rates. That keeps more money in your pocket to treat yourself with wants. Paying bills on time and raising your scores are the biggest favors you can do for you and your family.
Responsibility Pays Off
“Good credit is a money-management tool that helps you save in many areas, such as getting low annual percentage rates on credit cards,” Harzog said.
“The rules are the same as before the pandemic,” she said. “Use credit responsibly, and it’s helpful. However, if you overspend with a card, you get into debt.”
The Ask Experian blog states that credit utilization is a big factor in credit scores. If planning to take on debt, be sure you have a plan for it.
If all of that is not enough to think about, consider protecting your identity.
All you have to do is watch the news to see how the biggest companies and the government are hit every day with cyber attacks. It’s up to you to be prudent and protect your identity because the biggest players can’t even protect themselves.
A Healthline article notes that it has become common practice for people to post their COVID-19 vaccination cards on social media. That’s a bad idea.
As the Ask Experian blog states, it’s more important than ever to safeguard your information. Beware of public Wi-Fi and COVID-19-related scams.
“Check your accounts online often and look for fraudulent purchases,” Harzog said. “Review your credit reports regularly to see if new accounts have been opened in your name. This is a sign of ID theft. You need to act right away.”
About the Author
This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.
James L Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a charter member of the Tealfeed Creators' program, focusing on marketing and its benefits for companies and consumers. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as subscribing here on Tealfeed.