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As Election Day looms and U.S. Covid-19 cases spike, there are a lot of reasons why you may feel uncertain about the future.
The good news is that there are moves you can make now to shore up your finances and build your personal security, no matter your current situation.
These four tips can help you get your finances in shape to help weather both short-term and long-term challenges.
1. Get your financial life in order
If you’re feeling panicked about money, the first thing you want to do is get organized.
This is what Winnie Sun, co-founder and managing director of Sun Group Wealth Partners in Irvine, California, calls, “Stop, drop and reassess.”
Gather your financial statements, including your retirement investments and savings and checking accounts.
“Go through the process of figuring out your budget, how much of your money you have going out and where is your money going,” Sun said.
Tally up your absolute necessities and figure out how much those cost. This includes your rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries and medications.
Anything that doesn’t fall in those core needs categories are not must-haves. That shows where you may be able to cut back when money is tight.
2. Be ready to negotiate
If you have debts you can’t pay – such as credit cards or student loans – don’t be afraid to let your lenders know.
“Over-communicate with people that you might owe money to and see where you can find some relief,” Sun said.
You may be surprised by the results, Sun said. With so many people also going through the same thing, you may be more likely to get some flexibility by postponing your payments or refinancing.
3. Stock up on cash
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The average American should have at least six months’ worth of living expenses set aside in an emergency, Sun said.
To estimate how much you will need, tally up how much you spend over the course of a month. Do that for four months and then take the average. Then, multiply that times six, Sun suggests.
If you have children, be sure to add extra for them. Sun recommends an extra three months’ savings per child.
4. Invest where you can
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If you still have income coming in, don’t forget to put aside money for your future retirement needs.
“I wouldn’t overdo it right now,” Sun said. “I think the key thing is to be slow and steady.
“Think about ways you can consistently save.”
One way to do that is to increase your 401(k) contributions. Even small increases can add up big over time.
In addition, you may want to consider investing your post-tax money in a Roth individual retirement account. That way, you can withdraw your contributions if an emergency crops up without having to pay taxes or penalties, Sun said.
But beware: If you withdraw the earnings on your investments, you generally will face penalties.