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Key Takeaways: Your Personal Finances During COVID-19

The Funding Our Future campaign and Yahoo Finance recently co-hosted a digital event to help households grapple with their personal finances during the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion addressed the economic fallout from the pandemic and the shaky financial situations that many families and communities are facing across the country. We were joined by our partners at Prudential, George Washington University’s Global Finance Literacy Excellence Center, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and Edelman Financial Engines to offer guidance on personal finances and to discuss and answer viewer questions.

Watch the full event here and read the highlights below:

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How Can Americans Build Financial Resiliency?

In January 2020, 27% of Americans reported being financially fragile, with a remarkable 50% of African Americans falling into that category. To combat the negative effects of COVID-19 on personal finances, the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center built a financial resilience hub that includes resources on managing debt, protecting credit scores, and rebuilding precautionary savings, all of which can be critical strategies for financially vulnerable populations.

What Is the Impact of COVID-19 on Student Loan Borrowers?

Although the CARES Act suspended payment and interest on many student loans, some older federal loans and private loans are not eligible for this relief. Borrowers should check the status of their loans to determine whether their loans have been suspended, as well as review their credit scores to verify that payments were not reported as deferred or delinquent. Once payments resume, borrowers may want to consider income-driven repayment plans which can reduce monthly payments and increase affordability.

How Can Employers Help Americans Build Financial Wellness?

To mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19, workers should explore programs available through their employers and benefit providers. Many employers have financial education resources and support programs to help employees and their families cope with the current crisis. The CARES Act made it easier for workers with savings in a retirement plan to withdraw money for short-term needs if they are facing financial stress. Rebuilding emergency savings, which many employers offer programs for, is another option. Treating your future as a creditor—to be paid before any discretionary spending decisions are made—is the key to saving.

How Should People Think About Financial Planning During a Crisis?

To map out financial plans during the current crisis and to prepare for future crises, individuals should aim for stability in three key areas: insurance (e.g., health, life, property), estate planning (e.g., will, medical directive), and cash reserves to protect against job loss. Investment portfolios should be moved into somewhat more conservative assets.

Because of its high interest rates, credit card debt should only be used as a last resort. For people who are financially squeezed, they should tap into retirement assets or other savings before going further into debt. Moreover, in general, it is not a good idea to claim your Social Security benefits in response to the crisis unless you are out of other options.