Are you one of the millions of Americans who may be out of cash in three weeks?
Here’s what you need to know—and what to do about it.
According to a survey from Credit Karma, one out of five Americans could run out of cash by next month. The economy, lack of economic stimulus and job losses have led many Americans to face significant economic hardship.
“People are going to be forced to make tough choices,” Credit Karma Chief People Officer Colleen McCreary told USA Today. “There are a lot of Americans who either haven’t been in this situation in a long time or have never had to face this reality. Many will have to sacrifice and prepare because it could get worse before it gets better.”
Why are some Americans out of cash?
There are a host of issues that have led some Americans to have minimal cash, including, among others:
- Covid-19 pandemic
- sluggish economy
- significant job losses, particularly in retail and travel sectors
- no new stimulus package or stimulus checks
- lack of enhanced weekly unemployment benefits
- low wage growth
- lack of, or minimally-funded, emergency savings
5 Steps To Improve Your Finances
Here are 5 ways to improve your finances amidst the Covid-19 pandemic:
1. Talk to your creditors
If you have credit card payments, medical debt or other loans due, contact your lender now. It never hurts to ask about your options. Many lenders offer payment plans that can provide temporary relief. Many lenders may be willing to work with you to help you and your family during this tough economic period. Make sure to read the fine print: a payment plan may have additional fees or other features that could be more expensive than your current payment plan.
2. Contact your landlord or mortgage lender
Your mortgage or rent may be your largest living expense. As such, contact your landlord or mortgage lender to discuss payment options. For example, there may be forbearance options with your lender, or your landlord may be willing to agree to a modified installment payment plan. Understand the trade-offs from changing your current payment plan, including any new fees or hidden costs. Alternatively, you may look to downsize your home or move to reduce your housing costs.
3. Pay off debt
In addition to negotiating a payment plan, pay off debt. The faster you pay off debt, the more interest you can save. Rank order your outstanding debt payments by interest rate. Typically, credit card interest is among the highest cost debt, which can range from 15-25%. First, always make your minimum payments. If you have any excess cash, start by paying off credit card debt first. Each month, make an extra payment of any amount you can afford.
4. Refinance student loans
The latest student loan debt statistics show that 45 million Americans collectively owe $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. If you have student loans, student loan interest rates have dropped to all-time lows. Now is an ideal time for student loan refinancing: you can refinance your federal student loans, private student loans or both. Rates start at 1.89% and you’ll need a credit score of at least 650, current employment and stable monthly income, and a low debt-to-income ratio. You can also keep your federal student loan payments paused through December 31, which can save you immediate cash flow, but you will still owe your full student loan balance and regular interest rate once the temporary student loan relief ends.
5. Increase your income
Paying off debt is a smart strategy to save money. However, if you truly may run out of cash in the next few weeks, the best way to grow your cash is to make more. In this economy, it’s not so easy to get a new job or a pay raise, especially in a few weeks. Can you pickup part-time work? Can you find a remote job? Can you sell your stuff? Any one or combination of these three will be a smart first step.