Tips & advice on getting your finances back on track.
With no immediate end in sight for the partial government shutdown, more than 800,000 federal workers nationwide will be without a paycheck this Friday. This will be the first payroll distribution affected by the shutdown.
The Federal Reserve Board has reported that nearly 40% of Americans are unable to cover a $400 unexpected expense. This means that some of the furloughed federal employees have likely exhausted all of their cash reserves in order to stay afloat. Furthermore, not all impacted workers can count on retroactive pay after the shutdown, which means that there will be a long road to financial recovery for some.
What steps can be taken now and in the future to keep furloughed workers financially secure?
Contact Your Creditors
Waste no time reaching out to all of the creditors you owe before payments are missed – credit cards, car loans, and mortgages, etc. Let them know that you’ve been furloughed. Be proactive and ask if you can skip a payment or just pay the interest. Importantly, ask them not to ding your credit report. Making the phone call adds a more personal touch to your request and maybe helpful in being getting a positive result from your creditors.
If you would prefer to write or email your creditors, the Office of Personnel Management has provided sample letters you may choose to use as a template. You can download the sample letters here.
Switch to an Emergency Budget
Take a good look at your current budget. (If you don’t have a budget, now is the perfect time to get one in place. Here’s a link to everything you need to know about establishing a budget. )
For now, start with a your normal budget and then take a hard look at what you can go without for the short term to curb your expenses during the government shut down. Put newspaper subscriptions and gym memberships on hold. This is a temporary situation so to reduce the long term impact the shutdown will have, cut expenses that relate to anything that you can do without. Being tough on your budget now may save you time in the recovery phase once you’re back to work.
The money you regularly invest, say, in a Roth IRA, should be set aside in a savings account until shutdown is over. Once you’re back on the payroll, invest what is left of that money, if anything, so you are not tempted to spend it.
If you regularly pay a little extra on your mortgage, put that on hold for the duration of the shutdown too. Just pay your minimum amount. However, if you can, continue to pay your credit card off completely so as not to be hit with large interest charges.
If you need assistance with creating or evaluating your budget, our trained credit counselors can help with a budget or credit counseling session to get you through this period.
Utilize Your Emergency Fund
If you have an emergency fund, try to use it sparingly. Once you are back on the payroll, be sure to save a small amount each pay cycle in a separate bank account to re-establish (or start) your emergency fund. Being prepared for the next financial emergency will provide you with peace of mind, whether it’s being furloughed or needing an expensive car repair.
Alternative Income sources
Charities, nonprofits and commercial businesses are all pitching in to provide a variety of support. Get Professional Financial Assistance from Non-profits.
Bank of America Government Shutdown Hotline is 1-844-219-0690
Chase Government Shutdown Hotline can be reached at 888-356-0023.
Wells Fargo Government Shutdown website at https://www.wellsfargo.com/help/government-shutdown/
Bank of America, Chase, Navy Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo have offered support to federal employees by including possible fee refunds or waivers, loan modifications and repayment plans.
For federal workers who have direct payroll deposit, Wells Fargo and Chase may automatically reverse monthly service and overdraft fees.
Navy Federal Credit Union is offering 0% interest loans for up to $6,000 with a grace period, however think carefully before you overextend yourself with a loan.
Lori Stratford is the Digital Marketing Manager at Navicore Solutions. She promotes the reach of Navicore’s financial education to the public through social media and blog content.