How to Protect Your Finances Through COVID-19
OnPoint Community Credit Union shares its expert tips for managing finances during the COVID-19 crisis
Communities across the country are feeling the impact of temporary closures of businesses, schools and public facilities. During uncertain times, many feel anxious about how they will cope with unanticipated changes or hardships. OnPoint Community Credit Union is equipping the communities it serves with practical advice for protecting finances amid COVID-19.
“OnPoint’s purpose is to build strong communities by supporting financial growth and well-being, one person at a time,” said OnPoint President and CEO Rob Stuart. “COVID-19 is an unprecedented national emergency and we must all work together to reduce its overall impacts to allow families to recover once it has passed. As part of these efforts, we are working to support our neighbors with the information they need to prepare for and manage the financial impacts of COVID-19.”
Below are OnPoint’s top tips for protecting finances amid COVID-19:
Your first actions
- Prioritize expenses and review your budget. If you’re concerned about a loss of income or unplanned expenses and don’t have emergency savings, you may need to prioritize which expenses you cover first and update your budget accordingly.
- Deal with creditors proactively. If you face challenges in paying your monthly obligations, you have a better chance of working out an agreeable payment plan with creditors when you contact them early.
- Know your options. Look into options that may be available for any loans you have. OnPoint is currently offering qualified members the opportunity to delay payments on their mortgage, Home Equity Lines of Credit, Small Business Loans, and more.
- Secure access to digital banking. If you aren’t able to physically visit your financial institution’s branch or call wait times are longer than expected, be prepared by downloading the most recent version with their app and test your login.
Protect yourself from scamsScammers can be more active during uncertain times. To protect yourself and your family:
- Be aware. Stay up to date on current scams and how to take action if you think you’ve been a victim. There are already national reports of email phishing scams targeting remote workers, offering economic stimulus checks and selling health insurance. OnPoint’s data security team has seen more debit and credit card fraud than average, and believes fraudsters are using the distraction of COVID-19 to get information.
- Be vigilant. Scrutinize emails, texts, calls and social media posts that offer financial relief or promote the sale of cure-all products or limited-time special offers. Scam tactics can include masquerading as a delivery company such as UPS, claiming to offer advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) and fake lending emails related to the interest rate drop. These messages often contain links to malicious sites that closely mirror the legitimate sites. Ensure that you hover over the link to validate the site before clicking.
- Be cautious. Never disclose your online banking credentials or PINs. Scammers often claim to be from your financial institution calling about a fraudulent card charge. They will then ask you to confirm information like card number, PIN, online banking credentials, etc. Also, beware of those striking up long distance relationships online. Sweetheart scammers often fake an emergency that necessitates money. Victims then willingly act on the fraudster’s instructions to “help” through mobile deposit, external transfers and wires.
How OnPoint can help OnPoint is working with its members on an individual basis to address their specific needs. Special offers include:
- Skip Pay to allow qualified members to skip both their April and May auto/personal loan payments with no fees
- Loan payment deferral options to provide qualified members the option to delay payments on their mortgage, home equity lines of credit and small business loans
- $0 minimum payments for qualified business and personal members with OnPoint Visa credit cards
- CD early withdrawal penalty waived until at least the end of May
Know your resources for job lossWith mandatory and recommended closures of businesses and large numbers of people staying home, the crisis is bound to impact the income of workers and business owners. During this time, it’s important to understand what options are available from financial institutions, utility companies, and governments that may be offering new programs, special considerations, or grace periods.
The coronavirus relief bill, which was signed into law last week, significantly expands unemployment insurance for out-of-work Americans, including larger checks, a longer eligibility period, and an extension to previously ineligible workers.
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Address investment concerns Your investment strategy should match where you are in your retirement planning and for some, that may mean your portfolio will move to lower risk options as you near or enter retirement. This can help protect you from market fluctuations.
If your retirement is still a ways off, it’s likely best for you to take a long-term approach to financial planning and try not to fixate on the day-to-day valuations of your 401k or other assets. If you are feeling uneasy or want to ensure that your retirement plan is still on track with your goals, seek the guidance of a Financial Advisor with a reputable affiliation.
Engage the family Children may sense your stress but not understand how your financial situation has been affected, causing them to feel uneasy. When appropriate, explain the need to cut back temporarily and discuss the news calmly and simply. Making time to discuss what changes you are anticipating and how everyone can contribute toward the family, including:
- For older family members, sharing the responsibility for paying the bills or deciding which expenses to reduce.
- Designating financial chores, such as having small children count out the penny jar and having older children sit alongside you to read through the utility bills.
- Taking 20 minutes to ask each family member how they could contribute to the family next week via finances or chores.
- Writing down everyone’s commitments and pop it up on the fridge or door; getting everyone involved may reduce stress and create a feeling of unity.
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