Getting a Handle on Your Financial Health During a Pandemic

May 14, 2020
Hand holding smartphone with calculator app open

When I think of uncomfortable topics, finances easily jump to the top of the list … and I live with a loan officer. But just as it is important to stop and breathe through a fight-or-flight response during a challenging conversation, so it is with difficult financial news.

Over the past few months, many aspects of our lives have shifted from seeming stability to multiple levels of uncertainty. The uncertainties brought by COVID-19 have now affected most of us financially, through furloughs, pay reductions, or increased expenses due to using our own resources while working from home.

If you, your friends, or your family are facing financial hardship due to this pandemic, know that community resources, including the University of Arizona Employee Emergency Fund, are available. 

As with any other aspect of health, financial wellness is complicated, and there isn’t one golden answer. However, here are some tried and true methods that can help ease financial stress.

Take baby steps

As the old saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Along the same lines, you’ve probably heard, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Like physical health, financial health is a cause and effect process, and even small efforts can reap big dividends.

Richard P. Rosen, the interim director of the Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research, shared some simple tips in the “Taking Care of Yourself and Others – Building Wellness and Resiliency” staff webinar on May 8.

First, try tracking your monthly spending, and then creating and following a budget. “Write down every single expense you’ve made during two weeks – I mean everything,” Rosen said. “And then, at the end, dissect what is discretionary and what is nondiscretionary.”

If you haven’t already, set up a rainy day fund to use in emergencies. As Rosen said, “It is critical that every single person have between three and six months of your expenses in a saving account.”

And, even if you are further away from retirement, contribute to those accounts and let them grow. Although the stock market has been turbulent due to the pandemic, it is “hugely resilient,” said Rosen. “It may not come back tomorrow, but by the time you are ready to retire, the markets come back.”

Take advantage of available resources

As a University employee, you also have the opportunity to meet with a Fidelity Investments or TIAA representative for an individual financial consultation at no cost. Reach out, and a certified financial planner can help you plan for future needs and determine if you’re on track to meet your financial goals.

You can also review on-demand financial literacy videos on topics such as creating a budget, ditching debt, or claiming Social Security, at your own convenience. TIAA has even prepared a series of short videos directly responding to financial concerns related to COVID-19. 

One day the pandemic will end, and we will all see a little more certainty when it comes to our finances. Until then, invest in your financial wellness by having those uncomfortable conversations, taking those baby steps, and using the resources available to you.