Financial Crisis FAQs
COVID-19 has exposed some significant vulnerabilities in our economy at large, and in many of our personal medical and financial lives. With job losses and furloughs across industries, slashed interest rates, depressed markets, and compromised accounts, these very difficult days — no doubt — bring up many questions.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: My retirement account went way down, should I be worried?
A: It depends. Are you within 5 years of retirement? This could be an issue. Please call the Your Money Line team (833-890-4077) for a personalized plan.
If you are far away from retirement, don’t look at your statements for a while. The numbers are depressing, but they won’t impact you for now. The market will recover and your account value will come back. For now, if you can still contribute, keep it up.
Q: My spouse or loved one lost their job, what are the unemployment resources in my state?
Q: My child can’t go to daycare, but I have to keep paying. Should I pull them out?
A: This is a personal preference. Can you still afford to pay? It may be worth keeping your spot at the daycare. If finances are tight or if one or both partners have lost income, you will need to look for alternative care.
Q: I/My spouse just lost a job and I don't know which bills to pay. I can't pay them all.
A: The most important thing to do right now is to contact everyone to whom you owe money -- mortgage company, landlord, credit card company, car loan company, utility companies -- and explain your situation. Many companies have announced they are willing to work with people impacted by COVID-19 to reschedule payments.
It is important to be proactive now and not wait until payment is due. Another great resource is 211.org. They will provide you with information on where you may be able to get housing, food, and clothing assistance, and much more.
Q: I haven't lost my job, but I am nervous about the economy. How much of an emergency fund should I have? Is this more important than saving for retirement?
A: If you feel that your income may be impacted by a recession (for example, if your income depends on sales commissions), then you should work toward building an emergency fund with the ultimate goal of having six months of expenses set aside. This may mean pulling back on future retirement account contributions for a period of time. (This does not mean taking money out of your retirement savings.)
Q: I have lost my job and I need to take a withdrawal from my retirement account. Will I be penalized?
A: The new stimulus bill waives the 10% penalty for early withdrawals up to $100,000 from 401k plans. While this seems like a great benefit, it’s a pretty bad idea unless you’ve truly used every other available option. You will be withdrawing money from a down market which means that money will never have a chance to grow back to its original value and serve its intended purpose, retirement.
Q: What can I do about my student loans during this time of economic uncertainty?
A: If you have federal student loans, the government has reduced the interest rate to 0% for 6 months. In addition, you can defer payments ("administrative forbearance") for six months without penalty (September 30, 2020). (This does not include some FFEL and some Perkins loans.)
Please go to studentaid.gov for details, and contact your loan servicer. If you have private student loans, contact your lender and explain that you have been impacted by COVID-19 and request your payments be put on pause for now, without penalty.
Q: I am retired and I do not want to have to take the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from my retirement account with the stock market down so much. What are my options?
A: As part of the stimulus package retirees are not required to take an RMD for 2020. If you turned 70 ½ in 2019 and chose to postpone taking your first RMD until this year (before April 1st), you’re also off the hook as the legislation permits you to skip that RMD, too.
Q: I did not yet file my taxes. Should I wait until the new deadline in July?
A: Go ahead and complete both your federal and state return to see if a refund is due to you. If you are due a refund, file your taxes immediately; tax returns are still being processed and refunds issued. If you will owe a payment, you can go ahead and wait until the July 15 deadline to file and pay. Don't forget, if your income is less than $69,000, you can use free software at the IRS site to prepare your return.
Additionally, if your tax return in 2019 is more favorable with regard to the upcoming stimulus checks as compared to your 2018 return (re: filing status, dependents, and income phaseouts), that’s another reason to file soon.
Q: Do I need to pay my rent or mortgage right now?
A: The stimulus bill allows federally backed mortgage loans to request loan forbearance for an initial period of 180 days. Additionally, you can request an additional 180 days after the first 180 days has passed. If your financial hardship necessitates this you’ll need to contact your mortgage provider.
As for renters, there is nothing specific in the stimulus bill to address this issue. You’ll need to contact your landlord for specifics. Although the stimulus check is meant to help, for many it will be too little, too late.
Q: Can independent contractors/gig workers file for unemployment?
A: Under the new stimulus plan YES, independent contractors can file for unemployment. This is a huge value to those who’ve lost work but weren’t technically let go from anywhere.
Q: Where do I go or who do I turn to when I run out of savings and reserves to get me through this?
A: There are several options to turn to when your savings runs out. Make sure if you will get a refund this year to file your taxes immediately. If you or your partner are eligible for unemployment, be sure to apply immediately. The stimulus check may help for a while, but then you’ll have to dip into alternative options like credit cards, lines of credit like your mortgage, personal loans from family, etc. None of these are ideal options, but this is not a normal time.
For guidance on which option is best for your situation, please contact Your Money Line (833-890-4077) for a personalized plan.