Financial Tips for Surviving the COVID crisis

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June 1, 2020

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With almost half of 2020 already off the calendar, many individuals have found themselves feeling off- track with both their financial and other personal goals –mostly resulting from the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. For some, it may be a time of great disappointment, anxiety and even anger.
“All is not lost,” says Audrey Tugwell Henry, Vice-President of Retail and SME Banking at Scotiabank Jamaica. In fact, according to the career banker, COVID-19 has prompted a wave of personal financial awareness never before seen in the industry and un-eclipsed by any previous efforts made in the past to encourage persons to carefully consider their financial well-being.
“It is an unexpected result of the global health crisis and one that we believe presents a unique opportunity to help coach and assist persons to assess their financial situation,” Tugwell-Henry shared.
We asked the ‘Scotiabanker’ to share a few tips to help our Flair Magazine readers to navigate these uncertain times.

  1. Don’t Panic!
    Tugwell Henry says that while feelings of fear are normal during times like these, panicking won’t help. “Our advice is to remain calm, be positive and develop ways to cope with stress. This will help to mitigate any irrational decision-making.”
  2. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

“It’s also normal for persons to feel anxiety or embarrassment about their financial status especially when facing an emergency.” Speak to your banker to see what programmes exist which could provide you with financial relief. If you have more than one loan or bill that you think you may not be able to make the monthly minimum payment on, you might consider debt consolidation to help you save money by lowering your interest rate and monthly payment. Many financial institutions including Scotiabank, offer customer assistance programmes which provide customers with deferrals on loans and facilitate debt consolidation.

  1. Create a new budget

This is something that many persons struggle with, even in times of normalcy. Tugwell Henry advises that “creating a realistic budget that you know you will work with, is a helpful step.”
Items to consider when crafting your budget include:
• How much income do you have from different sources? For example, savings and investments.
• How do you spend your money? Use a budget template and assign amounts to each category. The major key is managing this budget closely.
• What are necessities versus “nice to haves? Cut back on items that are not necessities. Learn to cook, instead of ordering meals; use online videos or take a walk to maintain an exercise routine and cancelling unused or unnecessary subscriptions.

  1. Prioritize Your Bills
    Once you’ve gotten a handle on your budget, Tugwell Henry says “now you can prioritize your bills. First consider the bills that have a required payment each billing cycle, such as your electricity and water bills, so your necessities are cared for. Second, consider making at least the minimum payment on other bills, like credit cards to minimize or avoid interest payments.” If this is still proving to be challenging, you can assess if your financial institution is willing to waive fees or offer deferrals.
  2. Avoid Taking on Any New Debt
    Tugwell Henry emphasized that “now is not the time to sign on for anything that adds a new, recurring payment to your monthly bills, or to make purchases you don’t absolutely need.” You should carefully consider when applying for credit of any type, no matter how attractive the deal might seem at the time.
  3. Take Advantage of Available Government Programmes
    The Government of Jamaica has instituted some COVID-19 assistance programmes where persons can apply for grants that will help to ease the pressure during this period. You may visit www.wecare.gov.jm for the detailed list of programmes and take advantage of them as applicable.
  4. Tap your emergency fund if necessary
    Everyone needs an emergency fund, and a sudden decrease in income demonstrates the reason we all need to have one in place. Tugwell Henry cautions however that “an emergency fund should be used for emergencies, and not to maintain a standard of living above your new means.” If you do not have an emergency fund, and are still gainfully employed, consider starting one.
  5. Look for Other Sources of Income
    “Another reality facing many Jamaicans is that they have been put in a position of deciding whether at this point, earning some money is better than earning none at all,” she points out.
    Some things to consider:
    • Are you willing to take a lower paying job? If you need to take a lower paying job, or even one or more part-time jobs to make ends meet – do it.

• Assess Your Skillset. This is the time to assess your skills and determine if it can be monetized. For example, if you can sew, sewing masks can be one potential stream of income.
In summation, Tugwell Henry seeks to assure persons facing difficulties. “Even if it doesn’t feel like it, there are still many things you can do to survive this period and more importantly, to prepare to emerge in a more stable financial position as the pandemic subsides.”
“It’s not easy, but the earlier you take control of your financial situation, the better off you will be in the long term,” she advised in closing.

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