Worried or Stressed about Finances during COVID 19?
Amidst isolation and social distancing strategies because of COVID-19, you may find youself worried or stressed about how to manage your finances. The term resilience has been popular in the media, and we thought we might share some tips on financial resilience. Over the years, Trustees see many financially resilient individuals, and help them navigate bankruptcies and consumer proposals where necessary. Many people feel ‘judged’ when they reach out for help or are ashamed that they are in financial trouble. Meeting with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) should make you feel exactly the opposite. It is your Trustee’s job to present you with all the information needed to make smart financial decisions to improve your financial future. Choosing to consult with a reliable source such as an LIT is the first step in your journey out of debt, and we are happy to support you as you take that step.
Financial professionals talk about the need for an emergency fund, however, not everyone has one. And those who don’t, are not alone. If you don’t have an adequate emergency fund, you must prioritize your expenses. Most experts agree that housing and food should be the first priority. Each person’s situation will vary, however, paying at least a portion of the rent or mortgage payments that are due, and buying grocery staples (in reasonable quantities) should be at the top of the list. Be sure to contact your landlord if you aren’t able to pay your rent in full – landlords are also being impacted significantly, and not all of them have been eligible for government assistance. If you have a mortgage, this may be the time to talk to your bank about your payment deferral options. Although most provinces and territories are not allowing evictions or foreclosures to proceed at this point, be sure to communicate your plans for payment to those that may be impacted.
The Government says they’ll help, but do I qualify?
Research all government benefits available and apply for any that apply to your situation. Be sure you can access your CRA My Account. You can find details on how to do that here. If you haven’t yet set up direct deposit for government benefits, be sure you do so. However, be sure that your government cheque are not going into a bank where you have debt. For example, if your chequing account at Bank A is in the overdraft, and your government benefit cheque is deposited there, you may find that the Bank will keep your benefit amount to zero the overdraft. If you need an option for a new bank account while branches are closed, consider an online account with a provider such as Tangerine or Simplii, by following the simple steps in their app or on their site.
Scams don’t self-isolate
Part of being financially resilient is to be aware of scams. Unfortunately, scams don’t seem to be impacted by quarantine, and we’ve seen a rise in recent attempts to gather personal information. As people are spending more time online, and on their phones, they may be exposed to more scams than usual. A good tip is to subscribe to your local law enforcement & news outlet’s social media accounts and websites – for example, Manitoba RCMP and Cabin Radio often report on scams circulating in Manitoba & throughout the North. You can also check the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre as they are a great resource for investigating and reporting fraud.
Adapt your income
Although you may currently be unable to work at your ‘regular’ job, you may have other options. Perhaps you have a skill you can dust off. When people first started to self-isolate, photographers began take photos of families on their front porch, to maintain social distance, but still ensure they could honor their clients’ bookings. For LITs, the meetings and financial counselling sessions we usually do in person are being done by video, or phone. Perhaps you can help someone setup a home network, train their pet, or organize a messy closet, all by video? The possibilities are endless, you just have to be creative. Netflix and Amazon are great examples of companies that have benefitted from doing this well.
The next financial resiliency tip has nothing to do with money – how’s that?
As the saying goes, “Keep Calm and ______ ”. Now might be the time to learn a skill, clean, rest, video chat, cook, organize your junk drawer – whatever! Worrying about finances won’t change the situation, so try to limit your exposure to things that cause anxiety. Instead, you could use your time to do something you wouldn’t normally. You could visit one of the many museums, art galleries and aquariums that are making their facilities available online.
Know when to call the professionals
This is a very stressful time for many. If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed, give the professionals at your local help line a call. In the areas we serve, you can chat with the Manitoba Anxiety Support line, the NWT Help Line, and the Yukon Distress and Support line, (click on each for contact details).
While no one knows how long we may be in a state of containment, it can help to understand what your options are. Should you find yourself in financial trouble on the other side of this pandemic we can help. Licensed Insolvency Trustees (LITs) are Canada’s only professional licensed to reduce or eliminate your debt, by using one of 2 federal legal processes. LITs are required to fully review your financial situation, and give you advice on all your options, not just those that we offer. Trustees can explain the difference between a consolidation loan, a consumer proposal, and a debt management plan. LITs can refer you to competent professionals where necessary, and will not charge you for the referral. The best part? At our office, your initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation for you to file anything. You don’t make your first payment unless you choose to file either a consumer proposal or a bankruptcy. If you do file a proposal or bankruptcy, that first payment isn’t made until after we start the process. Contact us today to start your journey to debt freedom.