What’s a Recession Anyway?

Unless you’ve been living in a bunker for the last several months, you’ve likely caught the term “recession” thrown around on the news more than once. Hearing this word being used to describe the state of the U.S. economy can trigger a range of reactions from mild anxiety to a full-blown stuffing-money-under-the-mattress panic.

For many people, though, part of their angst surrounding the state of the economy is the vast amount of unknown: What is the exact definition of a recession? How is it different from a depression? How long do recessions usually last? What causes a recession?

So many questions — but we’ve got answers! Here’s all you need to know about recessions, the current state of the U.S. economy and what all of this means to you as a private consumer.

What is a recession? 

A recession is a widespread economic decline in a designated region that lasts for several months or longer. In a recession, the gross domestic product (GDP), or the total value of all goods and services produced in the region, decreases for two consecutive quarters. A healthy economy is continually expanding, so a contracting GDP suggests that problems are brewing within the economy. In most recessions, the GDP growth will slow for several quarters before it turns negative.

What’s the difference between a recession and a depression?

A depression has criteria similar to that of a recession, but is much more severe. For example, in both a recession and a depression the unemployment rate rises; however, during the Great Recession of 2008, the worst recession in U.S. history to date, unemployment peaked at 10%, while during the Great Depression, unemployment levels soared to 25%. Similarly, during the Great Recession, the GDP contracted by 4.2%, while during the Great Depression it shrank by 30%.

Depressions also last a lot longer than recessions. The Great Depression officially lasted for four years but continued to impact the economy for more than a decade. In contrast, recessions generally last only 11 months, according to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

There have been 47 recessions in U.S. history, and a total of 13 recessions since the Great Depression. There has only been a single recorded depression in our country’s history.

What causes a recession? 

A recession can be triggered by a variety of factors:

  • A sudden economic shock that causes severe financial damage.
  • Excessive debt carried by consumers and businesses, leading to debt defaults and bankruptcies.
  • Asset bubbles, or when investors’ make irrational decisions, overbuy stocks and then rush to sell, causing a market crash.
  • Excessive inflation and rising interest rates, which triggers a decline in economic activity.
  • Excessive deflation, which sparks a decrease in wages, further depressing prices.
  • Technological changes, including outsourcing jobs to machines or other technological breakthroughs that alter the way entire industries operate.

Why the COVID-19 recession is unlike any other?

In June 2020, the NBER  announced that the U.S. economy had been in recession since February.

The COVID-19 recession, also known as the coronavirus recession, the Great Shutdown, the Great Lockdown or the Coronavirus Crash, is unique because it was sparked by an unforeseen pandemic and not by any inherent problem within the economy.

Another anomaly of the coronavirus recession is the super-healthy state of the economy before it hit. In February, unemployment levels were at a 50-year low, stock markets were at a record high and the U.S. economy had enjoyed 126 months of growth,  its longest period of uninterrupted expansion in history.

The unusual triggers and the explosive start of the current recession may be good news for its eventual end. Economists initially were hopeful that the recession could reverse itself quickly with a V-shaped recovery. Unfortunately, due to prolonged lockdowns and the nationwide failure to keep infection rates down, they have since declared that a rapid rebound is unlikely. There is still hope for a relatively fast recovery. An April Reuters poll  found that nearly half of 45 economists believed the U.S. recovery would be U-shaped: slower and more gradual than a V-shaped recovery, but still fairly quick.

How will this recession affect me?

The coronavirus recession can impact the average consumer in multiple ways.

First, many are struggling with sudden unemployment or will be facing joblessness in the coming months. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the unemployment rate at a staggering 10.2%.

Second, the economic uncertainty has triggered record-low interest rates, which in turn sparked a rush to refinance. If you are currently paying high interest rates on a long-term loan, you may want to consider refinancing and enjoying a lower monthly payment.

Finally, investments in stocks, bonds and real estate may lose value during a recession.

Your Turn: What do you think will be most impacted by the coronavirus recession? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Importance of Being Financially Fit

Are you ready to stretch those financial fitness muscles? We hope so, because it’s time to get financially fit!

Being financially fit means living a life of complete financial responsibility. The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), also known as the Financial Health Network, defines four basic components of financial health: Spend, Save, Borrow and Plan. These components reference everyday financial activities. As such, every choice you make in terms of these four activities either builds or detracts from your financial fitness. Like physical fitness, you can beef up those fitness muscles a little bit more each day.

Being financially fit is crucial for a well-balanced, stress-free life. Here’s why (and how):

Expand your financial knowledge

A financially fit person is constantly broadening their money knowledge. They read personal finance books and blogs, attend financial education seminars and are aware of the evolving state of the economy. This enables them to make monetary decisions from a position of knowledge and power, leaving much less up to chance or luck.

Stick to a budget

A financially fit person knows that tracking monthly expenses is key to financial health. They are careful to set aside money from their monthly income for all fixed and discretionary expenses and to stay within budget for each spending category.

Minimize debt

A financially fit person is committed to paying down debts and seeks to live debt-free. Constant budgeting, ongoing financial education and planning ahead enables them to make it through the month, and through unexpected expenses, without spiraling into debt.

Maximize savings 

A financially fit person prioritizes savings. In fact, savings is a fixed item on their monthly budget instead of something that only happens if there’s money left over. This allows them to think ahead and build a comfortable nest egg or emergency fund. In turn, having a robust safety net means sleeping better at night knowing there’s money available to cover unexpected expenses or a change in life circumstances.

Maintain complete awareness of the state of your finances

A financially fit person knows exactly how much money they owe, the accumulated value of their assets and the complete sum of their fixed and fluctuating expenses. This awareness takes the stress out of money management, allowing them to make better financial choices.

Maintain a healthy credit score

A financially fit person knows that an excellent credit history and score is a crucial component to long-term financial health. They are careful to pay all bills on time, hold onto their credit cards for a while and to keep their credit utilization low. This enables them to qualify for long-term loans with favorable interest rates, which saves them money for years to come.

Help your money go further

A financially fit person does not waste large sums of money on interest charges for purchases made using borrowed funds via credit cards or loans. They live within their means and only use these resources for purchases they can actually afford, or for large, long-term assets, like a car or a house. This means they have more funds at their disposal to help build their wealth through savings and investments.

Create concrete financial goals

A financially fit person has long-term and short-term financial goals. This enables them to keep their focus on the big picture when making everyday money choices, empowering them to actually realize their financial dreams.

Achieve financial independence

A financially fit person is independent. They don’t rely on loans from friends or family members to get by, and they don’t need to pay with plastic at the end of the month because they ran out of money. Their well-padded emergency fund means they don’t depend on their monthly income to put bread on the table, either. By sticking to a budget, prioritizing savings and maintaining an awareness of their finances, they are strong, secure and completely independent.

Being financially fit means living a life without battling anxiety about getting through the month or stressing about the future. You can achieve financial fitness by committing to making choices in each of the four components of financial health (spend, save, borrow, plan) that are forward-thinking and help to build your financial wellness.

Your Turn: Why is financial fitness so important? Share your reasons with us in the comments.

Learn More:
femcove.com
doughroller.net
moneybites.com
forbes.com
cbsnews.com

What Do I Need to Know About Medicare?

Q: My 65th birthday is approaching and I’m ready to apply for Medicare. What do I need to know before signing up?

A: Medicare offers affordable health care coverage to older Americans, but the application process and the various options can be confusing. We have answers to all your questions about Medicare.

What is Medicare? 

Medicare is a federally funded program that provides health care coverage to Americans over age 65. It is generally also available to younger people with disabilities and people with end stage renal disease.

What are the different kinds of Medicare coverage?

There are two government-funded parts of Medicare:

  • Part A – Hospital Insurance. This coverage pays for inpatient hospital costs, is usually premium-free and is available to anyone age 65 or older who has worked — or whose spouse has worked — and paid Medicare taxes for a minimum of 10 years.
  • Part B – Medical Insurance. Medicare Part B offers coverage for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient hospital care, home health care, medical equipment and some preventive services. Part B is not free. Premiums vary by income level but are generally affordable. The standard monthly premium for Part B in 2020 is $144.60

There are also two privately obtained parts of Medicare:

  • Part C – Medicare Advantage. This plan provides extra coverage over Parts A and B and is offered by private insurance companies contracted with Medicare.
  • Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage. Also purchased through a private insurer, Part D offers full or partial coverage for prescription drugs.

Both Part C and Part D have monthly premiums, which vary in cost with each provider. There may be an annual deductible as well. Some people love the low costs and robust coverage of these plans, but some others find that they only cover a limited number of providers and are not worth the cost.

How do I apply for Medicare? 

If you’re ready to sign up for Medicare, you can apply online or in person at the nearest Social Security office. Applicants will need to provide their birth certificate or other proof of birth and proof of United States citizenship or legal residency.

What do I need to know before I apply for Medicare?

Before signing up for Medicare coverage, it’s best to learn these important facts:

  • You have a seven-month window to enroll in Medicare. Medicare eligibility begins at age 65, but applicants can sign up three months before the month of their 65th birthday, and up to three months after their birth month. Benefits are retroactive dating back to the applicant’s 65th birthday.
  • It pays to enroll on time. Signing up for Medicare during the initial enrollment window is crucial. It ensures the applicant has coverage in place should the need for it arise, and it helps the applicant avoid lifelong surcharges on Part B premiums. Otherwise, applicants face a 10% increase on these premiums for each year-long period they were eligible for Medicare but did not enroll.

What if I missed my Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)?

If an applicant has missed their IEP, they’ll need to enroll during the General Enrollment Period, which runs from Jan. 1 through March 31 each year. Applicants can also make changes to their general coverage during this time.

Can I make changes to my Medicare plan?

If you’d like to make changes to your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug plan, you can do so during the annual Medicare Advantage open enrollment period. This year, open enrollment will be from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2020. Any changes made during this period will take effect in January 2021.

Can I sign up for Medicare if I already have health coverage?

Many employees stay on at their jobs past their 65th birthday and will continue to enjoy the health coverage provided by their employer. These employees do not need to sign up for Medicare as soon as they hit 65 — they’ll be given a special enrollment period later on that will allow them to avoid the surcharges of late enrollment.

If an employee wants to keep their employer health coverage and also get coverage through Medicare, that is permitted as an option. In this scenario, Medicare would be used as a secondary insurance and the applicant would sign up for Part A, since that coverage is free and will be used to fill in the gaps of the employer’s insurance plan.

Your Turn: Have you recently applied for Medicare? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

The Busy Budgeter

Rosemarie Groner knows what it’s like when your financial aspirations are in conflict with your personality. After all, she’s been there herself.

When Groner left her job as a state trooper to be a full-time mom, her family had spent its way into $30,000 of debt. By her own admission, most of her financial mess could be attributed to the family’s disorganized lifestyle.

“We spent a fortune in groceries,” she writes on her blog, “only to let them rot in the fridge when we got busy and had to eat out. Our sink was always piled high with dishes, making it hard to cook at home, and we tried everything to stop spending so much money only to fail time and time again.”

After lots of frustrating trial and error, Groner and her husband, Jon, finally discovered a strategy for organizing their lives and their finances and pulling themselves out of debt. Through her self-developed 90 Day Budget Bootcamp,  the Groners learned that budgeting and efficient home management cannot be separated. By focusing on improving home management, they successfully paid off $30,000-plus in debt and slashed the family’s annual spending by more than $23,000, all while finding a way to make up for the lost income upon leaving Rosemary Groner leaving her job.

When she had reached her goal, she was so ecstatic with her newly organized home, life and finances, that she launched a blog, The Busy Budgeter, to share all her newly discovered wisdom. The blog exploded and has been visited by 18 million readers since its launch in 2014. Through her insightful posts on all things financial, and her tried-and-true system for home and life organization, hundreds of thousands of followers have pulled themselves out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and have started living financially responsible lives.

The Busy Budgeter focuses on organization and home management, and aids those who find it impossible to create a budget, track monthly expenses and stick to a spending plan. Through Rosemarie Groner’s innovative tips and strategies, the chronically disorganized can learn the secrets of successful home management and budgeting.

Blog visitors can choose from a wide variety of trending posts to read, like How to Play Pickleball: A Budget-Friendly Game and How to Quit a Job You Hate. Topics also include How to Budget; Organization; Easy Meals and Make Money. Tips and tricks are always presented in a down-to-earth language, making for easy reading and almost effortless implementation.

For visitors looking for more intensive training, the free 90 Day Budget Bootcamp is the perfect beginner’s guide toward organized living and budgeting. Participants receive a daily challenge to help them make small yet significant changes in their daily routines.

Groner also offers several paid courses to teach participants how to transform their homes and their budgets with organized, efficient systems.

As she says, “[T]here is absolutely nothing standing between you and a life with less stress, constant money wins instead of fails and a house that you’re excited to come home to.”

Do you want to be an outstanding homemaker and budgeter? Check out Groner’’s blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter  to learn the Busy Budgeter’s secrets.

Your Turn: Are you a Busy Budgeter follower? Tell us in the comments how you’ve applied the advice in your own life.

Millennials Hit Hardest by Coronavirus Recession

The coronavirus recession hasn’t been easy on anyone, but millennials may have been hit hardest.

According to many economic experts, the 73 million millennials in the U.S. could experience financial setbacks from COVID-19 that have a longer-reaching impact than those experienced by any other age group.

Here’s why the coronavirus pandemic has been especially hard for those in 25- to 39-year-old age bracket.

Another recession for millennials

Economic recessions are nothing new for this demographic. They already lived through the Great Recession of 2008, and for many, the impact of the last recession is still being felt today.

The Great Recession hit millennials when they were still in college or just starting out on their career paths. For some, it meant the choices for their first post-college job were very slim. For others, it meant dropping out of college when there was no longer a guarantee of a degree netting them a higher-paying job. Regardless of how they were impacted, many millennials are still playing catch-up from the recession of 2008.

“For this cohort, already indebted and a step behind on the career ladder, this second pummeling could keep them from accruing the wealth of older generations,” says Gray Kimbrough, Washington, D.C. economist and American University professor.

Job losses across the board

More than 40 million workers in the U.S. have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic, but this is another area where millennials have been hit harder than most.

According to a recent report by Data for Progress, 52% of respondents under age 45 have lost jobs, been furloughed or had their work hours cut due to COVID-19. In contrast, just 26% of respondents over age 45 have suffered a job loss of some kind during the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of millennials have lost jobs that are impossible to do while adhering to social distancing mandates. At the height of the economic lockdowns in April, the economy shed a staggering 20.5 million jobs. Of these jobs, 7.7 million were in the leisure and hospitality sector — a sector that is dominated by millennials. An additional 1.4 million lost jobs were in health care, primarily in ambulatory services — another field that employs a disproportionately large number of millennials.

No nest egg

Many millennials who are still on the rebound from the Great Recession are carrying piles of debt and have minimal savings — or none at all.

According to surveys conducted in 2018 by the Federal Reserve, 1 in 4 millennial families have a negative net worth, or debts that outweigh their assets. One in six millennials would not be able to find the funds to cover a $400 emergency. For these young employees, a relatively mild setback from the coronavirus can be devastating to their finances.

Millennials also tend to neglect their retirements. A recent report by the National Institute on Retirement Security found that 66% of millennials in the workforce have nothing put away for their retirement.

Can millennials recover?

Millennials had still not fully recovered from the Great Recession when the coronavirus pummeled the economy. They have shouldered a large share of job losses and have little or no savings to fall back on.

But there is hope. Millennials may not be as young as they were during the Great Recession, but they still have time to bounce back. They can use the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to reevaluate their career track and move onward toward a brighter future.

This age group, also known as Gen Y, is famous for its resilience and can-do attitude. They’ve gotten through the Great Recession of 2008 and they’ll beat the coronavirus recession, too. With hard work, perseverance and small steps toward a better future, millennials can pull themselves up and regain their financial health.

If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, we can help. Call, click or stop by Advantage One Credit Union to speak to a member service representative today.

Your Turn: Are you a millennial who has been impacted by the coronavirus recession? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
politicalwire.com
wsj.com
npr.org
investopedia.com
foxnews.com
wsj.com
cnbc.com

HisandHerMoney.com

When two people with opposite money views marry, it’s the ultimate in “He said, she said.”

He wants to save every penny so they can afford their dream house within the next five years, and she would rather live it up today while pushing off their dream a little longer.

She wants to budget every dollar to track everything they buy, and he thinks they can trust themselves to keep within their spending limit without accounting for every single purchase.

He thinks golf clubs with a four-digit price tag are a reasonable want, and she thinks they’re a ridiculous luxury reserved for the very wealthy.

And on and on it goes.

For Talaat and Tai McNeely, a pair of high school sweethearts ready to take their relationship further, the money differences were more than just an occasional spat — they were an obstruction standing between the couple and marriage.

As the McNeelys share on their blog, hisandhermoney.com, here’s a sampling of some of the financial issues they were dealing with before they married:

  • Do we let our credit scores dictate if we are compatible for marriage?
  • How will our previous money habits play a role in our marriage?
  • Do we merge our finances?
  • How can we work together to become better at life and win with money?
  • Am I a loser because I have now made my debt problems my future spouse’s problems?
  • Can I change, or is my past really who I am?
  • Should I have a secret account just in case our money situation gets worse?
  • How will we purchase a home? Do we put it in both of our names and risk not having a low interest rate due to the lower credit score?
  • Do I have to take full responsibility for our finances simply because I’m better at it?
  • Will we have to rely on two incomes to run our home?
  • What will our lives look like five years from now?

Despite one partner being debt-free and the other carrying $30,000 in debt, the McNeelys decided to get married. They knew the financial road ahead could be bumpy, but they were prepared to weather the storms together for the sake of their relationship.

Today, after years of struggling to chart their own joint money path, the McNeelys are completely debt-free, have paid off their mortgage and run a 6-figure business online. They have learned enormous life lessons on their journey toward financial wellness, and they generously share these lessons on their blog, podcasts, videos and through their private community of couples seeking financial guidance.

The couple is passionate about helping others overcome their financial differences and build a better relationship and a better future together. Check out hisandhermoney.com to learn their secrets.

Your Turn: How do you and your partner deal with money differences? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
paychecksandbalances.com
hisandhermoney.com

8 Ways to Spot a Counterfeit Bill

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a wave of scams, with no signs of slowing down. These scams are also producing a surge of counterfeit bills into circulation. Using cutting-edge technology, scammers create bills that look just like the real thing to the untrained eye. Unfortunately, once counterfeit bills are passed, their new owner can become liable for passing them on to someone else.

In an effort to combat the reach of counterfeit bills, the Secret Service and the U.S. Treasury have added several identifying features to legitimate dollar bills to help citizens and business owners determine whether they are authentic. Here are some signs that can tell you if a bill is the real thing:

A hologram of the face image on the bill: When held up to the light, the hologram on the bill should match the face on the front of the bill. Scammers will often bleach a lower denomination bill and try to pass it off as a bill of a higher denomination — but they can’t change the interior hologram. So, if the $100 bill is really a counterfeit bill created from a $5 one, holding the bill up to the light will reveal the face of Abraham Lincoln, and not Benjamin Franklin, who appears on authentic $100s.

A thin vertical strip of text spelling out the bill’s denomination: Holding the note up to the light will also display this sign of authenticity on genuine bills.

Color-shifting ink: All new-series bills, except for the $5 bill, were designed with this trick: If you tilt the bill back and forth, the numeral in the lower right hand corner will shift from green to black and back to green again.

Watermark: The watermark of the bill can be seen in an unprinted space to the right of the portrait when the bill is held up to the light.

Security thread: Also apparent when the bill is held up to light, the security thread is a thin strip running from the top of the face on the bill until its bottom. The security strip is positioned to the right of the portrait on $10 and $50 bills, and to the left of the portrait on $5s, $20s and $100s.

Ultraviolet glow: You’ll need an ultraviolet light for this to work, but it’s an instant reveal about the bill’s authenticity. When held up to an ultraviolet light, $5 bills glow blue, $10 bills glow orange, $20 bills glow green, $50 bills glow yellow, and $100 bills glow red.

Microprinting: For yet another sign of a bill’s authenticity, you can look for tiny microprinting on the bill’s security thread, which spells out its denomination in all-caps text.

Fine line printing patterns: Look for very fine lines behind the portrait and on the other side of the bill as well.

What to do if you’ve been passed a counterfeit bill

If a note you’ve been passed does not hold up to the authenticity test, and you believe it’s a counterfeit bill, the U.S. Treasury advises the following course of action:

  • Do not put yourself in a position of danger.
  • Do not return the bill to the passer.
  • If possible, delay the passer with an excuse.
  • Take note of the passer’s physical appearance and record their vehicle license plate if possible.
  • Contact your local police department or call your local Secret Service office.
  • Write your initials and date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit note.
  • Do not handle the counterfeit note. Place it inside a protective cover, a plastic bag or an envelope until you can pass it on to an identified Secret Service Special agent. You can also mail it to your nearest Secret Service office.

Counterfeit cash can be harder to spot than you think. Don’t get stuck holding the bag! If you think you’ve been passed a counterfeit bill, and the note is missing the signs listed above, follow the advice of the U.S. Treasury to keep your hands clean.

Your Turn: Have you ever encountered a counterfeit bill? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
losspreventionmedia.com
mentalfloss.com
secretservice.gov
businessknowhow.com
wvnews.com

Tarra Jackson: Madam Money

If you’re looking for a financial influencer who brands herself differently than theSeptFeatured2020_madammoney typical modern-day motivational speaker, you may be looking for Tarra Jackson.

Jackson, also known as Madam Money, shares her innovative ideas and money management expertise on her popular blog and online platforms.

While playing multiple public roles in the world of personal money management, she’s an award-winning speaker, best-selling author, TV and radio personality, personal finance coach and syndicated financial expert media contributor. With a personal reach such as this, Jackson is uniquely positioned to offer hardcore advice and inspiration for improving financial relationships and reaching personal, professional or financial goals.

Her extensive professional background in the financial services industry includes bank officer, corporate trainer and vice president of lending, as well as executive VP and interim CEO at an Atlanta-based credit union. Her financial counseling firm, Prosperity Now Financial Management Services, has served over 1,000 clients, including private consumers, business owners, executives and professional athletes.

The Madam Money blog is a place where people go for free financial advice that delivers valuable information and advice at a professional level.

Here is a sampling of some recent articles on the Madam Money blog:

F.A.Q. about Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronavirus Bill
Pandemic Financial Survival Tips
How to Financially Prepare for a Pandemic
31 Women Financial Experts You Should Follow

Madam Money’s financial expertise helps her clients and audience achieve dramatic results, like increased savings, improved credit scores, expanded knowledge of money management, responsible credit usage, enhanced spending, savings and investing plans and empowerment. All these approaches are designed to help you achieve short-term and long-term financial goals.

When she isn’t speaking, blogging, or coaching private clients, Jackson consults for credit unions, drawing on her more than 20 years as a financial professional to offer insightful advice and brilliant tips in the areas of operations and lending automation, as well as staff training and development.

To learn why hundreds of readers get their financial tips from Madam Money, check out Jackson’s blog, and also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Your Turn: Do you follow Madam Money? Tell us what you love about her approach to personal finances.

Learn More:
madammoney.com
facebook.com

 

 

Financial Dos and Don’ts During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Young blond woman in glasses checks books and takes notesQ: Since the coronavirus has landed on American shores, each day seems to bring more devastating news about the state of our economy. What steps should I be taking to protect my personal finances during this time?

A: The coronavirus outbreak has already generated severe consequences for the national and global economies — and experts say we’re only seeing the beginning of the pandemic’s financial fallout. The virus ended one of the longest bull markets in history, as the stock market plunged by a full 25 percent in one volatile month. In fact, it saw its worst day since 1987. More than that, businesses have been adversely affected by the outbreak in many ways: production lines have been put on hold as the delivery chain is disrupted indefinitely; the global-wide halt on travel has caused tremendous losses for the tourism and airline industries; sports and entertainment industries have taken huge hits; and countless other business lines have been negatively impacted by a dearth of supplies, decreased spending and a shortage of personnel due to quarantines or school closures.

With all this uncertainty, it’s easy to fall into a panic and wonder if there are some concrete steps you should be taking to save your personal finances from impending ruin. Here are some practical dos and don’ts to help you maintain financial stability and peace of mind during this time.

Don’t: Panic by selling all your investments
Both seasoned investors with robust portfolios and those simply worried about their retirement accounts can find it nerve-racking to see their investments drop in value by as much as 10 percent a day. It may seem like a smart idea to sell out just to spare investments from further loss, but financial experts say otherwise. According to The Motley Fool, most sectors of the economy will recover quickly as soon as the outbreak clears. For example, consumers may not be purchasing shoes or cruise tickets now, but they will likely do so when it is safe to shop and travel again. While the global and national economy may not bounce back for a while, experts are hopeful that individual business sectors will recover quickly.

Do: Trim your spending
The thriving economy the country has enjoyed for a while has prompted a gradual lifestyle inflation for many people. As the economy heads toward a probable recession, this can be a good time to get that inflation in check. Work bonuses, raises and promotions are not handed out as freely during a recession as they were in recent years. Some people may even find themselves without a job as companies are forced to lay off workers in an effort to stay solvent. Trimming discretionary spending now can be good practice for making it through the month on a smaller income. It’s also a good idea to squirrel away some of that money for a rainy day.

Don’t: Put your money before your health.
Financial wellness is important, but physical health should always take priority. If you’re feeling unwell, and especially if you’re exhibiting any of the symptoms of the coronavirus — such as fever, coughing and shortness of breath — call in sick to work. Do the same if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Don’t let financial considerations come before your health and the health of those you come into contact with each day.

As part of a package of executive orders to help mitigate the financial fallout of the coronavirus, President Donald Trump has announced that all employees are entitled to two weeks of full paid leave if they are unable to work because of the coronavirus. This includes contracting the actual virus, self-quarantining for fear of having been exposed to the virus and caring for a family member who has contracted the virus, or for children who are home due to school closures. Be sure to take advantage of this offer by making your health paramount.

Similarly, doctor visits can cost a pretty penny, but when necessary, should always outweigh financial concerns. A co-pay or insurance deductible is a small price to pay for your health.

Do: Consider a refinance
The silver lining of an economic environment like this is falling interest rates. As of March 17, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 3.3%, down from approximately 4.5% of a year ago. Refinancing an existing mortgage at this lower rate can potentially save homeowners several hundreds of dollars a month. That extra breathing room in a budget can be a real boon in case of salary cuts or even a layoff during a recession.

Be sure to work out the numbers carefully before considering this move since a refinance isn’t cost-free. [You can speak to an MSRP at Advantage One Credit Union to learn about your options.]

The coronavirus has already impacted the economy tremendously, and will likely continue to do so for a while. Keep your own finances safe by remaining calm, putting your health first and taking some of the practical steps mentioned above.

Your Turn:
What steps have you taken toward protecting your finances during this time? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
fool.com
cnn.com
fortune.com

How To Retire Happy, Wild, And Free by Ernie J. Zelinski

Cover, How to Retire Happy, Wild and FreeSome of us plan for retirement throughout our working lives. We pinch pennies, cut corners and dream big of the day we’ll finally throw off the shackles of a 9-5 life and be free to live, exploring and creating as we please. Others simply slide into retirement with very little planning and figure they’ll take it day by day. Whatever your style, you’ll need to find a way to enjoy life beyond retirement in the most fulfilling ways possible.

Ernie J. Zelinski’s classic book, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, shows readers the key to a truly happy retirement. Zelinski claims that planning for retirement goes beyond counting dollars-you need to plan for your creative outlets, leisure activities, physical well-being, mental health and social support system. In his book, he guides readers through this process, helping them create a feasible plan for retirement which encompasses every area in their lives.

In How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, you’ll learn how to do the following:

  • Take an early retirement
  • Put money into proper perspective
  • Generate purpose in your post-retirement life through meaningful, creative pursuits
  • Follow your dreams instead of chasing someone else’s goals
  • Take charge of your mental, physical and spiritual health
  • Envision your retirement goals clearly
  • Make your retirement years the best stage of your life

One of the most powerful tools you’ll find inside is the Get-a-Life Tree, a seven-page list of activities to keep you happy and active for years to come.

At times, Zelinski’s book is provocative and often entertaining. It always practical, though, and it is an enjoyable read with a unique message. Its reader-friendly format, fun cartoons, captivating quotations and inspiring content have made it a favorite among retirement books throughout the world.

Some readers complain the advice in the book is fairly obvious and doesn’t break new ground. Others criticize the way Zelinski makes light of the dollars and sense of retirement, claiming he wouldn’t talk so blithely about money if he weren’t financially comfortable himself.

This book might not give you a solid plan for saving up for retirement, but if you’re wondering how to spend your golden years living a happy, fun and fulfilling life, this might be the book you’ve been seeking.

Your Turn:
Do you believe the post-retirement years can be the best years of our lives? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Learn More:
amazon.com
erniezelinski.com
goodreads.com