The world has turned upside down since my last blog. It seems like a million years ago that I wrote about creating space in your calendar to plan, dream and be creative. Everyone’s priorities have shifted in the past few weeks.
We’re trying to keep it “business as usual” at Sharonview, but we’ve made dramatic changes in a short time. Financial institutions have been deemed critical, so we’re still open for business, even though we have closed our lobbies. Some essential staff members are coming in; many who can work from home, are. Members can still reach us by phone – and they are.
If there’s one gratifying thing for me in all of this, it’s that we had a disaster preparedness plan. We always hoped it would remain on the shelf and untouched. We don’t relish having to use it – but we’re glad we anticipated something that once seemed unthinkable. And prepared for it.
I wish we didn’t know the answer to what once seemed a hypothetical question: Can you operate a $1.6 billion credit union digitally? We’ve found out we can.
I hope the silver lining for all of us is we all – individuals and institutions – begin to plan (and save) for the unlikely.
Here are a few things anyone can do while “sheltering in place.” You’ll never regret the time you spend planning for the unexpected.
Make a Budget
If you haven’t done it before, now is the time to make a budget. Begin by listing your monthly income and monthly expenses. Are there places you can cut? The $5 latte you used to get every morning before work was costing you $100 a month. Maybe now you can see you can live without it. SFCU’s online DIY money management resource is a great place to start. You can create a budget, track spending, use our online calculators to assess where you are with college savings and paying off debt.
Talk to a Trusted Adviser
We recommend and work with GreenPath Financial Wellness, a national nonprofit focused on financial wellness for everyone. For 60 years, GreenPath has helped people navigate financial crises: debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy and credit challenges. They’re available online and by phone for confidential consultations and have 55 branches in the U.S. There’s a link on SFCU’s Sharonview U Online Financial page.
Avoid Using Credit Cards, If and When Possible
You can’t spend what you don’t have, so try to pay cash or use a debit card.
Give Yourself Grace
If your savings account wasn’t where you wanted it before, that’s OK. Vow to start now. Start small – but start.
Be Proactive and Take Action
If you’re worried about paying your bills in the short-term, pick up the phone. Be proactive. Are you eligible for unemployment? File for it. Can you get rent relief? Credit card relief? At Sharonview, we’d much rather keep you in your car or home and will work with you toward that goal. As a not-for-profit entity, we can be more flexible than some other financial institutions.
We are fielding calls like that now at our Financial Wellness desk. We want to hear from our members and help reduce their stress.
Be Aware of Scams
Fraudsters have accelerated their dirty tricks. We all need to be on high alert for scammers. Be leery of emails and calls that purport to be from your financial institution, the IRS or any government agency. Scammers have gotten very sophisticated and may even appear on your caller ID as “IRS,” “Amazon,” etc. Don’t answer. Don’t click on a link. Be vigilant.
This time of uncertainty will pass, and I believe it will bring us closer together. People are appreciating family and friends as never before.
For most of us, this is the most challenging time we’ve ever lived through. We will emerge on the other side and will have learned from it. And, I hope, we’ll all have saved up for the rainy day.