Q: What steps should I be taking to protect my personal finances during the coronavirus outbreak?
A: The coronavirus outbreak has already generated consequences for the national and global economies — and experts say this is only the beginning. The virus ended one of the longest bull markets in history, as the stock market plunged by a full 25 percent in one month. Businesses have also been adversely affected by the outbreak in many ways: production lines have been put on hold as the delivery chain is disrupted while countless industries have been negatively impacted by a dearth of supplies, decreased spending and a shortage of personnel.
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 maintain financial stability and peace of mind during this time.
Don’t: Panic by selling all of your investments
Both seasoned investors and those simply worried about their retirement accounts can find it nerve-racking to see their investments continuously drop in value. It can seem like a smart idea to sell out just to spare 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.
Do: Trim your spending
As the economy heads toward a probable recession, this can be a good time to get lifestyle inflation in check. Work bonuses, raises and promotions are not handed out as freely during a recession. Some people may even find themselves without a job. Trimming your discretionary spending now can be good practice for getting through the month on a smaller income.
Don’t: Put your money before your health
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. Do the same if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days. As part of the government’s relief efforts, you’re entitled to two weeks of paid leave if you are unable to work because of the coronavirus.
Do: Consider a refinance
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.
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